The Donut

I have twenty-nine days left in this Assessment Processes course I am taking. It is a core course and a prerequisite for my practicum. And it is brutal.

In that 29 days, I have three assignments due, which will comprise 75% of my course mark in total. The first of these three is due in just eight days. It is worth 30%. And it has been (so far) the most difficult because it requires me to analyze the real-life results of personality and aptitude testing, integrate those results into a cohesive description, and synthesize recommendations on someone’s suitability for graduate school. That someone is me.

mri-2813914_640 from Pixabay

I found this picture of an MRI “donut” on Pixabay!  Free!  Check them out at www.pixabay.com

The process reminds me of an experience I had about 11 years ago. I had injured my left shoulder, and I was scheduled for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. This diagnostic procedure required me to be inserted into this tube that looked like a giant doughnut (or donut, depending on where you are from). I had to take off everything metal, put on this johnny shirt, lie on the table, and stay completely still in spite of the noise they told me not to pay attention to. The noise was LOUD! They offered me earphones to play music and drown out the sound, but nothing would drown out that sound.  Buzzzzzz, click-click-click, buzzzzzzz, … it was not what I would call pleasant. I turned down their offer of the headphones.

However, the strongest sensation from that experience was not the sound. It was that the donut was so narrow and I was so … not narrow. They had to put me into it head-first, and I was in there down to my elbows. I felt like the last pickle wedged into the pickle jar! And I knew that I had to lie perfectly still so the imaging equipment could get a good picture of the inside of my shoulder (which it did).  I found myself humming songs I liked to pass the time. Each song would take five minutes, so it was a way to mark the time for me – so that kept me from panicking.  The feeling of not being able to move – of not having the option to even twitch – and the pressure of the sides of that apparatus on both shoulders and arms was quite unnerving.

But it needed to be done. I was confident that this procedure was necessary to show my specialist what was wrong with my shoulder. (I had a torn labrum, by the way, and it needed surgery – which was entirely successful.)  Was my time in the donut pleasant? No, not really. It was just something that I had to endure to get to the place where I needed to be. And I did. I endured it, and it ended, and it served its purpose.

Just like this course. Not pleasant, to be sure. Necessary, yes. Difficult, most definitely! But I am enduring it. It will end. And it will have served its purpose (when I pass the course) in being the last prerequisite for my practicum.

I am fortunate to have had the support of my employer and my doctor in taking some time off so as to devote more time to this course, which I believe I said (in my previous post) is three times the work / reading / assignment time of any other course in this program so far. But it has to be done. All I have to do is to submit to the procedure and commit to it. I am sure it will involve some singing to calm my fears and to pass the time.

And in 29 days, I will be able to get out of this donut.

I think I had better go now, and get this next assignment done.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

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The Back Stretch

My practicum is set; my Learning Plan is approved, and wheels are in motion for me to take regular time off as well as to tele-work, in order to allow me to do my practicum hours in a different province. I have located and put a damage deposit on my apartment, and plans are in place to sign my lease and start moving in.

But one core course stands between me and my practicum, and it is by far the absolute hardest one so far, requiring nearly three times the amount of work as other courses. Since the schoolwork takes up so much time, and I have a full-time job, I was increasingly dreading going to work, much as I like what I do. I was not sleeping, not looking after my psychological / social needs, and I was slipping farther and farther down the slope toward burnout.

horse-1911382_640 on Pixabay

I got this photo at www.pixabay.com – free!

In horse racing, there is a point known as the “far stretch” – wherein horse and rider get into a “zone” where everything else fades away and all that matters is getting through the fatigue and the distractions to finish the race, and finish it well. I had been too distracted, and I was more tired than I had ever been; I was on the back stretch and it was time to set aside everything else and go forward.

So I did two things. I called my Employee Assistance Program and asked for a counsellor, and then I went to see my doctor to talk to him about my exhaustion. When he questioned me and heard everything that was on my plate, he told me that I had all the signs of depression and that I was headed for burnout. He gave me a note to be excused from work for a few weeks – which I accepted gratefully.

