How to be Self-Employed

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I’ve (almost) completed my first week of being in private practice, and I have to say – so far, so good! I was worried I’d lose my mind from too much freedom (like when I was unemployed a few years ago), but I’ve actually been somewhat busy, which is fantastic. There’s definitely been more downtime than what I’m used to, though.

Hopefully, I’ll soon have a full caseload of clients and my day will naturally be more active. But until that happens, here’s what a typical day has been looking like for me:

7:30 – Wake up and curse the morning’s arrival, just like every other day

7:30-8:29 – Put on make up, run a rake through my unruly hair, and get dressed

8:30 – Decide it’s time to leave my apartment to begin my 45-minute commute to the office

8:30 – Remind myself that I’m too anal about scheduling and time, because I always think that I need to leave super early in case there’s a car accident or earthquake or avalanche on the way,  and then there’s never any kind of disaster, so I arrive to my destination way too early, and end up feeling  bored as I wait for my first client to show, and then have remind myself for the millionth time that I could be a little more laid-back. I can leave in a few minutes.

8:30 – Leave for work.

10:00-10:50 – Intake session. As my client is leaving, she mentions she’s headed to a popular kolache joint down the street from the office

10:50-11:00 – Daydream about kolaches

11:00-12:00 – Finish completing paperwork and updating my calendars. Feel I deserve a kolache as a reward.

12:01 – Mentally congratulate myself for choosing not to get a kolache. I’m so healthy and grown-up.

12:01-12:45 – On the commute back home, have this argument in my head:

Rational Brain: “Okay, we’re not going to spend the afternoon watching TV. Think of something productive to do.”

Irrational Brain: “Netflix!”

Rational Brain: “NO! No. Let’s work on the book. You haven’t done that in awhile.”

Irrational Brain: “Or…. we could bake cookies.”

RB: (rolls eyes) “No. You got to bake yesterday.”

IB: (rolls eyes) “That was banana bread. This is cookies. They’re very different.”

RB: “Yes, I KNOW there’s a difference between —- Okay, you know what, we’re getting off-    topic. Why don’t we compromise? You can bake the cookies, and while they’re in the oven,        you can do something important, like –“

IB: “BAKE MORE COOKIES!”

RB: “For the love of God, STOP IT with the cookies!”

IB: (pouts)

RB: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled. But you really need to get some things done.”

IB: (thinks for awhile) “I could…send an email to that one person about that one thing.”

RB: “Yes! That’s good! What else?”

IB: “I could…turn on Netflix and watch it while I dust the living room?”

RB: “Not the best, but I’ll take it.”

1:00-1:30 – Stop at the grocery store for a prescription and some lunchmeat. Leave with more Ferrero Rocher chocolates than any normal human being would require. Remember that I didn’t get a kolache earlier, and feel justified in my purchase.

1:30-1:45 – Make a to-do list for the afternoon. Spend inordinate amount of time making the wording look fancy.

1:45-2:00 – Call the licensing board to notify them about my change in address. Become so hypnotized listening to the “hold” music, that I temporarily forget why I’m calling and feel startled when someone finally answers. Spend fifteen minutes on hold, only to be told that change of addresses now have to be completed online. Consider setting fire to things.

2:00-3:00 – Accidentally lose a big chunk of time on meaningless activities. Not even sure what I did here.

3:00-4:00 – Watch Joe Biden be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Feel weepy and proud, as though I know him personally. Also feel a little jealous, as though maybe I should have won the medal myself. Cheese blogs save lives, too, you know.

4:00-6:00 – Watch a marathon of That 70s Show and remember for the millionth time that I don’t find the show very funny and in fact, almost find it irritating, and yet, I can’t seem to stop watching it. I’m stuck in an infinite loop of terrible characters and weak plots.

6:00-7:30 – Play Sudoku on my phone. Feel triumphant when I beat my previous scores. Take that, lesser self!

7:30 – Turn off TV and put away phone in an effort to ground myself. Lament about today’s youth being too connected to technology. Open new library book.

7:38-10:30 – Watch more of That 70s Show.

 10:30 – Go to bed suddenly feeling anxious that I didn’t get enough done during the day, and that maybe the whole world will fall apart unless I check my work email RIGHT NOW, so I check it and there’s nothing there, so I feel a little relief, but then the light from my phone sends a message to my brain that it’s time to be awake now, because that’s how brains work, so now I’m too alert and twitchy and I spend half an hour trying to relax, but I feel like I don’t deserve to be relaxed because I didn’t do much today. Resolve to be more productive tomorrow.

