To say it’s been a stressful week would be an understatement. My husband had three tests in his master’s of medical science program (any B could mean he does not get admitted to medical school). I’m an emotional absorber around people I’m personally connected to, so every pore in my body was soaking in the nervousness and weariness coming from my hardworking husband. He’s been working towards this goal against tremendous odds for seven years, and I know how much it matters to him. Because I love him, that matters to me, too.
In addition to that, Monday night I was supposed to volunteer as a coach at my church. If I had been able to do it successfully, I would be a cheerleader for people receiving financial help, helping them connect with resources they need and letting them know that they are not alone in this process. But I started training in August and as of yet I’ve not had a single person show up for their appointment since I’ve been working without a trainer. I came into this with an idea of doing some good, and it’s hard not to feel like that was some kind of personal rejection by a higher power.
This weekend? The hubby and I think it’s going to be all sunshine and roses after his tests are over and we finally have time together. Instead, one thing after another contributed to making it a weekend of busyness and frustration. We were both so stressed, and the reactions weren’t pretty. I personally felt crushed by my inadequacy to cope with the situation better.
I think it’s pretty fair to say a lot of counselors struggle with high expectations for themselves. We think since we help others we have to have it all together. We know the right thing to do, so we should always do it! I’m no exception. I expected of myself to handle this stress a little better. But I didn’t, so I have to move past self-blame and onto self-care.
Disasters, failures, even everyday stress gives us an opportunity to grow and improve. We don’t like them, but we can make of them whatever we choose. A lot of my clients look at me sideways when I tell them that. “But you don’t understand!” Is usually the response. “I can’t do anything about…”
Yes, you can. We all can, even if it’s only in changing our perspective. And in order for me to follow through with this for my clients, I have to hold myself to the same standard. I didn’t do that right away, but I’m choosing growth now. So here’s what I came up with for my choice to change my outlook: because of my failures this past weekend I relied on my counselor friend (she calls me her counseling soul-mate) for support, which I usually would not allow myself to do. I reaffirmed my commitment to working with my husband to make his dream of medical school come true, especially as he has always given me that kind of support in my career. My church ended up reaching out to me when I wasn’t able to be a part of the ministry to others. If I didn’t have those problems, I wouldn’t have received the blessings from my failure.
Accountability is so important. Sometimes you must choose to prevail as a counselor just because it’s part of what we offer others, and we can’t give out what we don’t take in. But it’s not just good for our clients, it’s part of good counselor self-care. We have integrity in our roles when we practice what we preach. Growth is empowering. Growth is hopeful. Despite no change in circumstances, I felt better after I wrote this. Not great, but better, and proud of myself for choosing not to wallow. And in my case it was rewarded. I wrote this on Sunday, worn out but stubbornly determined to overcome the circumstances.
The next day we found out my husband was accepted to medical school.
Stephanie Ann Adams is a counselor who believes in the ability of the mind to understand and change behaviors, and in each person’s power to create the life they want. Her blog can be found at www.sassynsane.blogspot.com.