Welcome to our guest blog page where passion and inspiration coincide. Here Child Life Specialists and Students have the opportunity to share their love for writing with their peers.
If you or anyone you know has a passion for writing and would be interested in being one of our guest bloggers, please email Maria Mandese, FACLP Website Coordinator at email@example.com
We would like to introduce…
“One Year Later”
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Eight thousand seven hundred sixty hours. 365 days. One year.
It’s been one year since I wrote my last post for FACLP discussing the importance of reminding our professional selves that we are in fact human beings who needed to take time to just experience our feelings brought on by the start of the COVID-19. That despite all of our training in flexibility and being able to constantly go with the flow with a smile on our face, it was okay to just stop and accept the reality of what was our new normal and be mad or sad or frustrated by it. But you guys, I wrote that with just the pandemic in mind, not having the slightest idea the rest of the year would play out like it did.
In that original post I referenced a webinar on “Psychological First Aid: Managing Emotional Challenges in This Unprecedented Time,” by The Beryl Institute, in which Psychotherapist and LCSW, M.J. Murray Vachon utilized a visual to explain mental wellness in healthcare professionals. She showed a river with “rigidity” on one side and “chaos” on the other. Floating in the middle of the river were the traits: flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable, with the explanation that that these characteristics integrating in the middle of rigidity and chaos leads towards a developmental of mental wellness. At the time I remember thinking “In normal times, this is a really great depiction of the importance of how mental wellness is developed in our field, but how can anyone expect us to be energized and stable and adaptive when it feels like life as we know it is falling apart.”
We went through a lot. Like if we’re using the river analogy, we were white water rafting in the middle of a hurricane that came on land. We had the pure chaos of the world battering us from all sides while still trying to keep our head above water in a world where our job was essential and necessary- kids didn’t stop being sick, leadership didn’t stop asking for help with special projects to cheer everyone up, donors didn’t stop calling, interns didn’t stop needing supervision. That was our reality in the child life world and while I encouraged us all to take the time to feel the emotions of that time, I also said that we were in the raft (let’s just keep the whitewater rafting theme going) together. In and out of the hospital, universities, our home life, we kept pushing forward, we grew stronger as a profession, as friends, as teammates and ultimately, we did it. It feels like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, that we’re turning the page to a new chapter, and although it’s more of another new normal instead of full return to what we once knew, it’s here and we’re here.
Playroom doors will open soon. Our beloved bubbles will make a grand reappearance during procedures. We will no longer feel bad about using masks during medical play. Donations will come flooding in, even ones we don’t want. Special visitors and events will again fill our calendars. Conferences will be held in person. Volunteers will be back in full force. Admin will ask for more cards for donors. Life in the child life world will return to “normal,” but does that word even truly apply to any aspect life anymore?
No matter how or why our sense of normalcy changes, we have proven that we are not just flexible, we are resilient. We live the definition of flexibility on a daily basis in our work- we are always ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances that our jobs throw at us. But we are human beings before we are ever a child life specialist and that’s where resilience is key to our mental wellness and our ability to practice professionally. Each of us have shown the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis- some of us faced multiple crises this year and are still standing. Resilience exists when an individual uses mental processes and behaviors to promote personal assets and protect self from the potential negative effects of external stressors. Whether you continued your at home workouts, or learned to bake bread or sew, bought multiple blue light glasses to help with all of the webinars we were offered, took on homeschooling in addition to working, or even if you binged Schitt’s Creek in a week, those are all protective behaviors that got you through the year of COVID.
We truly can face whatever rapids and rocks the world throws at us, and while it won’t always be fun, we now know we can get through the rough stretch and find the calm waters, if only we stick together (but maybe in person, let’s give Zoom a much needed break).