The Dregs

This week I had my first fully-booked day as a counsellor. My former-colleagues standard day was six, sometimes seven appointments, but I made the brave decision to set my own availability and max it out at five (in accordance with recommendations I once read for psychologists). I scheduled half hour breaks between appointments, and an additional hour for lunch to give me time to process, write notes, do research, and have adequate time to prepare for each appointment. And even amidst all the extra time I allowed myself, I found it utterly exhausting.

The first appointment of the day went really well. I mean, I was sleepy and not my sharpest, but I did great work being in a deep space with my clients, holding them as they confronted scary truths and recognised harm in their lives. If I started the day at 100% energy/compassion/patience, I probably went down to 70% over that hour.

During my half hour break to write notes/prepare for the next appointment, I probably started it at 80%. It was another deep and engaging session where I got right into the guts of some long-held beliefs and helped a person reflect on and relate differently to them. I probably went down to 20% at the end of the session.

I was pretty anti-social during my time for lunch. I couldn’t even really bring myself to talk to Beth as we sat at the table together, so desperate was I to recover some energy for myself and my next clients. Some food and Animal Crossing later, I went back in with about 60% energy for my next client.

It kept going down until I finished with about 10% at the end of the day. And when it came time to exercise, and cooking dinner, and spending time with Beth, I felt pretty close to tapped out. I was so cranky and impatient and ungenerous – it was so unfair that Beth got the dregs of my strength, and I had even less than that for myself. And when some of my friends messaged me about their struggles, I really had to consciously stop myself from snapping at them as I supported them in their experiences, gently guiding them through the murk of their feelings and struggles. I had the thought “I’m giving you free counselling right now”, and it was an unpleasant and nasty thought to have, and I wish that I hadn’t been so worn down when they spoke with me. It turns out I am not the boundless well of compassion I like to think I am, and I need to prioritise my own self-care more often if I want to be my best self with loved ones.

Just thoughts.

3 thoughts on “The Dregs

  1. Galaxy Girl says:

    Hey, just dropping a note to say that I see you! I see how tiring it is, and how in exhaustion, you weren’t your ‘best self’. But even at your *most* exhausted, you are enough.

    I found myself getting really protective of you, whilst reading this. And I had all this other stuff to say. But all that matters is that I think you are so wonderful booking in 5 so that you can refresh in the meantime. (and not 6 or 7!!!) I am so happy for you that you got to experience that – firstly that your services are in demand to fill a day, and secondly, you can experience and play with your threshold, I imagine that it quite the important skill in your line of work.

    I love your reflection. Thanks for sharing <3

  2. Sweet Thing says:

    Xin, I wonder if you remember me from some years back? I always appreciated your thoughtful comments, and during ‘lockdown’ I’ve been revisiting old sites and I’m so glad to find you still blogging. Not only that to find that you are counselling; some years ago I trained as a therapist and have been practising for 5 years now! It’s draining, and I limit myself to two or three clients a day and find that more than enough. I totally get the ‘you’re getting therapy for free now’, and find myself limiting my exposure to friends who seem not to understand. Self care is not selfish, it’s vital…

    Hope you are well during these strange times! Stay safe, Sweet. xx

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