Time is a Tricky Thing

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

It’s the end of July and I am constantly checking myself.

“Can it truly be this late in the summer?”

“Do I really only have three weeks until I graduate?”

“Where did the last couple of months go?”

I’m in a time warp. One, structured and dictated by the constant push/pull of schedules, due dates, and routines. I have obligations, as we all do, to life, to functioning, to recovery. These obligations keep time at a distance. I hardly even know what time is anymore.

It’s midnight, but it feels like 3pm. My body’s internal clock is all messed up. Perhaps because my body and I have always had a difficult time communicating. But, I am sitting here, in an office foreign to me, doing my work as an overnight counselor must while simultaneously mourning the loss of time.

When I was little time and I were friends. Or perhaps enemies. It depended on the day. Time at school dragged on and on. Time after the bell rang was free and easy. I don’t know when time started to feel like a scary thing. Maybe when my cousin passed away, or when I got sick for the first time. Maybe when my mom was diagnosed with cancer or my nightmares wouldn’t leave me alone. Time became scary the minute time actually meant something. When you are young aging doesn’t seem worrisome. Aging is exciting. A new birthday, a new year, another year older, another year with more privileges than the last.

“When was the first time you felt like an adult?”

This question was used as an ice breaker at a church I bravely ventured to last Sunday. I thought it was odd. This was no ice breaker. This took deep philosophical thought. And so my mind circled back towards time. I first felt like an adult the minute time became something which was chasing me. My first year of college when the months flew by and I didn’t have time to breathe or when I got the call that Andy was gone and suddenly time no longer existed.

“I felt like an adult when I realized I was getting older.”

My response didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the random woman I was talking to, but for me it made me sad. I knew exactly what it meant. When I was young I welcomed the passing of time with excitement and freedom. When I became an adult time was chasing me and we no longer danced around fields and playgrounds like old friends. I didn’t want things to end. I didn’t want tragedy to keep touching my face. I wanted time to slip far far away from me….

But why? Because, I have fears, as many of us do of the unknown, of what may happen next. Time is indicative of that. Time ensures the unexpected. If I could bottle up time and store in my closet, I would, but that would be ineffective and then the life in recovery I have built would be meaningless.

So what do I do? I sit here and write and work and complete the overnight counselor checklist and do my very best to let time quietly sit in the corner without chasing it out of the room.

I am learning.

I am hoping.

I am slowly accepting time as a friend once more.

Be patient with me, not everything can happen overnight.

Free Refills Unavailable

Written by: Florence Taglight, contributing writer for Unpolished Journey and blogger at findingflo.co.uk

Free refills unavailable.

Unlike most places in America, here in the U.K we don’t get free refills at restaurants, so once you’ve drunk your drink, you’re done and either order another, or perhaps switch it up to water.  Needless to say on first trips to America I was guzzling so much iced tea and Arnold Palmers (something the UK needs more of) that I was constantly going to the bathroom and on return to England, practising my tiny sip taking to make my drink last the duration of my meal.

Okay, so you are probably thinking, what on earth does this have to do with compassion?  Followed by I’m reading this to gain some insight not learn about refill differences in USA and UK.  Well, be patient.  It’s coming.  Now in fact.

Often people in recovery from a mental illness, or perhaps those caring for one, tend to love and love and love, and care and care and care or even cry and cry and cry till we can love, care and cry no more.  That’s ‘normal.’  You are not emotionless or cold-hearted, merely a human being. A human being who needs to replenish, revitalise, rest and recuperate.  It can be extremely difficult when all you want to do is love someone and show them you care, but by taking time out for yourself, you will be able to be more present for them when they need love, more caring for them when they need caring for.

But although helping others is fantastic, and what I do believe we are put on this earth to do, throughout recovery I have learnt that as I try to be compassionate to others, I end up neglecting myself.  Sound familiar?  I will bake, cook, shop and clean for all those around me who show me love, because it’s a two-way street, right?  But I forget that these people also bake, cook and shop for themselves.  They also tell themselves nice things, refill their own cups not just everyone else’s.

I used to find it impossible to sit down and watch TV.  I HAD to be doing something – emptying the dishwasher, folding, organising.  I’ve always been a fidgeter but just watching TV for me seemed, well, wrong.  I’ll tell you what is wrong – that thought process. It could not be more wrong.  So, although I’m still learning, I’m learning pretty fast and enjoying the time I am spending with me.  After all, no matter if I meet my soulmate and we become attached at the hip (unlikely), I will spend my whole life with ME, so surely I should be the one most compassionate toward myself and not rely on those around me to give me love or to give my love too.

So if you are stuck on how to refill yourself so you can refill others, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Write yourself a poem, and then read it to yourself.
  2. Take yourself on a date, for hot chocolate preferably.
  3. Watch a film like Pretty Woman or The Lizzie McGuire Movie – I know extremely different genres.
  4. Buy yourself a present – fluffy socks? Fairy lights? But don’t go overboard…I fell at this hurdle; I own enough notebooks to document my life, twice.
  5. Paint your toenails – it is surprisingly relaxing. Plus if they suck, chances are nobody is going to see them for a while, so you can leave them all messy, which personally I find extremely satisfying.
  6. READ someone you trust your poem about YOU.

Compassion Fatigue

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey

First, before writing an entire blog post on compassion fatigue we need to define what it means. Compassion fatigue is officially defined as:

“a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.”

Dr. Charles Figley

In others words, caring too much can sometimes hurt. When we take on the role of caregiver, caring  the struggles of others, without practicing self-care problems can arise. We can turn apathetic towards the person we are helping. We can start isolating from others. We can even develop PTSD through experiencing secondarily the trauma of those we are helping. Most commonly, compassion fatigue arises in professionals dealing directly with people’s struggles, such as mental health workers, doctors, nurses, missionaries, etc. But it can also affect people who are naturally very empathetic people. They feel others pain and commonly find themselves in positions of trying to comfort, support, and help others. Now that we have defined compassion fatigue the question at hand then becomes, how can we avoid it?

I am a very empathetic person. I know this. I feel other’s pain on a deep level. This is not a bad thing. It has brought me to work in the mental health field as well as start Unpolished Journey whose mission is to bring together a community of people who have an array of struggles. I find my empathetic nature to be a gift, but it is a powerful gift that needs to be practiced with caution.  To be too empathetic leads to compassion fatigue. For me, compassion fatigue can lead to unhealthy behaviors and tendencies to isolate. So, how do I balance working with those in distress and my own mental health?  The answer is…Self-care!

Self-care is the mother of balance. Self-care keeps us rejuvenated and healthily distanced from those we are helping, or those we love who are struggling. Self-care doesn’t just look like taking a bubble bath at the end of a long day or taking a walk to clear your mind. Self-care can mean stepping away from a conversation that has become too overwhelming or unhealthy. It can mean taking a day off because you know that you are not in a good mental space to go into work.  It can mean distancing from those in your life that require too much compassion from you.  It can mean taking those hard steps to say, “this relationship is too much for me right now and I need to take from time apart” or “I care about my clients but have to remember that this is a professional relationship”.  Self-care is ANY action taken to help better your own mental health.

Self-care is not selfish. In fact, it is the opposite because taking care of yourself keeps your cup full.  You can only pour into another from a full cup.  If you don’t practice self-care your cup runs dry and then you have no compassion to offer anyone else, let alone yourself.  This is why in order to avoid compassion fatigue we need to make sure we are caring for ourselves in whatever way we need. So, let’s do something today that will better your mental health for tomorrow.