Since that time, I have been sleeping a bit better, and have had more time to devote to my school work, which is a great source of relief for me. I can lay aside my distractions of having ‘not enough hours in the day’ and just focus on finishing my course.  Not all of my symptoms are gone; in fact, I still have difficulty concentrating, still catch myself sighing, still feel overwhelmed (although not as much), and I have to really work at motivating myself. But the severity of the most troubling symptoms has reduced.

I think I will finish this course; coming around the far turn, I was not sure I would make it. But I think that I’m catching my second wind – and with a little help from my prof (I’ve asked for a short extension on my upcoming assignment deadline) I think I will be able to make it to the finish line.

And then, I will be able to cool down and prepare for the next race.

In the Dark

The last few weeks has been fraught with frenetic activity: getting a vehicle, looking for an apartment out of province, applying for a criminal background check (a requirement of my practicum site), getting fingerprinted, viewing an apartment, paying a damage deposit on it, and planning to pick up the key in a couple of weeks. There are less than three months until I start my practicum placement, and it seems that there are periods of time like the one I have described above, and then there are those times when it seems like time seems to stand still, it is moving so slowly.

Meanwhile, I get requests for information that I cannot yet give. What are my hours going to be at work when I start this thing? Well, I am not sure, because I don’t know my hours at the practicum site. So I wrote an email to my practicum supervisor and am awaiting her reply to see if we can’t hammer out my hours. Part of me isn’t even sure that this internship is real – in those moments of self-doubt, I wonder if I dreamed the whole thing or if things (for some reason) might not work out. The moments are fleeting but … no less distressing for being brief.

In the dark, both literally and figuratively, is a hard place to be. I don’t like not knowing what to expect; it is quite stressful for me. And when I don’t know what is ahead, I tend to become preoccupied, which wakes me in the wee hours of the morning with obscure, random thoughts. The other morning, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. thinking, “Where am I going to put my garbage cans in the apartment?” Sighhhh.

candle-2631921_640 from Pixabay

I got this pic at Pixabay.com – check them out! Free!

So the only thing I can think to do, where the dark of uncertainty encroaches in, is to light a candle. Remember that the time might seem long, but it truly won’t be long until I am in the midst of the light of day and doing what I have been training to do for years. Really.

Things will fall into place. The night will end. The day will come. And in the meantime, I keep my candle lit… the candle of hope, the candle of perseverance, the candle of assurance that I didn’t dream this, that this is really happening, that I really will be able to do my practicum.

And with the candle lit, I can concentrate on the little details I need to take care of: homework, paperwork, and the family activities and (self-imposed or not) obligations that make life interesting, if not frantic. I can (try to) sleep. I can prioritize. I can breathe. I can survive. And when the time comes, I can shine.

Just like my candle, I can make a difference to someone else’s darkness.

 

 

Baby Steps

Now that my immediate future seems to be working in a certain direction, in the sense that I know where, when, and how I will be doing my practicum (Sept 2018 to April 2019), the other areas in my life, which have been clamoring for attention, are finally getting some.  In the last couple of weeks, I have gone to the doctor, gotten referrals for massage and for custom-made orthotics, and have gone to a few appointments (two for massage for my aching back, and one for a fitting for custom-made insoles for my aching feet).

My physical limitations have been hampering my usual self-care options. Walking – which was great to reduce stress – has not been possible due to my feet, and doing stationery biking on a recumbent bike to stretch my feet has not been possible due to my sacro-iliac joint being compressed and therefore compromised. I am a non-swimmer so that is out (who would have the time to take lessons or go to aquacize classes anyway?) I can practice mindful breathing, but that does not help my physical problems get any better – and I am unable to do yoga because of other physical limitations.

So those factors were like walls closing in on me, and that was behind my decision to finally get something done about my back.  My massage therapist told me that walking was the best way to treat my sacro-iliac issues. Which led me to want to look after those feet of mine. At least then I could walk to help my back and my stress levels. At the moment, though, every step is painful.

shoes-2383144_640 from Pixabay

I got this pic on Pixabay.com!

