Tuesday, December 28, 2010

an exercise in self disclosure...

I wonder if part of my love of journaling has something do to with the fact that I have built a career on tuning into other people's needs. Early in my career I learned pretty quickly that compassion fatigue can lead to resentment which can lead to a pretty painful day at work.


When I graduated from my undergraduate program I began working full time, in two separate jobs, seven days a week, both day shifts, afternoon shifts and night shifts. I was also applying to graduate school, planning a wedding, and pretty well living on my own while Warren was away at army training. I had no life other than trying to build a future. At that time I worked as a case manager in a transitional housing program supporting the needs of women with various mental health and substance use disorders and helping them move forward. Many of these women were my age or close to it. When the women would spend their days in their pajamas reading a book, take really long luxurious showers, go out for coffee with friends, or go on dates I would get extremely jealous; I had no time for any of these things. When I would spend hours on end each day talking through emotional problems and coaching them to address symptoms of depression and anxiety I would feel resentful that I didn't have the same access to professional support (some days we all need it!) All of this resentment did not mean that these women had an easier life than I; far from it. It was a sign that I was not tuned in to my own needs.


This resentment that I was experiencing didn't last very long. I eventually learned how to have a better balance between the needs of others and the needs of myself. This is ongoing learning. As my career progresses I am still taken back by how self-disclosure comes to easily to some people. I can sit and listen to someone tell me there story for a whole hour without needing to say anything, and could probably write a pretty good biography on their life afterward. Just the act of sharing with a trustworthy and supportive person is powerfully therapeutic. I am pretty blessed to have a job where people come to me with emotional pain and leave feeling hopeful.


When it comes to my comfort with talking about myself, well, I'm not very comfortable with it. I will sometimes talk about my feelings with others, but it doesn't ever feel natural. I had a colleague one time earlier in my career who (in a very critical way) said that the reason that I can't talk about myself to clients is that I have no life experience to talk about. I disagree. I have lots of thoughts and insights and I have very relevant life experience that relate to what my clients are telling me but I don't need to disclose this in order to sustain a therapeutic relationship; my empathy comes through in other ways. This is the same for my personal life.


Returning to the topic of journaling, I suspect that my desire to write and have others read is a way of experiencing this transparency that my "clients" practice when they come to me. I observe very real changes in their demeanor once they have had an hour to unload with me - whether I was actually helpful in affecting their circumstances or not. Sharing is good, people! 


I do also have some pretty reasonable fears around this transparency. The likelihood of someone out there taking what I write, finding fault, and criticizing my thoughts is very likely (ie. She's crazy if she things she's going to have an orgasmic birth). Do I care? Yes, a little bit. But I also know that it takes a lot of courage to be open to criticism which is a pretty admirable thing. 


Finally, to finish my thought, having a public journal like this is actually pretty self serving in my case. I don't know how long I will find it enjoyable, but for now it's my little bit of air time to share with others where I come from. This is for me, but I still hope you enjoy.


Love Always, 
Joan Blondina

4 comments:

karen said...

Sara,
I can complety relate to the compassion fatigue, resentment and feeling unnatural talking about myself. Our careers are a lifestyle and a responsibility, not just a "job". We always need to take time for ourselves. I do my best to do that, trying not to be too selfish. Most don't see that at our jobs, everything is about our patients and not us. Doing this full time can make it hard to focus on our thoughts and feelings. I admire your journal, and see that it is an outlet for you!

Anonymous said...

Karen & Sara.your both so right!!!...your lucky you can articulate what your feeling Sara and by doing so helps to cleanse the soul, give you strength for yet another day. In the end no matter how difficult the job and they can be so draining...just one word or sign rewards you 10 fold. Knowing you have made a difference, helps you move forward. Yes its important to share joy, laughter, tears.....

putitonmyTAB said...

It is such a courageous act to express yourself so openly and honestly. Whenever I read, I come away feeling better - knowing someone out there has the same fears, and doubts but works hard to deal with them and triumphs over them. Please know that simply by doing this you are contributing to a better world.

Joan Blondina said...

Thank you for the amazing comments! It is really amazing to know that the things that I feel are felt among others!
XOXO