26 October 2008

Radical Self-Care

I rarely write about my job. Since I work in special education administration, nearly all of the cases I work with are confidential in nature, plus my job is filled with lots of legalese and jargon that make it cumbersome to talk about with friends who aren't in the field. But this week was particularly tough and I need to talk about it, even in the most general of terms.

I started off the week sleep-deprived because I'd spent a wonderful weekend at the coast with some women friends. It was a relaxing and rejuvenating time but not very restful because the bed in the rental cottage was not my pregnant-body's friend. Not the best way to start off on Monday. It was also one of those weeks where I started the week with a long to-do list and even though I worked diligently each day, by Friday the to-do list had grown and was even longer than when it started.

The worst day was Wednesday. I had four emotionally-exhausting cases in a row. The first student is trying to escape an alcoholic abusive father but is caught in a custody battle between the parents. The second student was a former junior high student of mine re-enrolling at the high school after a long absence who was clearly "using" (looked like those before and after meth addict pictures in the newspaper and the parent looked exactly the same way) The third student was one I'd worked with for a long time who is part of a verbally and emotionally-abusive family situation. It finally got to the point in which we had to make a report to DHS. The fourth student was a perfectly healthy student who had a mental break and now is actively paranoid and schizophrenic.

Kids with learning problems don't get to me. I like that challenge. We make good progress and we know what to do to help them. Kids with family problems and kids with mental health challenges get to me. Their problems go above and beyond anything we can do to help them in school and I know the mental health care they need is not readily available. These are the kids who haunt me. I would not make a good social worker.

On a good week these cases are the ones that get to me. On a bad week with too little sleep and too many pregnancy hormones, these cases wreck me emotionally. I could barely hold in my tears as we worked through bad case after bad case. I had to leave to get lunch and to just let myself cry for a while. I said a few prayers of thanks because I am immensely grateful that my parents were mentally stable people who parented me consistently and logically. I made a little promise to our unborn child that I will be the healthiest parent that I know how to be.

And then I launched into my Radical Self-Care regime. That's what I do when I know that I am at the bottom of my reserves emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Here's what it looked like this week:
--Pre-natal yoga class, absolutely essential for me to quiet my mind and body. I do my best praying and meditating in yoga class.
--A haircut
--A long walk with the dogs
--A nice dinner and conversation at Country Cat with my husband
--A new pair of Earth shoes, the only ones that are still comfortable for me by the end of a day at work
--Going to bed a little earlier--always easier said then done since Nate and I are both night owls
--A massage
--A long bath in Epsom salts to work out the soreness after the massage
--A talk with a friend who understands

Now it is Sunday afternoon and I almost feel ready to face another week. My question is: What do YOU do for self-care? Do you feel guilty when you spend time and money on yourself or do you see it as absolutely essential for your health? What works for you to help calm your mind and spirit?


Kris said...

The things that I absolutely HAVE to have for sanity are...time outside every day, time to lay flat on my back during the middle of the day, and time alone. Each of those times really only need to be about a half hour for me, but they have to happen every day for me to be my best.

I love your new shoes and I hope that this week will be much better. When I think of you, I will be praying for that. love you.

Moxie said...

Wow. What a week. Those are horrific tragedies and the one thing I'm glad about is that they have someone like you in their life. Thanks for being there.

When I practice self-care, which is not as often as I should, I:
1. Run (except now, because I have some kind of hip problem)
2. Write (except now, because I'm trying to "be a writer" which is draining me of all creative energy)
3. Take myself on a date (this week I had a self date and it was great! I even ordered the good wine.)
4. Get a pedicure from the little place around the corner. I'm often the only one in there that speaks English and there's great sunlight and it is so lovely.
5. Get a haircut. Also a place where I don't have to talk. Hmm, a lot of my self care involves being quiet. I wonder why that is. . .

Kris said...

Thanks so much, Deb, for this heartfelt, honest entry. Pregnancy is wearing enough on the body, let alone all of the situations you faced last week at school.

My self-care list includes (but is not limited to): massage, exercise, good chocolate, time with girlfriends, time with just my husband, daily time alone, a relaxing bath, a night out of the house at least once a week, and getting out of the house at least once a day.

I pray this week goes better for you and for the situations/students you encounter.

kris g.

amy said...

sorry that your week has been so intense - i've had my share of those encounters with mentally ill kids and parents, and you're right - radical self-care is absolutely essential! i'm not always good at it, but the things that work well for me are getting outside for a walk, going somewhere quiet and interesting like the library or target to walk around and lose myself, get a massage if i can, or a pedicure. now that alex is here, i have a lot less time for that - time for myself usually looks like surfing the web after she's asleep. but actually being with her is a tremendous antidote to the intense encounters at work...

Deb said...

Thanks, friends, for your kind words! I forgot about the therapy that chocolate provides :) And I like Moxie's idea of taking myself on a date. Amy, I find it oddly reassuring to know that you find your own little girl an antidote to work stress. I hope it works that way for me too.

Here's to a much better week!

Jazlyn said...

Earth shoes are my favorite. I prefer to get them from Shoes.com.