About My blog

Holding space is the process in which a person is fully present with themselves and with others. As a mental health therapist for thirteen years, I was honored to hold space with my clients. In 2009, I realized I needed a break, so I have temporarily stepped away from my career. I am now re-learning how to hold space for myself. This blog follows my journey.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I like Eminem. I know that sounds wierd coming from a thirty-something soccer mom, but I have always liked his energy, his honest lyrics, and his contagious hooks. It all started back when I was providing therapy for adolescents in foster care. I would meet with them in their bedrooms. We would listen to music, look at magazines and pictures, and talk about their life. One girl said it well well when she said, "Eminen never knew his father, had a mom who was on drugs, and he got involved with gangs and doing bad stuff. That's my life." Statistically, kids who are raised in foster care have a slim chance of escaping the cycle of "bad stuff" - crime, drug use, gangs, etc. I believe on a deep level these kids realize the odds are stacked against them, so they do as Eminen says. They lose themselves in the music and Eminen and other artists like him provide a sanctuary for kids like my client.

So, it is difficult for me to admit this, but I have mixed feelings about his current song. "Love the Way You Lie" is at the top of the charts and it has the classic Eminem elements - honest, harsh lyrics, very contagious refrain, and lots of energy. However, this time, his honest lyrics grafitcally depict a violent and abusive relationship. He talks about setting his partner on fire, about hurting someone he never thought he would hurt. He describes his anger as explosive - like a volcano and his partner is like a hurricane. He also talks about apologizing afterwards and knowing that when he promises it won't happen again, they both know it is a lie. Like all of his songs, it is heavy stuff, but this time, it is on top-40 radio.

I don't need to go into one of my "when I was a therapist stories," to say that I have seen and understand the dynamics involved in abusive relationships. Apparently, Eminem "gets it" too because his description of these type of relationships is spot on. Especially how he describes the complexities of the issue around ending the relationship.

Another person who "gets it" is Rhianna. She is the girl who is singing with him, and she is also the singer who was involved in a very public relationship with rapper Chris Brown. I know everyone was surprised when she did this song with Eminen. She says she wanted to work with Eminen and she just liked to song. I would like to think she did because it spoke to her. Maybe it was a chance to answer all of those people's questions about why she was involved with Chris Brown and why it took her so long to get out.

So, I have been thinking about all these issues lately, and have been really missing my adolescent clients. If I was still working with them, we would definitely listen to this song and I am sure have amazing discussions. Adolescents always have a unique, unfiltered view of these type of issues. If I had the chance to talk to adolescents in a therapy setting, I am sure they would initially tell me they like the beat and they just don't listen to the words. I would push them further than that, and I know we would have satisfying and interesting conversations about healthy/unhealthy relationships. We could talk about why are some people drawn to abusive relationships and we could explore all of the complex factors that make it hard to end the relationships. This song would also be a way for adolescents to come forward with their own experiences with abusive relationships - maybe with someone they were dating, or a friend who was involved in an abusive relationships, or maybe their parents. These conversations would be therapeutic for them and it would be an honor for me.

So, just when I was wishing I could talk about all these issues with someone, my nine year old son came home singing this song. That's right - nine years old. I know I said I am a fan of Eminem. I am, but we are strictly a Radio Disney household. Apparently, my son's friend loves this song, and they have listened to it. This is the main reason I am worried about this song being at the top of the charts. So, I'm off to talk to my son. I should be careful what I wish for.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holding Space

Caregiver's fatigue or compassion fatigue is the condition where a person who works in a helping profession or is in a position of caring for others, becomes drained, burned out, exhausted. You can Google these terms to find a definition, but instead, just insert a picture of me from the fall of 2009. I had been a Clinical Social Worker for thirteen years, and had a Social Workers' dream position - a thriving private therapy practice where I could work around my husband and three kids' schedules.

It was a perfect life until 2009. My life's demands escalated and began to feel like a pressure-cooker. At home, there was the constant homework, sports practices, stacks of papers to be reviewed, sleepovers, and so on. At work, there were phone calls to return, constant paperwork, and a steady stream of struggling clients looking to me for relief.

After much thought, I realized I was suffering from Caregiver's Fatigue. I had all of the symptoms -trouble sleeping, constant anxiety, unexpected crying, exhaustion, distractibility. Naming my condition was empowering, but it forced me to make a change. So, on January 1, 2010, I made decided to walk away from my therapy practice. By the end of January, my clients had been transferred and my office was in boxes in my basement.

People questioned my decision. I was a good therapist. It was my career, my identity. But I knew what they didn't. I was no longer able to hold space for my clients. Holding space means to support and help another person by being fully present. Doing this as a therapist is a beautiful process. It was an honor to witness my clients transform, heal, and evolve. But I knew if couldn't be fully present with my clients, than I was no longer helping.

So, now, I am re-learning how to hold space for myself. I am breathing. I am laughing. I am taking piano lessons. I am writing children's books. I am dreaming about running a half-marathon and am working on making it all the way across the monkey bars. I am treating myself and everyone around me with loving-kindness.

Sometimes, I miss my old career and I worry about what my future career will look like. But when I have these thoughts, I take a deep breath. I remind myself that my focus is to live in the present and to hold space.