I have been wanting to write something both for myself and for others but I have been struggling with what to say that hasn’t already been said. Today after mustering the energy to run outside in between sessions with clients and jump rope until I broke a sweat, I finally figured out what I want to say.

I focus on “helpers” in my psychotherapy practice. You know who I mean: the people Mr. Rogers referred to when he said “when there are bad things happening in the world look for the helpers because then you will know that there is hope.” I am a helper by nature and by profession. My partner has told me that I live in a world of what is possible. But what about now? How can I find that world of possibility?

At this very moment I am grateful that my immediate world is intact. My partner, friends and family are healthy and no one is in dire straits. Nevertheless everything is all wrong. Everyone I know is struggling with their own unique form of stress and isolation. Whether they are crowded in their homes with screaming children and way too many tasks for too few adults, or suffering from the absence of touch and too many zoom meetings for contact, or struggling with the stress of something in between as they share the burdens of this time with partners and roommates who are also carrying their unique stresses and struggles, we are all in this crowded isolated soup together.

And in these experiences of stress and crowding and isolation we all know that out there, not too far from where we live, there are others whose worlds are not so intact and whose struggles are darker and much more burdensome. These days I often wake in the middle of the night worried about who will get sick. With every passing day of shelter in place I find that I am more exhausted. This is the first time in my life that I am acutely aware on a daily basis that as a mental health provider I am in a high risk category for burnout and need to take care. I feel it in my body. In response I am doing all of the things I know how to do to create balance in my life. I am focusing on sleep, nutrition, exercise, laughter and my own support. I am surrounding myself with people who remind me of the meaning of life and trying to do things that put me in touch with beauty in the world and bringing joy to myself and to others. And I am remembering to be kind to myself when I cannot be productive and prefer to watch Netflix. But it is very hard. As a society we have been teased with the notion that normal life will return soon, but now, six weeks in with no widespread testing in sight, the return to normalcy looks bleak.

So, today, I pushed myself. I didn’t do it because I thought it would do me some good. Oh no. I gathered up all of my frustration and anger at the state of our world and all of the false promises we have been receiving, and I ran outside with my jump rope and I jumped rope feverishly until I broke a sweat. It is from that place that I was able to find the motivation to write this. I will try to do it again tomorrow. And if I cannot, I will try again the day after.

There is so much emphasis right now on doing things to try to make this limited version of life bearable. But maybe sometimes it is just not bearable. For me what helped was finding a way to express just how unbearable all of this is.

Rachel Goodman, MFT works with “helpers” in Berkeley, California. You can find her at www.rachelgoodmanmft.com

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