Sometimes I think God is just waiting until I have two solid feet on the ground and I'm feeling pretty stable with life and then he says, Now! Throw something new at her!. I'm being slightly facetious, of course, but this last week felt like one of those times--apparently I'm not allowed to just float along or be complacent with my progress as an MFT right now. If I'm not growing, something hard happens to ensure some personal growth. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with this new pattern in my life because I like growing and becoming a more complete person, but it's also painful and if I had a choice, I think I'd settle for complacency once in a while.
This last week I hit 80 hours and started to really feel my hope in my clients disintegrate. I thought if I was a better therapist (or knew what the heck to do at all), they would be improving faster and they'd have some chance of getting better. As it was, I felt like I was impeding their personal growth and they had no hope for recovery if they stayed with me. They're all so motivated and they're working so hard, but I just can't give them the tools they want and need. I told my supervisor that I didn't think I was really cut out to do this because I haven't seen my clients improve very much yet and she decided this was a moment for some self-of-the-therapist work (of course...).
She asked me why I expected my clients to improve after 2 months when they've been struggling for 5-10 years on average with what they're coming in with. I couldn't answer her, except that I just wish I could help them get out of their pain as fast as possible. She dug deeper and told me that I am too achievement oriented. For example, I'm taking extra clients to finish my hours early, I want to be a great therapist already after only about 10 weeks, I want depression and anxiety to just disappear as soon as clients decide to come to therapy, I expect the outcome of something I'm working on to be excellent--regardless of how hard it is to get it there, I'm not happy unless I'm working towards a goal and making good progress, and I can't feel good about myself if I feel like I'm not living up to my standards for myself or succeeding at my goals. She concluded by telling me that until I figure out how to relax and enjoy the journey, I won't be able to help my clients very well. I need to be okay with ambiguity, okay with this all being a process, and okay with things not getting "fixed" immediately.
Little did my supervisor know how deeply this runs for me. I mean, I literally feel helpless and hopeless on a daily basis about my chronic pain and I'm frustrated that there doesn't seem to be an answer or a fix to all of this. I just want it to be black and white. Either you can make the pain go away, or you can't. Either I can have kids or I can't. Either I'll be dealing with this my whole life, or I wont. I'm tired of the ambiguities. I'm tired of the endless doctor's visits and tests. I'm tired of being tired. And I want it all to come to a nice neat conclusion tied with a bow. Unfortunately, this seems like it's a lesson I need to learn--that life doesn't come with nice conclusions tied up with bows. And that's okay.
Every day I'm learning more about myself, my husband, my relationships, my family, more than I even care to learn, to be honest. And I think that's what life is about. It really is about the journey, as cliche as that sounds. It's not about the destination, because there is no destination in life. There's just trial after trial and joy after joy and it's all meant to be enjoyed :) So that's what I'm working on this week--trying to find joy in the journey, in spite of temporary bouts of hopelessness. Wish me luck!