 

Diving into the Doom

Big things are on the horizon for Cheese Woman (that’s my new nickname, as of right now). As many of you know, I am a mental health therapist. As not many of you know, I’ve recently decided to leave the agency I currently work for, and am in the process of going into private practice.

This decision has come with a full rainbow of feelings. Guilt about leaving clients, especially ones I’ve been seeing a long time. Sadness about leaving my coworkers. Hopeful about relationships with new coworkers. Nervous about having to market for myself in the new practice.

Mostly though, I vacillate between these two feelings:

  1. Over-the-top, click-your-heels-together excitement

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  1. Massive, soul-encompassing fear

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At times, I am filled with hope and happiness about my new job. I can’t wait to have more control over the types of cases I see, and I’m optimistic that I can figure out marketing and get into a comfortable routine. Then, my fervor collides with naïveté and spirals into a whirling tornado of idealistic delusion. With a manic grin on my face, I picture myself becoming wildly successful in my practice. I’ll clearly make kajillions of dollars. It won’t matter whether I’m good at marketing, because people will travel hundreds of miles and ford treacherous rivers with their oxen in order to see me. Other agencies will beg me to give presentations. My former grad professors will look on me with pride.

I will be helpful. I will inspire CHANGE.

At other times, I descend into a neurotic pit of doom. I worry that I will have trouble finding clients. That I will not make enough money to support myself. That I will have to explain to friends and family why I’m struggling financially. That this situation will continue long enough that I will have to take on another job, or else be in danger of losing my savings. I am terrified at the thought of taking a big risk and getting nothing in return. I am sickened at the idea of admitting failure. Instead of picturing people traveling far and wide for my services, I picture public scorn. I envision myself being forced to rent my extra bedroom to a banjo-playing drifter who collects taxidermied raccoons. And who eats my leftover macaroni and cheese.

I am no picnic to be around when I’m in the pit of doom. I may or may not have vomited sheer anxiety all over certain loved ones victims.  And then gave them wide-eyed looks of terror as they were forced to reassure me that I will probably not die from this. Also, I may or may not have asked a friend if she’ll still like me if I have to become a prostitute.

Her answer was yes, if you were wondering.

It sort of feels as though I am a dichotomy* of emotion right now, bouncing back and forth from one extreme to another. But the truth is, as with most things in life, I typically fall somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of experience. Even when I’m deliriously excited, I still have a twinge of nervousness. And even when I’m spinning through the black hole of fear, there’s still a quiet whisper at the back of my brain that’s going, “Hey. You can do this.”

*Side note – Ever noticed how the word “dichotomy” sounds like a type of surgery?

 “Can’t make it to your party on Tuesday – I’m having another dichotomy.”

“Another?! That’s your fourth one this year!”

I don’t think the goal is to be completely without worry in this process. For one thing, that’s just not possible. It’s new, and new things are scary. But also, I think a small amount of anxiety keeps me realistic. I SHOULD be concerned about money. Not having money is bad. That’s a practical matter to be thinking about and preparing for. Rather than convincing myself not to be scared, I think the more appropriate goal is to try for an attitude of “Yes, and …”

“Yes, I’m scared about this… and I’m also excited about it. Yes, this could go badly for me … and I’m going to try it anyway.”

I’m actively attempting to lean in to my fears instead of fighting against them. Diving cleanly into the water will hurt a heck of a lot less than falling into it kicking and screaming.

I hate to admit it, but this deluge of cheesy encouragements is also somewhat helping…

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We’ll see if I’m still holding onto this attitude a few months from now. Or a few minutes from now.

What is scaring (or exciting) you guys right now?

 

Positive Spin or Denial? You Decide

A common technique used in therapy is something called “reframing,”  where the therapist helps the client view certain concepts in a different (and usually more positive) way. What’s the purpose of this? Well, we mortal humans tend to see events or situations as being either “good” or “bad,” when most of time, they’re somewhere in between. For example, when we’re in love, we see the other person as being wonderful and perfect. We’re unable or unwilling to see any flaws. On the other hand, when we’re depressed, we experience even neutral situations as lonely and sad.

People seek therapy for themselves because they want to think and plan in new ways that will help them feel happier and healthier – and reframing is one of the first steps toward this goal. After all, if you think everything about your situation is terrible, and you don’t see anything to hope for, you’ll probably be less likely to make changes…because what’s the point, if there’s no hope?

