Here I am walking to the edge of the pool. Dipping my toe in the water to see if it is safe to dive in. Oh what the hell.
In this post I’m going talking about my feelings again. Even though it makes me horribly uncomfortable, and I worry I’m damaging my career doing so. In Diving Below the Surface I raised the subject of vicarious trauma and self-care for archivists. There hasn’t been much time to write more about it since then, although a colleague and I are hoping to carve out some space for collaboration soon.
One of the repeating themes in conversations I’ve had is that once vicarious trauma is recognised it is often too late. By this I mean that once individuals and workplaces identify the signs, the effects are already significant and much more challenging to remedy. In one conversation we used the thirst analogy – you know how they say once you realise you are thirsty you are already dehydrated?
The last few weeks have raised this issue again in a slightly different way. Life has started throwing some major stuff at me, and hairline cracks in my resilience have been revealed. Life is always going to happen, and work still needs to be done and in between we create strategies that build the scaffolding needed to deal with both. Anyway, I started to realise I was thirsty.
I wanted to reflect on what my coping strategies are as a bit of an evaluative exercise. I would love it if any of you would share some of your own.
***Please note, these are personal musings. I’m an archivist, not a medical professional, a counsellor or a lifestyle coach. I’m not recommending any of you drink the same amount of whisky that I do.
Here are just a few things I do;
- Cultivate my relationships. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements mean I can’t talk about the details of my work. That makes it difficult sometimes to explain what has made me sad, or narky, or quieter than usual. Finding the language to communicate effectively is worth the effort.
- I cry. I secretly refer to one of the toilet cubicles as my ‘crying booth’.
- I exercise. I swim, do Pilates and ride my bike. Followers on twitter will know I’ve been combining crying and swimming this week. This prompted the glorious response below from two of my creative besties.
- I’ve experimented with finding my thing, meditation, prayer, singing loudly off-key in the shower.
- Above all, I try to be kind to myself. This results in needing to forgive myself over and over again. I might get it right, I might find a different kind of right. It’s all Ok.
- I apply the ah, fuck it rule. At the end of the day, nothing beats a bottle of wine with a good friend and some copious swearing.