When I went to get fitted for orthotics, my orthotist got me to walk in my bare feet while she took a video of my lower legs and feet in motion. (That hurt!) When I got back, she showed me how the arches of my feet flattened out when I walked, a side-effect of my overly flexible joints. She told me that I needed a certain type of shoe (brand name and model number as well!) and that the sheoesI was wearing were not good for my feet; even though they were quite comfortable, they were not supporting my arches at all. She took a mold of each of my feet, and showed me how high my arches are and compared that shape to how they looked when I bore my own weight – the difference was dramatic. She told me never to walk in bare feet – that if I got up in the middle of the night, to use slippers – and insisted that such footwear had to have arch supports.

My orthotics will be ready for pickup on June 22. In the meantime, I have gotten a pair of Berkenstock sandals (special sandals moulded to the contours of the normal foot) to slip on my feet for when I need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night … and also for the summertime, so I don’t have to wear what essentially look like sneakers all the time. And I got the walking shoes she said I needed, and have been wearing some fairly good arch-support insoles in them. The insoles are not ideal, but over-the-counter ones never will be. Once I get my orthotics, those will go into the shoes instead of the ones I am using now. And I may need to go back there to have them adjusted in the weeks that follow – a free service built into the process of customizing my appliances to fit me.

As for whether I feel any improvement yet, it is too soon to tell; as I said, my custom-made orthotics won’t be ready for nearly four weeks. My heel’s “fat pad” (the cushion-y pad on the bottom of the heel) is thinned out, which – my orthotist told me – happens to post-menopausal women!) so walking is still painful but in a different pattern than before due to my foot being held in a slightly better position and more supported around the edge of the heel.

Part of me feels like I am learning to walk all over again. My weight feels like it is bearing down farther back on my foot, and more to the outside edge.  I am taking short steps while my heel pads take time to stop feeling so bruised from the plantar fasciitis (which is the name of the condition I have: basically it means a chronic inflammation of the connecting tissues between the muscles of the bottom of the foot).

So why am I talking so much about this? Well, I have been thinking a great deal about self-care of late. And it occurred to me that practicing self-care when one is not used to it, is like having put up with that foot pain for so long that you think it’s normal – only it’s not – and then deciding that you are tired of it hurting. Then you decide to take whatever steps are necessary, even if they are baby steps – to correct the problem. And it’s hard. And it takes time and effort. And you wonder if it is even doing any good.

But it is. You have to take baby steps because to do any more would hamper your efforts, at least for now. But in doing so, you learn that it is okay to give yourself permission to go through that process and it is okay to spend the extra time it takes to start feeling better. It becomes a priority because it needs to be a priority. How in the world can I be a good counselor to someone else if I myself am stretched to the max?

To that end, today I set aside my homework and stretched out on a gravity chair and got some sun – just a few minutes. Vitamin D, yes I know – and also the sun has this amazing power to energize me, and spending time in sunshine in the fresh air, listening to the birds singing and feeling the breeze while the sun’s heat soaks into my aching body, allows me to immerse my spirit in positivity, in strength, and in an atmosphere of caring.

They may be baby steps. But they are steps nonetheless. 🙂

Wee Hours

As I start this post, it’s nearly 5 a.m. and I have been awake since 3:15. This happens occasionally; sometimes I get so worked up (even about good things) that I only sleep a few hours and then I’m wide awake. That’s okay – I had to empty my bladder anyway (haha).

I finally got a practicum. An honest-to-goodness this-is-really-happening practicum. I had to look outside my own province to do it, but I start in September at an agency that is quite good, with a supervisor who is absolutely fantastic. The agency also accepts my university’s policy of video recording some of my sessions so that my prof can see me in action and provide feedback.

office table and chairs from Pixabay

Neat setup for a counselling office – got this pic from the folks at Pixabay

So the last few weeks, I have been putting some other things in place to support me in my upcoming move – which involves me getting an apartment and living on my own, while tele-working part-time at my job to pay the bills – and so far I have gotten a second-hand vehicle, arranged to have furniture delivered to whatever apartment I end up getting, and scouting out neighbourhoods in that city.  A big part of that arrangement includes the support of my employer. And yesterday, after three weeks of waiting, I received word back on the tele-work proposal I had submitted, outlining how long I would be gone, and how many hours I could work, and a few other details.  Management approved it! So now I know I will be earning SOME money, and getting much-needed experience in my new chosen field. It is a good transition into a new career.

