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Real Women, Real Stories: Pandemic Edition - The Balancing Act of Psychotherapy, Parenthood, and Personal Health

Intro by Lisa Butler: As therapists, we take on the important role of helping others. We often remind our clients that they need to care for themselves and prioritize their own needs, not just their families. As we do our best to practice what we preach, we aren't perfect either. COVID-19 threw a new perspective into the meaning of this for us as therapists as well as for our clients. Early on there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the fear of getting sick and how we as therapists would be able to manage the repercussions. This month one of our very own therapists, Kristen Norris, is sharing her story of the balancing act she experienced within the world of COVID and how she handled being a mom, therapist, and well, a human being, when she fell ill herself.

mother reading to her child under the christmas tree
Discover the story of therapist, Kristen Norris, as she navigates the balancing act of psychotherapy, parenthood, and personal health amidst the pandemic.

March 2020 - a time that the world stopped for many of us. It was the first time I had ever brought home a computer to do any sort of virtual work. Being a therapist, I had to quickly re-assess how I would manage discussions about the pandemic in my sessions. I was feeling unsettled and afraid, and I knew many of my clients were as well. I quickly found that the best way to navigate this situation was by being honest - honest with my clients as well as myself about the unchartered territory we were embarking on together.

Of course, there were fears about children, elders, schooling and food shortages at the top of the priority list in many of my therapy sessions. What I had not thought about much was how I would manage my own work and personal life if I were to get sick. My world was very much centered around keeping both my family and my clients as emotionally healthy as possible. Then two days before Christmas of 2020, I lost my sense of taste and smell. Before I knew it, I was experiencing chills, and unimaginable muscle aches and still had a full day of work ahead of me. Most importantly, I had two very excited children who could not wait for Santa to come.

It became very clear that I had COVID. I was tested and it was confirmed, but as a parent, I had a job to do! Thankfully my husband stayed up all night on Christmas Eve to make the next day special for our girls here at home. Double masked, I came downstairs on Christmas morning to see my children, thrilled as can be, tear open their gifts. I just wanted them to know nothing was different and that the holiday could go on as planned from home. The last thing I wanted was for them to sense my fear of the virus or notice how weak I actually felt that day.

As for my work, I was in a situation where I had to put myself first. I knew I would not be able to hold space for clients and I am so grateful they understood. The biggest misconception about quarantine was that I got a “break” from parenting. Even though my oldest daughter understood what was happening, my baby still needed me. Nothing hurt more than not being able to kiss or hug my children for over two weeks all the while worrying while I was "resting," that symptoms would emerge for them. Thankfully, my husband and children never tested positive. For that, I feel very fortunate.

In my 12 years as a therapist, I have never felt so challenged in terms of how to balance my personal and professional life. What I've taken from the experience is the importance of setting boundaries to be able to get healthy, even though it felt like the healing process took an eternity! I am grateful to my colleagues who stepped up and offered to help and for my family’s continual support. As I sit here and write this post in May 2021, I feel so much more appreciative of everyone around me and their good health.


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