Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am a therapist who is slowly but surely finding it harder and harder to maintain my own mental and emotional stability in this ongoing Covid-19 world. I noticed, of late, that I cannot concentrate on my clients’ issues, find little interest in their problems as my own seem to be far more distracting and this is becoming evident. As I listen to their complaints about masks and zoom learning, being locked away at home and away from extended family and friends, their mental angst about their plight no longer resonates any empathy or interest from me. I no longer care about what they are feeling, their fears and angst for which they need my help to overcome, because my own fears and precarious state of mind seem so much more important. I feel guilty about this so much so that I have not cashed their checks or submitted their claims to insurance companies because I feel like a thief taking the money and not giving them anything that will help them overcome their angst.
I am not new to my craft. I am a gentleman in my late sixties and have been in practice for over forty years, and have had an impressive record of success with my clients up until several months ago. I am ashamed and apprehensive to say that I am the one now who needs help but I am too embarrassed and afflicted with my own depressive thoughts to deal with it. And so, I write to you with the hope that you can understand my predicament and relate, in some small way to the sad state I find myself in. In all the forty years, I’ve rarely taken a vacation or gone too far away from my clients should they need me, I am now the one who needs help.
When will this end? When will life go back to the way it was before? I read your column whenever I get the chance and feel safe in asking for your help. Please counsel me as to what you think I should do before I slip up and it becomes evident that the doctor has become the patient!
I thank you for your confidence and trust, and I will do my best to assuage your fears.
Not to make light of your situation, but you are in the company of many who feel just as you do. The vast majority of people today, to some extent, feel what you are feeling. Fear, anxiety, depression, a sense of loss and insecurity, these have become the ‘new normal,’ and the reason so many have gone into therapy and many more will follow. I’m sure this is of little or no consolation to you, so I will address your specific need as I understand it.
You have been in practice dealing with other peoples’ mental and emotional issues for over forty years with very little ‘off time’ for yourself in which to regroup and regain your own sense of self. You also seem not to have a ‘supervisor’ that is beneficial in helping you keep on track, another therapist you can speak to on a regular basis who can spot when you are emotionally fatigued or over-burdened and can direct you to step down until you’re rejuvenated enough to be in control of helping others once again. This is advisable for every therapist and clinician in the mental health field because we often don’t realize the heavy weight and burden of carrying the problems of others and the toll it takes on oneself over time. We must rely on the services of another like-minded person to keep an eye out for us.
There is no shame in that, in fact it is highly recommended, so that we can be in top form to assist and help those who look to us for guidance and aide. Please get yourself in touch with a trusted individual and get yourself back in top form. I truly admire you for the devotion and care you have displayed over the four decades you saw to the needs of others. Heal yourself and get back in the fray, you are much needed during these uncertain times.
I’m sorry I cannot be of help in answering your question as to when this pandemic will be over. I do not know. If I did, then I would probably know the winning numbers of the lotto, but in all the years I have bought lottery tickets I have never won. So I place my energies and faith in believing that whatever is, is meant to be in spite of the fact that I don’t understand why. Covid-19 will end when Hashem will end it and until such time, I trust that in a mask, social distancing, hand washing and faith, and I will still be around when it happens.