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Vacation Views

I’m currently on a long-overdue vacation. It’s finding me reflecting much more closely upon my current lifestyle back at home.

I work very hard as a clinical psychologist. Probably too hard, in fact. I work very long hours, despite my many chronic health conditions. I really enjoy the many challenges of my work, as well as its multiple rewards.

I devote a lot of time to the residents and clients whom I see, both before, during, and after our sessions, regardless of how frequent these sessions might be.

I invested an enormous amount of time to train to be a psychologist, and it feels exceptionally good to be using that advanced training once more. It is tremendously satisfying when I’m able to use my education and experience, both professionally and personally, to benefit my clients.

After all these years, it still remains a challenge for this high-achiever to find, as well as to maintain, a true balance in her life.

My work, by its very nature, is way too sedentary. I’ve been much more physically active over the past several days, which has been a very pleasant change. I know that I need to incorporate a much greater level of activity into my everyday life, post-vacation. Doing so would benefit me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This current time away has only reinforced how very burned out I truly had become recently. The extra demands induced by the COVID-19 pandemic have been very extreme. I’ve been seeing a greater volume of clients, as well as clients with higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Along with experiencing significant losses and ongoing stressors in my personal life, working so very hard, along with not taking optimal care of myself has really taken a toll.

I need to incorporate my current insights into my everyday lifestyle after this vacation is over, as well as to schedule more frequent vacation periods.

How Things Have Changed

I recently had lunch with a female friend. She and I first met through a church I used to attend. In catching up since we had last seen each other, I found myself reflecting upon just how much my professional life has changed over the past several years.

In the summer of 2016, I was approved for full disability benefits. This was an enormous relief, given the severity of how my multiple chronic conditions were impacting my life. It also served as the trigger for the onset of severe depression.

I had tremendously enjoyed my work as a clinical psychologist, specializing in health psychology. Not doing so left me feeling completely robbed of the ability to use my many years of traning and experience.

Beginning in late 2016, I occupied my time with pursuing my artistic interests. I explored the creation of polymer clay jewelry for the first time. In 2017, I had amassed a sufficient quantity of jewelry to open a shop in a local small business co-op. Despite enjoying having the time to explore my creative side, I really missed working as a clinical psychologist.

Consequently, in 2017, I decided to pursue my licensure as a New York state psychologist. I had previously been employed as a clinical psychologist in Illinois, for more than a decade. During the late summer of 2018, I became licensed as a New York clinical psychologist.

In the late fall of 2018, I started working part-time as a clinical psychologist again, providing services in a nursing home. I also taught an Abnormal Psychogy course at a local university. These positions were my first positions since I had stopped working in February 2014.

During the spring of 2019, I again taught General Psychology, plus worked for two nursing homes. I devoted more attention to my blog. By this time, I had amassed hundreds of entries. As a result, I decided that I had enough material to actually write a book.

Fast forward to the summer of 2019: I added a second nursing home to my employment positions. In the fall of 2019, I found myself teaching both Abnormal Psychology and General Psychology, plus continuing to work one day per week in a nursibg home. In November of 2019, I published a book regarding my dual experiences with coping with chronic illness, as both provider and practitioner.

During the spring of 2020, I taught General Psychology again, plus continued to work in two nursing homes. COVID-19 entered, and the world turned upside down and inside out. I found myself unable to see my nursing home residents in person, so I explored teletherapy as an option, with my same employer.

By the summer of 2020, I explored the option of joining an online counseling platform, given the exponential increase in the demand for psychological services due to the global pandemic. I joined an online platform, and quickly built a robust caseload.

By the fall of 2020, I was permitted to return to the two nursing homes where I has previously worked. I was doing this concurrently with providing teletherapy. I found myself enjoying the convenience of not having to commute to work. COVID-19 persisted.

During the winter of 2021, I experienced the deaths of several of my residents to COVID-19. Given my shrinking caseloads at two nursing homes, I placed more emphasis on building a practice online. In the spring of 2021, I added a second online counseling position, to diversify my income stream.

Today, I find myself working full-time, for three different organizations. One involves seeing nursing home residents weekly, plus maintaining a small caseload of outpatient clients for the same organization. The other two positions involve providing varying amounts of teletherapy sessions for online platforms.

I’m simply amazed by how very much my professional life has changed in the past five years. My personal life has also experienced significant changes during this same time frame, but that’ll be the topic of another blog to write.

Oh No Not Again

My all too familiar aggressive throat clearing has recently returned. This has developed at a most inconvenient time. I’ll soon be on vacation, and traveling out of state.

So, this morning I messaged my ENT about my stenosis worsening. I asked him if he’d be willing to prescribe prednisone, on a short-term basis. I’m not able to see him in-office until November 15.

It really feels like I need dilatation surgery again. I’m trying to stay as relaxed as possible, since I’m well aware that increased stress exacerbates this extremely rare condition.

Miscellaneous

I’m at Erie County Medical Center this morning. My daughter is having a kidney biopsy. I really pray that she is not in renal failure at this point. She has been through so very much in her thirty-four years.

This week, I’ve become aware of the deaths of two former residents with whom I met at nursing homes. Meeting both of them had a deep impact upon me.

One resident was an elderly woman who battled severe depression; I strongly believe that her decline was hastened by COVID-19 induced isolation. The other resident was a middle-aged man with MS. I had disclosed my own MS diagnosis to him.

I’ve recently informed all of my clients about my upcoming vacation period. I’m really looking forward to an extended period of rest and relaxation.

So Much to Do

When you’re managing multiple chronic medical conditions, there are always so many tasks to do.

Yesterday, I had an initial consultation with a urologist. He’s referred me for urodynamic testing for my bladder incontinence. Unfortunately, the bladder sling surgery that I had in July 2020 was not effective. I first completed urodynamic testing in the mid-90’s, soon after I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

My neurologist has referred me to physical therapy, for treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction. She’s also referred me to speech therapy, since I expressed concern with MS causing more frequent slurring of my words.

In addition, I need to obtain periodic bloodwork, to monitor my response to Vumerity. My white blood cell count has been decreasing, which is distressing. If it continues to drop further, I’ll need to discontinue Vumerity.

The possibility of needing to stop Vumerity is very upsetting, since I’ve been able to tolerate this MS-modifying medication so well. I needed to discontinue Copaxone, as well as Aubagio, due to intolerable side effects.

There truly is a never-ending list of tasks to complete when you try to manage multiple chronic health concerns.