I am at the airport right now, waiting for my flight to Stavanger. In Stavanger I will attend a three-day long conference where the main theme is ‘connections’. One of the main headliners is Judith Beck, widely known for her work with developing cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve read some of what she’s written, and am excited to hear her talk about the therapeutic relationship. There will also be other known scientists and others who will talk about their work, and it will actually be hard to decide which mini-seminars I should attend while I’m there.
In addition to getting inspired, I will finally meet some old class-mates again. I’ve kept in contact with both of them since we became psychologists together, but since then one of my friends now has a little baby I still haven’t seen.
It is nice to sit here and wait for the plane. The last couple of weeks has been filled with everyday chores. We recently moved house, and that is a challenge in the best of circumstances. With two kids, it is even more busy and stressful, so sitting here, not needing to do anything, is luxurious.
I went swimming earlier today, and although I was energized there and then, now I’m dead wood. Tomorrow will be a hectic day too, since work will be busy and then I have to go right to the city center for an memory event I’ve arranged together with the library in Bergen. The memory expert is a well-known man who almost won the Norwegian talent-show, and I am lucky enough to know him. I love arranging events, but I get tired, too.
My boyfriend and his twins are traveling to Canada on Tuesday, and although I will miss them, it will also give me some peace and quiet. We have bought a new apartment and are in the middle of selling his, so some of the time I should be relaxing will be used for preparing the place for a photo-shoot. In addition to that I have planned another event, for children. A friend can paint faces, and if the weather is good on Saturday, we will be in the park and make little children happy.
On Friday I am meeting some friends for drinks, and Saturday I have to go to another party. That one will hopefully be fun, since it’s arranged by a doctor I work with. She is so nice and I have a little girl crush on her. There will be lots of people there I don’t know, but usually that is exciting and energizing. Next week I will really try to relax, by reading, making songs and puzzling. I hope my batteries will be filled to the maximum when the week ends, because this autumn will be a challenge. The mother of my boyfriends twins has moved, so we will have them full-time. They are super-cute, but also a handful when they get angry from some slight. But I think that the stability we will provide in our new home, will calm them. Hopefully.
Life is stressful sometimes, so I must remember to draw my breath and go with the flow. Only then can I handle the challenges coming up.
I have been in my new job as a clinical psychologist for one month now, so it’s time for a update. I still can’t believe how fast the time has gone, it feels like the day is over before it even began. This is good, since it means that I am engaged. There is seldom a dull moment, and at the end of the day I look back and realize I have learnt something new. Already I have touching moments that I will carry with me until I take my last breath.
I have met many interesting people with a plethora of problems. Some with depressions, one with panic attacks, several with traumatized childhoods and also people with anger issues, AD/HD and personality disorders. Since I still see new patients, I haven’t had many conversations with anyone yet, and for many we are still getting to know each other. Finding the correct diagnosis is important, and we can’t move on before we have pinpointed what needs to be looked at more closely.
But even if we haven’t started on direct treatment yet, this first phase is hopefully already a step in the right direction. Although it’s necessary to go through some surveys and standardized questions, there is room for therapeutic work.
The first phase of therapy is often about stabilizion and education. By getting to know oneself better, the path for change is created. For traumatized victims, learning about how trauma effects the body, is crucial. For people with panic attacks, knowing the symptoms and normalizing them, helps a lot. If you understand what happens, it’s easier to start coping with it. In some ways, fear of symptoms is what many struggle with the most. When we face or monsters in a controlled way, we can finally watch them from afar and act like we want to.
Elizabeth Gilbert described in her book ‘big magic’ how she looked at fear: Fear is always with her, telling her that she should be careful. Prodding her to not take chances, because she might get hurt. She has learnt to thank her fear, because it wants to protect her. At the same time she also tells her fear that it can be there and monitor her surroundings if it wants to, but she must take command. She soothes herself by accepting that she will feel terrified and unsafe, at the same time as she assures herself that she can cope with what comes.
Many of my patients are still afraid. And that’s okay. We all are, often. I will not promise a rose-garden, but I want to explore the area they walk in no matter what is there.
