Emotional Lockdown

My blog is like a stopped clock after a catastrophic event.

Since my last post in February 2020, I have been working the front lines of mental health from within the confines of my home. Every day has been defined by emotional triage & walking the edge of an ever shifting professional boundary. No matter how hard I tried to maintain a separation of personal & professional, Covid made it next to impossible. I was in session when my elderly next door neighbor was taken away by EMS. The noise of the gurney hitting my living room wall & the shouts of the paramedics shook me. I had to disclose what was happening in a way that wouldn’t exacerbate this particular person’s anxiety. Turns out, I couldn’t. The idea that I could be affected by Covid did not register in the minds of some of the people that I was treating. The unconscious experience of one’s therapist as a separate person never ceases to amaze me in theory; however, the reality of that object relation is that for some I am not allowed to be human.

As the months blended into each other, writing for myself went by the wayside. I churned out endless documentation & case notes. I had a list of blog post prompts that I would look at in my “free” time, but found my creative process hijacked by the clinical & legal language I used on a daily basis. I was experiencing a next level form of writer’s block. Even while in the thick of my graduate program and clinical internship, I always managed to generate new content. It was a form of stress relief. It was a way for my mind to think about something that was of interest to ME. It wasn’t graded or subject to anyone’s rubric. It was something that I did for ME. I realized just how little energy I had at the end of each day to do anything for myself.

As my wellspring continued to dry up, I realized that I was also putting my emotional well being to the side. The series of relationship losses I had experienced throughout this year had to be placed in containers to “feel” at a later date. I didn’t feel like I had the right to experience those emotions in real time when so many people in my care needed me to be present & solid for them. There was also an expectation that I had to have it all figured out & “together” at all times. It was as if my being a therapist made me somehow immune to pain & emotional crises (pun intentional.) I soon realized that many of the people in my life had reduced my identity to just my job.

The irony of my emotional lockdown is that it didn’t allow me to be as effective a therapist. I felt profoundly isolated. There were days where I was unable to sit with people’s complaints without experiencing a level of resentment. I would have visceral reactions to the things I would hear in the “teletherapy room” that stayed with me well beyond the session time. I told my supervisors that I was burning out. They showered me with conciliatory statements that I was doing great work & that I wasn’t alone. They suggested I take more breaks & ask for help. I took their words to heart & did both of these things only to realize that our mental healthcare system is set up to fail clinicians like myself. I advocated for the time off I desperately needed to re-humanize. They say you can’t draw water from a stone. You cannot ground yourself on a pile of ashes either.

The mythical & metaphorical Phoenix rising from its ashes

The space & time I took off has allowed me to slowly reconnect with myself. I have been doing an immense amount of reflection after opening all those containers & feeling all the feelings in all the ways. The quality of my relationships & the value placed on my time has been heavy on my mind. The pandemic “pause” allowed me to truly appreciate how little of my life I was actually living. The intentions that I set for this new year in the aftermath of 2020’s “great purge” all welcome new beginnings.

Sometimes we need a kick in the heart to remind us that we deserve reciprocity.

Sometimes the ground has to drop from underneath us in order to realize that where we stood all this time is not where we needed to be.

There is no need for me to turn back. I like the view from this new perspective and the ground on this side is VERY solid.


Foresight can be 2020


A new year (and decade) is upon us, but a concerning statement is making the rounds on social media feeds.

“New Year, same me.”

Let’s sit with that for a minute.

This statement gave me pause because of the way it could impact a person’s motivation to change. The mental conflict that occurs as a result of beliefs being contradicted by “new” information is a concept known as cognitive dissonance. People deal with that conflict in a number of ways, most of which are defensive. The first part of the “New Year, same me” statement speaks to change – it’s a new year and newness in of itself is a changed state. The second part of this statement could be read as a defensive response to change.

Here’s the breakdown.

Same me…

They say hindsight is 2020. Looking back on the experiences of 2019, what would you like to carry over into this new year? What are the qualities, relationships, and situations that you feel will continue to serve you? Those are the things that should comprise your “same me” list. The descriptions underlying the “same me” posts that I read were self-depreciating, and not in that self aware kind of way that precedes a New Year’s resolution (disclaimer – I am not a fan of resolutions – see my 2019 post on Intention Setting.)

The writers of these posts listed the “bad” choices they made during 2019 with the disclaimer “this is how I am.” Their followers responded with “likes” and comments that ranged from supportive to enabling. Here’s where it gets heavy and ties back to cognitive dissonance. That disclaimer is a powerful communication meant to rationalize the writers’ need to maintain their sameness. This is a mental state that feels safer and less threatening than change. Their “bad” choices become their identity. They are unmotivated to change “how” they are and seek validation to maintain their internal status quo through the likes and responses they get. Anything that challenges that state of sameness is met with a drama tsunami of comments from both the poster and a number of their followers. It made me wonder what would happen if no one validated their defense. How would they respond if no one liked or commented on their post? What would all that silence cause them to feel or think about themselves, the world, and their future?


New year…

During some of the last sessions of the year with my therapy clients, we reflected on the highlights and low-lights of 2019. Breaking patterns of behavior and thinking that do not serve growth and well-being takes time; however, the little nuggets of insight and small changes we highlighted were proof enough that my clients weren’t entering 2020 the same way they entered 2019. Essentially they were not “the same me.”

