Tag Archive | burnout

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.

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.

Uncharted waters

Here I am, in the last trimester of my second of four years in my Master’s program at AU. In another 3.5 months, I will be half-way through the program and a year away from starting my practicum. You’d think that by now, I’d be more confident in my abilities as a grad student. While in a certain sense I do have more confidence than I did starting out, I still feel as though I am sailing in a gale (not knowing how to swim) through uncharted waters.

At the moment, I am taking a course in group counselling. Someone told me that this was the “Kum-Ba-Yah” course – referring to the summer institute in July when we meet face to face, and we all (metaphorically) join hands and sing “Kum-Ba-Yah”, which gave me a picture of a course that would be somewhat easy – but they were wrong. So far, the reading has been overwhelming, the first assignment has been a challenge to complete, and my anxiety is growing!

Part of the problem is that I took the course to “stretch” me because I am uncomfortable in groups, but I know that it will be important for me to know how to facilitate groups, especially for my Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation, a pre-requisite to registration as a registered psychotherapist candidate in my province. Another part is that I did not anticipate the newness, the unfamiliarity, of the material I would be studying. I am starting to catch on now, but it took me off guard at first.

Image “Rushing River” courtesy of        Maggie Smith at www.freedigitalphotos.net

On top of all of that, there have been some … upheavals … in my family of origin, who live out of province. A medical emergency for my brother, followed by a temporarily unsupervised mother with dementia, and someone contacting Social Services, led to her hospitalization. Because of that, the whole process led to the court (province) becoming involved, removing power of attorney from my brother (through no fault of his own), and deciding to place my mother in long term care. She is now waiting in hospital for a spot to open up in a nursing home close to where her home is, wanting with every ounce of her being to just go home and fix dinner for my brother … and not realizing that she will never be allowed to do that. My brother has been facing destitution and is trying to obtain assistance while he waits for his CPP disability pension to be adjudicated on. I have been calming him down for the last month while he faces the most anxiety-producing experience of his life. Fortunately, my professor was sympathetic and granted me an extension on my first assignment – but that means I’m a week or two behind on everything else, and I need to play catch-up.

Like I said, sailing in a gale, through uncharted waters, not knowing how to swim. But today, I managed to finish my first draft of my first paper – a proposal for a 6-session group counselling program for adult survivors of childhood physical and emotional abuse. I have no idea whether it will be acceptable, but I suppose that I will find out soon enough. 😉

At least, so far, I have not capsized.

Putting first things first

I think that I’m safe in saying that so far in my graduate program in counselling, the course for which I just submitted my final assignment earlier this evening has been the most technically difficult one so far – it was on research methodology and made it necessary for me to use something that I abhor: statistics. But … let’s not go there tonight, except to say that two weekends ago, I got a brand new book: Statistics for Dummies. And I plan to read it!

All that drama aside – there is something so satisfying about passing in a final paper. No more schoolwork for four weeks! And you can bet that I’ll be squeezing as much enjoyment out of those four weeks as possible!

The course taught me a lot of things, and not just about research design and how I am drawn to qualitative rather than quantitative research (the latter being about numbers – numbers being about statistics – and here we are back at the boogey-man again!) In the course, I worked in a small group to conduct a tiny research project over the course of the term, and the topic we chose was the relationship between burnout and self-care in online graduate students. Learning more about the factors in burnout made me re-think the pace of my education plan. (Of course, there were other reasons for re-thinking it as well!)

oil-massage-by-samuiblue-at-www-freedigitalphotos-net

Photo “Oil Massage” courtesy of samuiblue at www.freedigitalphotos.net

In fact, there were four major reasons for me deciding to turn my program from a 3.3-year program to a 4.5 year program.  The first was purely practical and self-serving: I have an opportunity to get a good practicum if I defer it to September 2018 rather than 2017.  That was the first domino, so to speak. Then I figured that if I were to defer the practicum, I could stand to slow down the pace from a  total of four courses per year (over three terms) to a schedule of three courses per year (one per term). Doing this allows me to take more electives as well, which I am enjoying the thought of doing. The pace of the online program being more manageable is reducing my stress levels and making it more possible for me to sleep at night.

My physical health is another reason why I’m slowing down my program. I believe you know that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last May.  But after a procedure to test me for cervical and uterine cancer, and the lab finding that I have pre-cancerous cells in my uterus, I am scheduled for abdominal surgery on January 9, 2017. Yes, that’s right – a hysterectomy.  This will mean a three to six-week recovery period at home, and the less stress I pile on myself, the better my body will be able to recover.  I will be able to do my schoolwork but not much more during my recovery period – and it will be good to get away from such a hectic pace and to regroup.

One more reason I’m spreading my courses out is that there are some possible opportunities at work that I may be able to benefit from – and pushing forward on my practicum date to 2018 instead of 2017 gives me the time and space I need to explore those. That has meant that I haven’t been able to avail myself of that volunteer opportunity, at least not yet. Perhaps in time…

And finally, my brother was just diagnosed with stage one colon cancer this past month. His surgery to resect a section of bowel (major abdominal surgery) is set for around the end of December. Hopefully, with me spending a bit less time with my nose in the books, we will be able to spend a bit more time together, especially as our mother’s dementia is getting worse.

Self-care takes many forms. Sometimes it means going for a massage, a manicure, or a spa treatment. But for me lately, it means making every moment count with family and friends, looking after my health, and being able to sleep without stressing about deadlines, and it also means not falling asleep in front of the computer screen.

It means putting first things first. Prioritizing my life makes for there being more room for the important things and then, if there’s room, adding in some nice-to-haves. It means having it all, but not all at once: each thing in its own time. And it means being satisfied with what I have for as long as I have it. That’s something that I think I could get behind.