I’m one of the lucky ones. So why is this still so hard?

"It’s still OK to admit that our situation sucks right now," a Norwell mental health therapist and mother of two shares her own experiences working from home.

Author Jenni Brennan is a licensed mental health therapist.
Author Jenni Brennan is a licensed mental health therapist. –Stock photo

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I start yet another day at my kitchen table, the place where I now can be found trying my hardest to balance the responsibilities of working from home with parenting two children and attempting to serve as their substitute teacher. Any given morning now finds me tackling clinical documentation and billing for my private therapy practice while helping my 14-year-old muddle his way through assignments for eight different subjects in a now completely digital learning environment, while also debating the usefulness of responding to a journal prompt about an abandoned fort with my fifth grader.

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Each day begins the same in this new Groundhog Day version of life, and as I sit down at the kitchen table, I am keenly aware of the fact that I have fewer than 90 minutes to get at least some “school time” in for my kids before I completely ditch them and lock myself in my home office for eight back to back psychotherapy sessions. Sure, I’ll pop out for the 10–15 minutes I have between sessions to refill my water glass, throw some food at my boys, put the dogs out for a bathroom break, break up whatever dispute has started between the boys, and maybe even find time for a restroom break myself. Then it’s right back to work — headphones in, camera on, therapeutic space live and on the air.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I hold space for patient after patient who is working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. ICU nurses, doctors, and social workers all recounting horrible tales of what they are seeing day after day to me in our sessions. Suddenly my practice has become one filled with trauma work as I help my clients find hope, practice self care, and manage their intense fears of the virus.

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“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I sit virtually with new moms who were already struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression and now have lost many of the lifelines we helped them to establish in our work together before the virus changed our world.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as my email and voicemail inboxes swell with former clients who are reaching out for support in light of what the virus has done to their lives.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I attempt to support patients who finally had achieved pregnancy after years of loss and failed IUD cycles and yet now have to attend doctor’s appointments alone and fear that if things get worse they may even have to deliver their babies without their partner present.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as patient after patient shares their fears about what will happen to them now that they have been laid off or furloughed, or are no longer feasibly able to retire in a few months as their funds took too big of a hit.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as friends around me face grief, loss, and challenges completely unrelated to COVID-19 — things like the sudden deaths of loved ones, health issues, and relationships coming to an end.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I begin to realize that I feel completely and wholly inadequate — utterly mediocre in all aspects of my life now.

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“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I wonder how I can possibly be the therapist my clients need when one of my ears is always listening to make sure my boys aren’t calling me to help them with something.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I question how I can be the parent my boys need when every day finds me shut up in my office with instructions for them to only bother me if there’s an emergency.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I worry about how I can be the wife my husband needs when he is continuing to manage a 24-hour medical service from home two to three days a week, and then covering at least two 12-to-14 hour shifts each week. We are two ships passing in the night, and when we finally do get to see each other we both are too emotionally spent to even acknowledge each other’s presence.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I try my best to reach out to my friends and family to offer them support and remind them that they are loved, but find my energy at the end of the day is almost completely nonexistent.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I lie awake in bed each night staring at the ceiling, wondering what will happen to us if one of us catches the virus or if my husband loses his job or if the weight of not being able to play sports and see their friends finally catches up with my boys.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” I remind myself as I realize yet again that if I am struggling this much, imagine how much more painful life is right now for others.

“I’m one of the lucky ones and it is still OK to not feel OK right now,” I remind myself. Regardless of our individual circumstances, life right now is hard and is not at all like it used to be. Even if you, like me, are one of the lucky ones in all of this, it’s still OK to admit that our situation sucks right now. It’s OK to feel your feelings and wish that things were better for all of us, even for yourself. It’s OK to remind yourself that even though you may be lucky, you still can be hurting.

Jenni Brennan, LICSW, is a therapist, college professor, and mother working in Norwell.


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