Week 13 of my personal lockdown, and I seem to be moving through a new phase in this consistently morphing experience of COVID-19. Or probably more accurately, COVID-19 is an amplifier to processes going on below the radar of my normal experiencing of being a human being. Constantly in movement. Thoughts, feelings, moods, behaviours – all in flux. I think I find myself settling, and then “boom”. For the past week I have found myself so very very tired. Not just tired, drained. I’ve tried to unpick it, but such is the pervasiveness of it, the task of unpicking has even been too draining.
As many counsellors and psychotherapists are becoming aware of, online working is incredibly tiring. And of course, its not just the online working but the phenomena of a global pandemic (not to mention the heartbreaking situation in the US) that leaves us with literally no-where to turn. “We” are experiencing much of the same of what our clients bring to the therapy room (or Zoom screen). I’ve found both comfort and claustrophobia in this like-experience. Its harder now than ever for me to leave my client work behind me; previously there was a sense of a ‘normal life’ awaiting me after I finished work for the day; but now, I click the red “leave meeting” button and I don’t leave the experience – its just a door to another version of it. At the same time, my clients stories reflect something of my own – and that brings a sense of belonging, something quite profound being shared.
When I moved online 13 weeks ago, out of naivety I started conducting therapy sessions from here in my study – my comfortable desk, office chair and beautiful iMac with its “cinema” screen. It has taken time to realise that this has not been serving me on many different levels. Firstly, this study is akin to a retreat “cave” for me – I do my practice here, I love to read and journal here, it is also where I do my writing – blogging, book writing. It is Helen’s space for “me time”. Furthermore, since starting my Vajrayana practices, I recognise how much more sensitive I am to energy: and working with clients from this room is being felt. The room is no longer mine, it had become shared. And this has affected my energy balance…and no doubt, contributed to feeling drained.
By no means is this a complaint or blame. I point the finger at myself. Like I say, naivety that moving online would be simple and easeful. I didn’t respect my own boundaries. I talked this through with my supervisor, and I realised that I needed to move back in to my therapy room: to reclaim my “me time” space and make a separation between work and the rest of my life. It also has allowed me to Zoom using a smaller screen – on a practical level, even when making my Zoom window smaller, such a big computer screen (a luxury for writing) throws out an awful lot of light and my eyes often feel like they are on stalks. Zoom therapy is now on my laptop, and already I am noticing the difference. A laptop placed further away, and to the side, has enabled me to generate a more normal ‘feel’ – the client on screen now nearer to the dimensions of their real life presence; and I can look out to the window rather than feel like I am in a 50 minute long staring competition!
All these aspects are ways in which this lockdown experience is teaching me; and I imagine more lessons are to come.
Many people I have spoken to have also reported a drain in this recent period. Again, some of it related to the incessant online life. We are all working online, socialising online. I’m practicing with my Buddhist community online; I’m also marking online right now as the students on our counselling and psychotherapy courses have finished the teaching year and have been submitting assignments. I’m remembering how tiring I find the marking season anyway – and it helps to realise that this current experience is to be expected (let alone with what has come along on top of it).
Like the Metro cars I drove as I started my life as a car owner, I feel I have been driving with the choke out. Just like a car with a richer fuel mix, the richness and fullness of my emotional world has a background energy cost. I look ahead to my summer; and I recognise I need a break…without the certainty of what that might look like in these times.