Leaning into the Emotion (Also known as I Hate Change)

Today was my last day of my internship. This sounds like a celebratory thing, doesn’t it? I feel like that would make sense, because people keep asking me how I feel. Am I excited? Is it awesome to be done?

I’m just going to be honest. It’s really cool that I made it through a year as a school psychologist intern. I’m proud of that. But no, I’m not excited to be done.

I’m sad.

This has been building ever since I graduated last month and my team surprised me with a basket full of gifts, a “school psychologist survival kit” if you will. That day, I broke down crying in J’s office because I knew that change was coming.

Part of it is that I still don’t know what the future is going to look like for me. I am waiting to hear whether or not I will be offered a job that I made it to the second round of interviews for. The stakes feel high here, and I don’t really have a plan if this one doesn’t pan out yet because I don’t have any other interviews scheduled right now and everything else I’ve interviewed for has been filled. Did I mention that I’m competing against my best friend for this job?

So yes, that’s weighing on me. I am oscillating between feeling like bad news is right around the corner and feeling hopeful that they will pick me, between just about to tip over the edge and stable. I hate this waiting game. Schools shouldn’t be allowed to put us through this.

That’s not all of it though. I think the bigger part was knowing that after today, it would never be like this again. I was blessed with a team that I loved working with. My supervisor, the learning disabilities consultant, and the social worker were each wonderful in their own way. I took something different away from working with them, learned different skills.

I’ve been working with my supervisor on and off for three years. He mentored me through all of my practicums and I’ve learned so much from him. I respect him as a school psychologist and I really like him as a person. Our personalities meshed well and we spent so much time joking around.

So many times recently, I tried to insist that I would stay in touch with all of them. We’ve made assurances that we will have lunch, that I will text them with updates on the job search.

The truth is though, no matter if that happens, it will not be the same. There is quite an age difference between myself and them, so I can’t imagine spending too much time with them outside of the walls of work. They have families and responsibilities. And now we do not have work to connect us anymore.

I knew all day that I was living my life as an intern on borrowed time and once I walked out that door it all changed. Which made me so sad, because for all the stress and questioning of my own abilities, I really loved my internship overall.

Not only that, but these are the schools I went to as a kid. This is the district that taught me for thirteen years before welcoming me back as a graduate student.  There’s a personal connection there.

I went in this morning and just soaked it up. I joked around with my teammates, we went across the street to where the intermediate school was having a fair day and played games with the kids. Then we came back and got ice cream. My colleagues teased me about being a “quitter.” Eventually, it was time to part ways. I gave everyone hugs and made it out the door and to the car before I burst into tears.

I let myself cry the whole way to my babysitting job. Being with the girls reenergized me, gave me a distraction, but the sadness is back again now. As I type this, I’m feeling my eyes well with tears.

I’m heartbroken to leave. I really am. And it’s killing me.

I’m not used to letting myself feel my pain. It feels counterproductive to healing for me to express anger or sadness or fear, even though I know instinctively that they need to come out. When emotions threaten to rise, I stuff them back down.

Except J tells me that I need to give myself permission to feel. She tells me this all the time, and I’m trying to listen to her. But it hurts so much. It hurts to let the emotion work its way through your body. To feel without fighting it.

And I wonder, why is this such a necessary evil? Why do I have to feel pain to feel better. It makes no sense. I don’t want to let the feelings of loss and fear overwhelm me. Yet I am. It’s a brand new experience.

So the tears come. The sadness radiates. I’m sitting here waiting for it to get free of me so I might feel some relief.I’m sensitive enough as it is on a good day.When your emotions are as intense as mine, the wait to survive sadness like this is interminable.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll wake up feeling better. I really hate change.

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Emotional Catharsis

I’m not really sure how we got to a place where it has been a whole week between this and my last post. I feel like time is just slipping away before I can catch hold of it. I’ve been kind of MIA from WP in the last week. While I’ve been trying to get online and read everyone’s posts, I’m so frenzied that I can barely concentrate. When I can, I’m finding that everything I read triggers me.