My first week in my new job has gone really well. Already it feels like the day is over before it began, even if I’ve just had three patients. But there has been meetings, conversations with lovely new colleagues and learning new routines. It looks like the patients I will have a myriad of issues that will challenge me in a good way. Since my area of expertise is trauma, my training in treatment models not pertaining to trauma-treatment is somewhat limited. But it still is exciting and probably even necessary. Having just traumatized clients can be taxing, since they require your full attention. Containing their feelings can also affect therapists in the long haul, so treating clients with different problems is advisable. The three clients I’ve met so far, have myriad problems. The first is there for a diagnostic evaluation and treatment of anger issues, the second most likely has Asperger in addition to personality disorders and the third depression and a eating disorder.
I knew it would be good to finally do clinical work again, but it was even better than anticipated. In addition the clinic I am working in is excellent. The employees are highly skilled, and to my utter amazement they are especially interested in trauma. I don’t think it could get better, but my gut feeling is that it will be.
I’m back where I belong and it feels like finally coming home.
Today is my last day at work. I can’t believe that it’s already been a year. In ten days I’m starting working with adults like I did before and I really look forward to it. All though I never found my calling working in the school system, I have still learnt a lot. And I have also been very happy with the people I’ve met here. They have always been nice and comfortable to be around.
We had lunch together for the last time today. I brought two cakes I struggled with yesterday. To my surprise, my leader had made a cake also, and I almost started to cry. She held a speech where she said so many nice things about me, so I really feel like they are satisfied with the work I’ve done here. The rest of the day has been full of hugs and nice conversions, and this evening some of us will go out and have a drink to say properly goodbye.
One year ago, I moved to Bergen to work with children with learning disabilities. This was quite different from what I had been working on until then: Treating patients. I had to work with children for one year to finish my requirements to become a clinical psychologist, and now I am finally here. 6 years has already passed since I started working, and I almost can`t believe it. I still remember my months as a psychologist: Feeling nervous, not ready to help people. I was after all, just one woman. I had my training, like all psychologist, but had never actually worked clinically. Now I had real people sitting in a chair, telling me things they had not told anyone. And how on earth was I supposed to help them? After some time, I was not nervous anymore. Hearing people talk about their fears, opening up when they felt there was so much to loose, felt like a privilege. I understood that my fear was nothing compared to what some of my patients had gone through. It was impossible to think about myself while I listened to their stories. I discovered that I had the best job in the world. Sitting there, talking about what really matters with truly magnificent people, made every day meaningful.
The last year has not been the same. Instead of clinical work, I have written reports where I have to figure out of the children get what they need at school. I have observed teachers, talked with worried parents, and tested children with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. I have written referrals to psychologist so that the children can be diagnosed with AD/HD or anxiety. I have given advice on how teacher can help children with autism or different disabilities. Although I have learnt a lot, I have often felt that I am out of my depth. Writing reports has not been my forte either. It has been difficult to judge if one child needs special education or not. My knowledge about teaching, has not been sufficient. I have sat in meetings, not being able to contribute much.
There has also been interesting cases where I got the chance to be a psychologist again. When I had the chance to talk about traumatized children, and what adults should do, I have loved my work. Me and a woman I work with also had the chance to guide school personell on how to help a child with oppositional defiant disorder. We talked about how important it is to realize that all children would chose to follow the rules if they could. That some children never have the chance to learn how to regulate their emotions, that they try their best but sometimes need help from grown-ups to calm down.
I have also met a lot of wonderful people where I work now. They are kind and dedicated to helping children. I have talked with teachers who walks the extra mile, seen special educators help children with dyslexia and talked with parents who does everything for their children. But I still have not found my place. I have learnt a lot and know I have done important work, but I have also missed my previous work.
In March I will start in my new job. I will work with adults again. I will be a therapist. And hopefully, I will continue doing clinical work for the rest of my life.
To find what you love to do, is important. We can get interested in different things, but usually we need to devote our lives to something that really engages us.