My hope for all the “New Year, same me” people is that they don’t let that statement become a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of us are capable of change, both for better and for worse. Making the decision to start therapy and the process of change happens only when you feel ready and motivated to invest the time. Let your foresight also be 2020.



Fitness - Inside and Out, Uncategorized

How to be mindful with a mind that’s full in 2017

Welcome to the end of the first week of the New Year. I am not alone in saying that 2016 presented its fair share of obstacles, life altering experiences and game changing events. None of us want a repeater in 2017. Last week, I set out to create an image of how I wanted this year to unfold. Within this image was a list of intentions to guide me along the process. Why not resolutions, you ask? There is a huge difference between resolving something and intending to act. The former implies that there is something wrong; that there is unfinished business hindering you from getting to where you want to be. To make such a list drives into your consciousness all the failures, road blocks and let downs of years’ past. Intentions are purposeful actions. I intend to hug strangers, eat broccoli, travel to Cuba and so on. Intentions allow you to be mindful even if the rest of your brain is locked up in the junk of 2016.

Doing for ME above all others…

One of the most powerful intentions I put on that list, which set the tone for all the others that followed was doing for ME above all others. This is huge! I am an empath and a nurturer. My profession by definition draws on both these qualities, sometimes to depletion point. Oftentimes, I forget myself and my own needs. Therefore, placing ME at the top of my intentions keeps me mindful of number 1. Channeling that nurture inward allows my higher self to steer me forward. She’s the one with the clear voice and my best intentions in mind. Her judgement of situations and people is never cloudy. She is my gut and she is always spot on. If this is too woo-woo for some of you, let me rephrase it as learning to put your needs first. If it puts you last on the list, just say NO.

Walk away from other people’s tornadoes…

You cannot take on or personalize other people’s struggles in this life. Once again, the empathic nurturing self wants to provide solutions, love the pain away, walk alongside them in their process. What you need to realize is that it is their process, not yours and trying to invite yourself into the tornado leaves a destructive path in its wake. As my post on unconditional love explored, it’s okay to walk away.

Any kind of day can be made better by working out…

I told myself whenever I was feeling off in some way or another, I would do a quick workout and then re-evaluate how I was feeling. Being in your physical body prevents you from ruminating and that form of distraction can reset your nervous system in profound ways. Feel good hormones called endorphins surge through your system every time you exercise. Why not take advantage of nature’s mood elevators? Who here has 15-20 minutes a day to feel good? I DO!!

Fantasize like a 5-year old…

Small children fantasize 24/7. Their play incorporates a ton of make believe and they love telling long drawn out stories of what they envision their future/fantasy selves to be like. My niece is always telling me her I want to be a princess fantasy complete with what her hair will look like and the types of rooms in her home. Why is it so hard for us adults to do the same? The inability to fantasize about certain things I desire for myself is like telling my inner 5 year old not to dream because I don’t believe it will come true.  There is power in falling in love with that story or as a close friend put it watching the movie of your life play out all the while rooting for the heroine – YOU. I intend to tell myself elaborate stories of future me with as many details as possible and enjoy the vision in progress.

As my list took form, I felt an energetic shift within myself. The first week of the New Year has been an optimistic one not because anything profound has actually happened, but because I feel more at home within myself than ever before. Let the above intentions guide you in making a list of your own. See what shifts occur within you. This is YOUR year.

Fitness - Inside and Out, Massage Techniques Explained

Gouri, 2013

It’s a New Year and with that come the flood of resolutions, made with good intention, to have a fresh start of things. What often tops these lists are changes in diet and exercise. Gym memberships notoriously surge in the beginning of the year, while kitchens are cleaned out of their sundry contents to be replaced with all kinds of leafy greens and organic snacks. After a few weeks, the novelty of the fresh start wears off and for many, old habits die hard.

One of my New Year’s day clients joked that massage should be at the top of his list for 2013. In fact, all the clients I saw on that day expressed wanting to begin their year on a relaxed note. Many of them had received these massages as gifts. The Greeks call this gouri, a gesture or gift of good luck typically given to family members and friends for the New Year. Honestly, it’s a brilliant commitment to oneself to reduce stress and bring balance to the body on a regular basis. Think of all the cumulative affects of a chaotic lifestyle, rife with packed schedules, inhaled meals and little sleep and the investment of one massage per month becomes feasible. This is what I tell clients when they cannot fathom the cost of such a “luxury.” If you can spend $80 to $100 on frothy coffee drinks per month, then you can afford one massage. 

It’s pretty and smells delicious, but doesn’t last very long.

I could post heaps of statistical data supporting the benefits of regular massage on health, immunity, mobility, recovery and performance, but I won’t. What I want readers to keep in mind is a word I mentioned above – commitment. Many of us have a problem honoring commitments made to ourselves; moreover, the list of resolutions we make at the beginning of each year to change this, that or the other is a bit of a joke when we have no intention of doing anything. Why even make a list at all? If you can commit to just one thing at the start of each month, I am positive you will enact more self change then tackling an entire list in just January. Here are a few to pick and choose from:

  • Commit to one massage a month.
  • Commit to one session of strength training per week.
  • Commit to five minutes of deep breathing and/or stretching before bed every night.
  • Commit to taking the stairs at some point during your day.
  • Commit to 20 minutes in the steam room at the gym.
  • Commit to juicing one morning per week.
  • Commit to making your day off count for you!