So please don’t take my lack of presence, via likes and comments, as a sign that I am ignoring of all of you and your stuff. Please don’t think I no longer care about each of you. I’m still here supporting you! I’m just not in the right headspace at the moment. So that support may be more from a distance until I can get myself together again.

What’s going on, you ask? Well, it’s really hitting me that my life is about to change in a big way. A big way that may include some big losses.

I am graduating on Tuesday. TUESDAY! Holy crap I don’t know how it got here so fast. But on Tuesday I am going to have my Master’s Degree.

On Monday, I was talking to H and S, the young ladies I babysit, about my upcoming graduation. H told me she wished I wasn’t graduating, because she doesn’t want me to stop being her babysitter. She and S both seemed convinced they’d never see me again. I tried to reassure them that nothing was changing yet, and that I’m not disappearing out of their lives. But after I dropped them off, I cried at the thought of losing them. I cried at the thought of being replaced. It sucks that they might end up with another babysitter, and that our relationship would change.

Today, my colleagues did a really nice thing for me. When I walked in this morning, they had decorated my desk and put together me a whole basket full of things as a graduation and thank you gift. All sorts of silly things that echo our time together and serious things that will prepare me for next year. I teared up when I saw it, because it’s starting to become real that my time with them is about to be over. I’ve spent the year connecting with them, and I finally feel comfortable with my responsibilities there, only for that to end.

It’s also occurring to me that I will no longer have built-in bonding time with the friends I have spent hours in class and studying with for the last three years. Will that change things for us? Will we still be close, or will they drift away like my friends from undergrad? I know it’s not the same type of relationship, and we’ve survived a year in internship and rarely seeing each other, but I still worry.

Plus, there’s that little fear about losing my therapist if the scheduling can’t be worked out or if I get a job far away.

So, yeah. So much transition is coming my way. I truly don’t know where I’ll be a few months from now and I’m terrified at the thought of the way things will change. I’m emotional thinking about the upcoming goodbyes.

I was prepared for these emotions to arise eventually, but not until the end of June, when I actually finish internship and my hours for babysitting begin to change. I was not prepared to be hit with an onslaught of them this week. It is so overwhelming. I have not had the mental or physical energy to do anything else aside from my responsibilities and fulfilling my basic needs. So I pretty much just stuffed the rest down and shoved on.

Until I walked into J’s office today.

I really didn’t want to go to therapy this week. Last night, I was thinking about what we’d even talk about, because I felt like I didn’t want to address the feelings I’ve been having. I just didn’t. I knew I’d get emotional and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. We all know I hate the idea of letting the floodgates burst and then having to leave session dealing with the aftermath. I resolved to talk about skills, or whatever J brought up.

But then my wonderful colleagues gave me that gift, and after the initial joy and gratitude, my mind spent most of the day clogged with this intense sadness that I could not get away from. My mood was just not right.

I covered that well enough in front of the rest of the world, but something about J’s office disarms me. I went in there still resolved to say that I was fine, and I did try to. When she asked, I said I was good. But I could feel that my face was betraying me, so J saw through it and asked me for the real answer.

She wanted to know what I was feeling, something more specific than ‘good’ or ‘fine’. “Emotional,” I told her. She wanted to know why I was emotional, but I told her I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want to cry. J told me it was important to allow myself to have emotions and to let them exist within a safe, controlled setting.

Here’s the thing about keeping all your emotions inside you. The longer you keep on as if everything is fine, the greater the pressure of everything you’re holding in. Eventually, it takes very little to trigger an implosion.

For me, it took a simple encouragement that it was okay to cry and one very empathetic look from J. I blame that stupid room. It’s like it literally pulls the emotion out through my pores.

What I’m saying is, I completely fell apart. I cried on and off for the entire session. We talked about all the stuff I really didn’t want to talk about too, and every time she brought up the topic of ‘goodbyes’ or ‘transition’ I would get upset and just start to lose it again. I remember saying to her that my emotions are too intense and too overwhelming to handle! as I was wiping my eyes relentlessly with tissues.

It was super intense. It was complete catharsis. I let all of my ugly and painful emotions out for J to bear witness to. Everything I’d spent the week trying to contain just exploded out of me.