I say that like I’m perfectly calm about it. But the truth is – I can hardly believe this is happening! All those countless hours, all that money on tuition and finally, I am nearing the home stretch!

So, I guess I’m not surprised that I woke up so early this morning. I am already starting to yawn though, and that is a good sign. Good night folks … um, er…. good morning. 🙂

Spring Whispers

I thought I heard Spring whisper last week in my heart.

I was in the middle of a phone interview with a supervisor in a counselling agency out of province, and the lady and I were hitting it off. She and I both agreed that I should come and see her and her CEO, and we set up a time for the following week.

And Spring whispered, “Soon.”

Yesterday, I had finished a face-to-face interview with another site in that city, and I took a break to gather my thoughts in what for me was essentially a strange place. After I took a bite to eat, and got to the second site, I walked into a clean, bright, well-appointed office where everyone was respectful and kind. I waited in a waiting room that had reading material and activities for people of all ages. Soon, the lady I had met over the phone took me on a tour of the facility, and introduced me to a few people. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. We went into her office and talked for an hour, with her asking me questions and me answering her, then me asking a few questions and her answering me.

The supervisor works with a specific clientele: low-income clients usually, and referrals from those who provide services to victims of crime. Just what I was looking for … seriously. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm at the thought of learning how to do trauma work with an expert to mentor me.

“Come with me,” she said finally, and she led me (after a small wait) to the CEO’s office. I sat before him. He had questions for me about my history and my education. And then he started talking about criminal record checks and paperwork.

And Spring whispered in my ear again. “Now.”

I cleared my throat and spoke. “I’m sorry to interrupt you but I have to ask you a question right now.”  He said sure, okay.  And I found myself looking him in the eye and asking him (because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t misreading him), “Are you offering me an internship here?”

He smiled and said, “Yes I am.”

The breath I had been holding in without knowing it, suddenly came out in a rush as I said, “OHHHHH good!”

Spring stopped whispering in my ear, and started chirrup-ing in my heart. That big weight I had been carrying around for weeks, the weight of timelines and uncertainty and stress … rolled off my back like a 100-pound pack and tumbled into the ditch. All I could hear was that chirrup, chirrup of the harbinger of warmer times and milder climes.

 

American Robin by mvp at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “American Robin” courtesy of mvp at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Holding Pattern

So I am knee-deep in this practicum search. I have exhausted all possibilities in my province (it sounds ludicrous to say that!) and am now actively engaging in a search in a nearby province. If it works, I might just relocate there for the duration of my internship. And arrange with my employer to telework two days a week while I do that, so that I can afford to pay for an apartment, and groceries, and utilities, plus my regular bills (including mortgage) … oh yes … it will be tight, but I think I have enough saved up to act as a buffer.

Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset by noomhh at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset” courtesy of noomhh at www.freedigitalphotos.net

But the waiting! Oh … my … goodness. I send out message after message after message and it’s oh no, so-and-so is on vacation and that one has a special project all next week … and well, we have the supervisor but not the space … and from some, the sound of crickets chirping. (That is, the sound of nothing happening.) And meantime, my practicum clock is tick-tick-ticking closer and closer to April 13 – which is the latest I can leave it in order to get the paperwork out of the way for any site and supervisor that DOES offer me a spot. ARRRrrrgh!

I’m not sure if you can tell, but this waiting – and especially the ‘not knowing’ – is stressing me out. I’m in my late fifties, and the part of me that is winding down my first career is screaming that I’m too old for this. The other part that has spent about $18,000 on these courses since September 2015 (and over $32,000 if you go back to September 2013) is saying, “But you’ve come so FAR! And you’ve invested so MUCH” And I roll my eyes, dig in, and take another arduous step toward my goal. This stuff is not easy.

There is a part of me that would love to just get a phone call and someone amazing to say, “Yes, of course we’ll take you!” That would be so super, I can’t begin to articulate! But the reality is more likely to be that after fits and spurts of absolutely nothing, interspersed with frantic activity, I might find something worthwhile by mid-April.

And if I don’t, then I don’t. There’s always next year.