Here are a couple examples of reframing…

“Instead of being stubborn, maybe you just know what you want.”

“You’re frustrated with yourself for feeling anxious, but feeling anxious is a normal and understandable response in your situation.”

It’s also a helpful technique in parenting – just like people get “stuck” on how to help themselves, they can also get stuck on how to handle certain behaviors in their children. Reframing can aid in increasing a parent’s compassion toward her child, and return her sense of being in control. By changing the perspective, it unlocks a new set of solutions.

Here are a couple examples of reframing in regards to parenting…

“Instead of seeing him as bossy, maybe we can see him as a natural leader.”

“The advantage to her hyperactivity is that she’s creative and energetic.”

Reframing is not dishonest, nor does it mean sweeping the core problem under the rug. It truly is just a different way to look at the same situation in order to return a sense of agency.  Of course, this wouldn’t be my blog unless I took something good and useful, and twisted it into something weird.

When I was in high school, I had a yellow shirt that read (in pink sparkly glitter): “I’m not opinionated, I’m just always right.” I cringe now to think about how obnoxious that shirt must have been.  Forgive me, fellow classmates, for inflicting that upon you. But when I push past the regret of early 2000s fashion, I can definitely see the humor in those types of mottos. They allow you to completely ignore any flaw or issue you have, in favor of seeing yourself in a more flattering light.

And I like that.

So I started thinking about some of my own weaknesses and issues, and thought it’d be fun to reframe them beyond recognition. At this point, it’s probably not “reframing” so much as it is just straight-up denial.

Some of my flaws, both before and after I “reframed” them…

 Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Now it’s your turn at denial! What do you consider to be your weaknesses? How can you reframe (or twist) these flaws to get a different view of them?

Therapy is a Mental Work Out

In my yoga class the other night, I had an epiphany. Yoga-induced epiphanies are probably pretty common, but I’m going to guess that most of them revolve around how to achieve inner peace within our chaotic world.

Mine wasn’t.

Let’s back up. I attend a yoga class on Tuesday evenings after work, and over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there have been quite a few more yoga-doers than usual. Considering we’re still early into 2016, I’m guessing my suddenly-busier class is the direct result of New Year’s resolutions.

Although I don’t usually make a resolution myself, I genuinely admire those who do. Resolution-makers want to live healthier, happier, more-enriched lives, and are (hopefully) taking the steps needed to make that happen.

These courageous souls are attempting to cut back on wine or delicious fattening foods.

They’re joining gyms.

They’re…gulp…exercising.

I’m especially in awe of the people who just jump right in and go from Couch Potato-ing to Insane Psycho Spin Class-ing overnight. That shit’s admirable. The closest I get to taking a spin class is attending a yoga class that happens to be held in a spin studio.

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Even if the new routine doesn’t last as long as they’d hoped, at least the resolution-makers are giving it a shot. Meanwhile, I’ll growl and punch you in the face if you try to take my chocolate away.

Getting a gym membership isn’t the only way that I’ve seen people attempting to help themselves or others – as a children’s counselor, I’m seeing more kids in therapy now than I was last month. Granted, this is probably more of a Susie-needs-help-but-let’s-get-through-the-holidays-first phenomenon more than an actual “resolution,” but the idea of making positive changes and starting over fresh in the new year is still much the same.

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Keeping all of this in mind, I was in the middle of downward-dogging in my class when this epiphany hit:

Attending therapy is a lot like working out at a gym.

The more I thought about it, the more similarities I came up with. After all, both (may) involve:

  • Acknowledging that there’s some sort of challenge or problem
  • Seeking out a means to working on that problem
  • Talking with a professional to get support and/or guidance
  • Being honest about uncomfortable and vulnerable things
  • Giving up flawed coping mechanisms in favor of healthier ones
  • Doing a lot of “heavy lifting” (whether mentally or physically)

Call me biased, but I do think the mental work involved in therapy is a bit more intense than the physical work of being at the gym. At the gym, you might do several different exercises in one trip – maybe you warm up on the elliptical, move to free weights, and then cool down with stretches on a mat.

But being in therapy means doing a lot of exercises at the exact same time. Imagine your hippocampus jogging on a treadmill, while your Broca’s area does bench presses and your prefrontal cortex swims some laps.
Nevertheless, both activities can be really scary, especially in the beginning. Both might be accompanied by a loss of hope and motivation when there are setbacks. Both might make you feel worse before you get better.

And both take a lot of courage.