By the end of session, I was finally at a point where I had at least somewhat calmed down. Now, a few hours removed, I don’t feel 100% better but I’m at least more settled. I let my feelings out and I’m still alive to tell the tale. My emotions were given the space to exist for a little while. I think that counts for something.

I don’t know what the point of this post was. I feel like I need to wrap it up with some cliche message like “Be in touch with your feelings” or “It’s okay to give yourself permission to let go sometimes.” Yet it just sounds silly to say, almost disingenuous. Because crying didn’t solve all my problems. It helped, and the emotions abated, but I know they will be back.

All I know is this. Sometimes the emotions are coming out whether you like it or not. The only thing you can do is buckle down and wait out the tears.

Change is Coming

Everything in the future that makes me anxious is coming.

I know that it’s coming and I can’t stop it. As happy as I am to finally, finally be on my well-earned break, I know that as soon as real life resumes next week, life is about to get pretty crazy.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about finishing my portfolio, so that I can apply for national certification. I’m talking about finishing my assignments, so that I can pass my class. I’m talking about updating my resume and practicing interview skills, so that I can apply for jobs.

Namely, I’m talking about applying for jobs.

I’ve been putting it off. My friends look at online job postings, purely out of curiosity. My supervisor alerts me to districts that will be looking. People like to talk about it. A lot, it seems. I don’t. Every time someone wants to talk about jobs, I completely shut down. I’ve been bringing the conversation to a grinding halt with these words: Not until after break. 

After break I will start pushing myself more at internship. After break I will figure out what the hell goes into making a portfolio. After break I will find the time to see the career center to critique a CV or resume. After break I will learn how and where to look for jobs. After break I’ll start figuring things out, so that I have an idea of where to go to develop a future in this career.

Well, guess what? That all was fine and dandy when it was October or November or even two weeks ago. But it’s about to be after break now and I’m starting to freak out.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be at the starting point. I dread Sunday nights because the prospect of a whole week’s responsibilities ahead of me overwhelms me to the point of an internal meltdown. So can you imagine what having all of this awaiting me once January 2nd rolls around is doing to me?

Well, right now not much because I’m still pretending it’s not happening. But in a few days the anxiety is going to be crippling.

There’s just so much to do on top of everything I’ve already been doing. I know how mentally and physically draining it is going to be. Maybe if I knew how the hell to do a portfolio or what I need for my resume then that would ease the burden a bit, but I’m completely clueless. I don’t want to devote my already little free time to figuring any of this out.

I’m good at planning and organizing. I’m great at compiling different pieces of information from various sources. What needs to get done always gets done. I know have the work ethic to make sure the pieces fall into place the way they need to. It’s just going to be a lot.

Day by day. That’s going to be my mantra. Hopefully it’ll let me sleep a little more peacefully.

The worst of it is the fear. Fear of the unknown. What if I don’t get a job? What if all my friends get jobs except for me? I literally do not have a plan B. What if I get a job and I’m terrible at it? How am I going to do this all on my own? Sure, things are getting easier at my site, but I’m still completely supervised. How will things change when I’m in a brand new district with new programs, new teachers and a new team? I’m going to have to fend for myself. What if I screw that up?

You can see how this is a lose lose situation. Even if I win, and by win I mean I get a job, there are going to be some serious feelings to deal with. Insecurities to overcome as I navigate independence in my chosen career. There is very little that will calm the storm of these fears but actually getting through and living the experience.

So that begs another, very important question. What if I get a job and I have to move somewhere far away from my therapist?

The transition into internship pushed me to a whole new low, an amalgam of anxiety, hopelessness, insecurity and a depression so deep that I was actively thinking about the potential for suicide as I adjusted to my new schedule and new role.   I only just recently emerged from that hell and come next year, it’s going to start again. I don’t think that I can face that without help. Without her. She already knows everything about me and I don’t know that I’d be interested in starting over with someone else in addition to everything else. I’m currently just telling myself I’ll cross that bridge if it comes, but part of my brain registers the thought intermittently. And it’s a terrifying one.

I’m scared. Change is coming and I can’t avoid it. Can’t pretend it’s in the distant future. I have to face it head on. There will be support, people helping me figure it out. But ultimately, I’m on my own.