My 31st birthday was this weekend. Birthdays are always a time of reflection for me & thanks to technology (Facebook memories) its a point in the year that I always have lots of past data to reference back to. Looking at pictures from my 25, 29 & 30 birthday all brought back memories of a very different Jamie.
By all accounts the last two years have been the toughest and worst of my life. On Saturday, I caught myself spiraling into a pretty deep depression. I have nothing to show for the almost 4 years since I left the DBT Center. What is wrong with me? Why haven’t I accomplished anything? My self loathing critical voice was in full swing.
But after attending to it for a bit, I started to realize something. I have accomplished so much in this time. It just wasn’t what I was expecting to accomplish. And it sure as hell hasn’t been pretty.
At 25, I had earned the life I always thought I dreamed of. I finished my Master’s degree and landed a prestigious private practice position without having to do years inpatient or community clinic work. I loved the client population I specialized in, I loved my team, I loved getting dressed & driving into town for work.
In my mind, I had made it.
But 3 years into the job, I still struggled with imposter syndrome. My own anxiety greatly fluctuated with the demands of my clients and the CYA approach to managing suicidal patients. I had everything I had ever worked for, and yet I still wasn’t happy.
So when my then fiancé’s son came to live with us unexpectedly, I walked away to raise a child. That relationship has since ended and that was obviously not the path for me. But I realize now it was the needed catalyst for what became a prologued period of self examination.
In the time since then, my life has looked like a dumpster fire. But that’s what people who are actively in trauma work often look like. I spent a full year having night terrors. The cumulative lack of sleep alone was enough to prevent me from being able to build a steady life.
Once I opened the door to the work, I was in it full on & it took two full years of my life from me. I can tell, I’m closing up the wounds and beginning to move on. But I’m depleted from the work. Depleted from the embarrassment of what my life has looked life. Depleated from being unable to hold the type of full time job I trained for 8 years to do.
Some days it is hard to have hope – I just see how empty my coffers are. But I try to look at it from a positive perspective. The last two years have drained me. For sure. They have also made me stronger in ways I could never have expected to experience.
In this time, I did my trauma work. And if that is all I can say I accomplished for two years – that is OK. That is more than enough! Especially, since I believe that by doing this work I am creating the foundation for a beautiful life.
I know that I am different. I know how to find peace and contentment in myself. That is a skill that some never find.
My career has suffered. But money isn’t the be all end all for me. I believe that the lessons taken from this time have made me more capable of being a sherpa on my own clients’s journeys. So it is my responsibility to not get bogged down in self-shaming for my lack of “success.”
So for those of you in the trenches of your own work, I want to encourage you not to discount the WINS you are making. I know how long the war is, and that the little battles won may not feel like much. But I promise you the other side is worth all of the tears and pain along the way.
Stay strong in your journey &
remember it is always the hero who faces the greatest trials!