Hey there! Instead of me being a mystery person talking to you from the internet, I figured I should introduce myself and tell you why pausing life purposely is so important.
My name is Jesica, [yes, that’s one s, my dad thought I should be ‘special’]. I have lived in Michigan my entire life, studied at Michigan State University (GO GREEN) & live in Ferndale with my hubby and ridiculously-spoiled pups.
I am a social worker; you know how you feel when you turn on your favorite childhood movie, all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic and a little like, “I needed this, now I can go conquer the world?” That’s how finding social work was for me. I signed up for a social work class after my mom suggested it (because when is Mom ever wrong?) and
I walked out knowing helping others was what I was born to do, for better or for worse.
Well, the for-better part has been awesome. Before I studied social work, I truly never understood what the profession did… so if you are picturing the people who take kids out of homes, you are not alone. The truth is, social work is a whole lot more than that. it is about linking clients to resources, helping them uncover their strengths and abilities and empowering them to live their lives to the fullest. An old supervisor said it best: “we hold hope for our clients, many times who feel like they are at their lowest, and encourage them through difficult, emotional work to reach their potential.” I have seen SO many clients with SO many strengths that they simply do not see in themselves. To help them see it: it makes me feel purposeful, proud and happy to be a part of such an important profession.
Remember the “for better or worse?”
Well, the for-worse hit me like a smack in the face.
I knew every day was not going to be unicorns and rainbows. I had no idea that pausing life purposely was so important. What I didn’t see coming was the impact my work would have on my mental health. What I didn’t realize was that hearing trauma, clients’ struggles and pain every day would depress me. I did not understand that working within broken systems would infuriate me and make me question even trying. I definitely did not understand that I’d feel like a paper pusher, keeping up with the ever-changing insurance requirements. I didn’t know that for far too long, the feelings I was experiencing had a name: burnout.
The position I’m referencing was in a community mental health agency, where I was responsible for case management and therapy. My caseload ranged from 150-220 people, with a variety of things to work on with them: child abuse effects as an adult, substance abuse, intense anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. You name it, I probably had it on my caseload. To say I struggled is an understatement. I was like a new-born Bambie, trying to figure out how to walk.
I did eventually figure out what I was experiencing, between help from supervisors and co-workers and my own research. Unfortunately, just giving it a name was not enough. Helping homeless clients find housing, trying to help spread clients’ money enough to cover rent, food and bills, and helping them to process severe traumatic experiences, I was absolutely draining myself. I would go home and be incapable of talking to my hubby. He would want to ask me about my day, but the thought of talking to one more person made me contemplate punching a wall. I felt anxious when not at work, constantly thinking about my never-ending to do list.
I was waking up at 2am with the “oh-crap, I forgot to do that” panic often.
I felt guilty for taking time off work FOR MY WEDDING because who knew what was going to happen to my clients while I was gone. I was stress-eating, crying to my mom without any clue why I was sad and spending time outside of work trying to absorb as much information as possible about new therapeutic techniques and community resources for my clients.
I made adjustments to my life to try to alleviate my burnout. My wonderful husband and I set up a new routine: the first 30 minutes I was home, no talking. Then it went to a hour when 30 minutes wasn’t working. Then it was every Thursday, I got to be alone for the entire night. Let me remind you, I was happily engaged. I love my husband, he is my favorite person, and yet, I was asking for a night alone just so I didn’t have to talk to him. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I started working out; maybe that’s what I needed. I talked to my doctor and went on antidepressants. I took mental health days at work when I felt like I needed them (f you can count staying at home and worrying about work, my supervisors’ opinions of me, and what my clients were doing a “mental health day..”) I cried a lot, snapped a lot, fantasized about another profession.
I know how to help others process their feelings. I know how to strengthen clients’ coping skills and uncover the obstacles keeping them from caring about themselves. I understand motivation, change and the impact of support. Yet I was not actively doing it for myself.
Instead I was relying on staying in bed all day and watching my favorite movie as my only self-care.
I know I am not alone in experiencing this. I also know these feelings are not limited to social workers. But here’s the thing. I learned these things after my mental health tanked. Pause with Purpose was born from the want to help others preemptively care for themselves-for pausing life intentionally to become a habit, a priority, to help others counteract how we neglect our own needs to care for others, to understand why pausing life purposely is so important.
The idea for intentional self-care is not a new one. An old supervisor of mine and I developed an idea for a business, a community based around healthcare professionals overcoming burnout. Long story short, life happens and things change. However, I’m forever grateful to that supervisor, not only for the work we did for our brand-new business, but also for helping me understand my own burnout, when I believed my only option was to quit my job.
This new community, Pause with Purpose, was built around the idea that we don’t have to consistently drain our cups to be a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, professional. Instead, we can and should make ourselves a priority. When we do, those impacts are felt not only by us, but in all aspects of our lives. So why is pausing life purposely so important? Because you are worth it; you are a priority; you can adequately care for yourself, at the same time being an amazing person to everyone around you.