For those of you who are not familiar with CEUs, it stands for "Continuing Educational Credits." Brian has to complete CLEs (Continuing Legal Education), doctors have...something, and we therapists need CEUs to keep our license current. Considering this is the first CEU I've attended since the year began (whoops), I am woefully behind. I only need to make up (gulp) 14 more credits before 2009 ends. I'm planning to put my license on inactive status, so maybe the MFT board will look upon me kindly and with empathy. (I mean, I did not anticipate limited activity as of 17w, bedrest at 25w, and then CatheterGate/SwaddleGate/PoopGate post-delivery.) And yes, I plan to beg for their mercy if they don't accept my measly 6 credits.
But, as per the speaker on Friday, it's important to share what I learned during my eight hour seminar. So, consider the following:
1.) I learned that I'm not quite sure I want to continue in the therapy profession. This epiphany hit me as soon as I picked up my workbook and shuffled into the conference room and slid into a seat closest to the door in the back. (I'm sorry, my motivation to be there was zero. I had only slept about 3 hours the night before. I can't even blame the lack of sleep on Scotty - no, it was all my fault. My excitement over not being on night shift [Brian had taken the day off of work and was Mr. Mom] literally kept me up all night. By 3:45am, when Brian got up with the baby, I felt like screaming and crying, "I want a do-over! It's not fair! I haven't slept at all!" [ahh, maturity.] But instead, I grabbed my pillow, headed to the guest bed where I wouldn't hear the crinkly static of the monitor, and proceeded to pass out until 6:28am. Brian woke me up with a concerned look on his face. "Aren't you supposed to be up by 6am?" he asked innocently. This resulted in me flying out of bed, expletives falling out of my mouth as I banged into the shower, threw some soap on my body, jammed a toothbrush in my mouth, and put the wrong contacts in. I then proceeded to pump while crying and then flew out the door with coffee stains already on my shirt, still sniffling from having to say good-bye to Scotty and frantic to miss rush hour traffic. See, people? I am not cut out for the working world.)
I try to never make eye contact with other people at these kinds of events. In a room full of therapists, you are just asking to get involved in a conversation you don't want to be in (and a conversation you can't get out of). But as I gazed around (more in search of the free continental buffet than anything), it hit me: I don't look like anyone in this room. It was a packed house, too. There appeared to be two kinds of people: women in their 50s that wore half-glasses and filmy scarves, and older men with beards and overly-enthusiastic handshakes. No one was my age. No one matched my demographics in any way shape or form. Where was the young 30-crowd wearing jeans and a fleecy pull-over? Where was the pony-tail crowd? Anyone else have spit-up on their shoulder?
I have to admit, this revelation is on top of the fact that I haven't been happy as a therapist for several months. Since maternity leave started, I've absolutely loved not having to worry about BPDs calling my cell at 10pm on a Saturday to tell me their suicide plans. Or marital couples screaming at each other in session. Or bipolar clients who continutally miss appointments but have all the excused in the world. Clients aside, I've never really felt 100% comfortable as a therapist. I don't have that global do-gooder attitude that so many of my colleagues possess. I don't have unending patience. I don't even really like most people, to be totally honest. I'm just not that nice of a person. Which, sadly, is kind of necessary to be a therapist.
And this was confirmed on Friday. The woman next to me, oblivious to my anti-conversation vibes, started talking to me. She had that post-40, bleach-blonde-hair-divorced-this-is-second-career-so-I-can-prove-to-my-ex-husband-that-I-can-make-it-on-my-own look to her. She asked me where I worked, and I told her I was currently (and forever...) on maternity leave. She asked if I was licensed. (Strike one). When I told her yes, I've been practicing for almost eight years and have been licensed for five, her eyebrows almost raised off of her face (they would have, had it not been for the Botox. Must have been a good settlement).
(For those of you who don't know, I've constantly been questioned about 1.) my age and 2.) my marital/family status since the day I started practicing. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to feel like you have to justify yourself to clients for factors that are beyond your control. I think most people go into Counseling Psych as a second career, which means they look older and more seasoned instantly. I, however, got into the profession at the ripe old age of 22 and have never been able to live this down).
I then saw Bleachie check out my wedding ring, almost as verification of what I had just told her. Part of me was flattered (wee! I look young!) but another part of me was just irritated. I am sick of always being the youngest in the room, the youngest in the practice group, when in reality, I don't even think I'm that young. I'm 31 here, people. I may not remember World War II or qualify for the AARP discount, but I do have some life experiences under my belt. However, I definitely am a different generation than my fellow-CEU collegues. Case in point: the aforementioned filmy scarf-wearers forgot to turn their cell phones off and the phones proceeded to go off at various intervals throughout the day. Each had the loudest, most annoying ring. Each scarf-wearer had the same reaction, too: Oops! Oh my! Is that me? [long pause] Oh, it is me! Let me turn off my phone! How do I turn off my phone? Gosh darn it, where is that darn button...? Which button is it? [fumbling] [more fumbling] [phone finally, blessedly, goes to voicemail.] Oh! [click].
So, yeah. Friday made me think about what my life would be like if I was not a therapist but instead, a...writer. (a good writer, not a spew-it-out-on-my-blog writer, which is the kind I am now.) Jen Lancaster did it...J.K. Rowling did it. Stephanie Meyers did it. (yeah, those last two women currently are richer than the Queen of England. Good think I set my sites high.)
Hmm...what would a writers conferences look like? Quiet, thoughtful folks in tweed? A lot of tea drinkers? Would it be BYOC (bring your own cat)? Would we all sit around, drinking tea and petting cats while discussing the proper use of adverbs in America? The thought is intriguing, and I certainly have enough to write about, both fiction and non-fiction. [Start humming the Imperial March now...]
I don't know...time will tell, I guess.
2.) I also learned that I have an awesome husband. Of course, I knew this before, but it's always nice to have confirmation of the fact. Not only did Brian take the day off from work, but he also took the night shift and managed to send me off on my way successfully. When I returned home for lunch (to pump, natch), my turkey sandwich (and a nicely cut pickle spear, as well as some Baked Lays) was waiting for me. He had managed to put the baby to sleep, start the laundry, wash the bottles, make lunch, and tidy up the house. Yup, he can do what I do, he just does it better. (trust me, I'm not bitter, but so, so grateful.) Team Brian is a good team to be on.
3.) I learned that writing has high therapuetic value. Again, I knew this before, but I finally learned why: during the writing process, the information in one's brain is transferred from the limbic system (i.e. the emotional response center of the brain) to the pre-frontal cortex (i.e. the manager or "CEO" of the brain.) While in the pre-frontal cortex, the information is organized and "filed" into the appropriate chambers, thus relieving some level of the initial emotional impact.
This info made me think about those who have been traumatized as well as my blogging about and during Scotty's hospitalization. No wonder journaling is so effective. I know I felt better after blogging - not so much for the support it generated (which was significant and very helpful), but just typing out our experience was cathartic. Thank you, pre-frontal cortex.
4.) And finally, I learned I have an enormous appreciation for those women who have to return to work after having a baby. Wow, what a crazy, tough job. By the time I got home on Friday afternoon, I was wiped out. We put the baby to bed and then I passed out on the couch for about two hours (until I dragged myself to bed). Again, I am so thankful for my wonderful, high-earning husband who believes in stay-at-home-moms who have the luxury of pursuing their dreams (watching their children grow up, dabbling in writing). Three cheers for Team Brian!