Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I should have seen it coming...

It's taken me a few days to sit down and write this post. One that is LONG overdue, but hopefully, you will enjoy it.

Here's how many of my conversations have gone lately.

"Oh Abby, how are you?? How's school?"

With a tired smile, I normally answer "Grad school is hard! (awkward laugh), but I'm learning so much! It's great, I love it" Lately, though, that smile is getting more and more tired.

Last Monday was my tipping point. I skipped one class to read for another (funnily enough the reading was over burnout) and then worked from 3-11pm. I got to my car, turned some calming music on and thought "just make it home, Abby. Just make it home."

I got to the second to last stop sign on the drive home and lost it. I was sitting there in my car, crying for no apparent reason. Nothing drastic had happened that day, I didn't have any huge assignments due that week, but there I was, crying uncontrollably.  The breakdown that had been inching its way to the surface for days, if not weeks, finally got to me. I was mentally, physically and emotionally EXHAUSTED in a way that I haven't felt in grad school thus far.

Social workers are fantastic at reading about and advocating for self-care, but we are terrible at practicing it. And I mean terrible. Ironically, my class on Friday (which  I wasn't sure I would make it to) was devoted to self-care for social workers. We discussed what we like to do for self-care when we have time. Social workers are great at recognizing when reactions to stress go from productive to detrimental but for some reason, we can't take the next step and actually do what we enjoy doing when we need it most. We're always 'too busy' to exercise, or have too many assignments to go grab a drink with friends. We advocate for so many, but can't advocate for ourselves, so we end up crying at a stop sign less than two minutes away from home.

A classmate of mine brought up the guilt factor. She mentioned that often times we feel guilty for practicing self-care because so often our clients need us, or don't have what we have. We feel bad turning off our phones and reading when clients or classmates might need us to answer questions.

So I made it to Friday afternoon and I wasn't quite sure what I could change from last week to this week to make sure my neighbors didn't see another impromptu meltdown in my car. Then Sunday came. I feel as though this blog is slowly turning into an advertising campaign for the Catholic Student Center at WashU and Father Gary because every time I go, I feel like writing a blog post.

Anyway, he told a story about one of my favorite authors and priest, Gregory Boyle, and his conversation with a woman who felt like she had given everything she had but still didn't know how to accept gifts from others. She didn't feel like she deserved to be on the receiving end of someone's love/actions. I bet she was a social worker...

It's a hard lesson to learn how to receive love and help when your whole life is dedicated to giving it. This is especially difficult when the one giving love is God, who gives unconditionally! It is hard to build up the courage to ask God for some of that much-needed love and attention.

Sometimes, though, we don't even know we are asking for it...it just looks like a poor girl crying in her car at a stop sign...

A week later and I think I have a little stronger of a grip on life. I took a step back from everything going on, spent a lot more time sending prayers to God, and reached out to friends and family for love. I truly believe that God's love rests in those who know you best, and spending time with them is like a visit with Him. They inject you with the strength you need to keep going.

So thank you to anyone who listened to me last week, who saw that I was exhausted and needed encouragement. You are truly a gift from God.