On all of our journeys to become qualified psychologists regardless of the area we want to work in, life will happen and life will get in the way. Be it the death of a loved one, our own mental or physical health or another factor that is outside our control. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, we’ll be looking at the way different life events can impact our psychology journey and how we can better deal with these events. If you enjoy learning about mental health, careers in psychology and real-world experiences, then you’ll enjoy today’s episode.
This podcast episode has been sponsored by Careers In Psychology: A Guide To Careers in Careers In Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Business Psychology and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Why Am I Doing This Podcast Episode And What Will Be The Structure Be?
Originally, I wanted to write this podcast episode last week because USA Today Bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch who I have a fairly good working relationship with, and Dr Marianna Trent of The Aspiring Psychology Podcast, put out two very good resources. I’ll quote a little bit from Kris because what she said really hit home, and then Dr Marianna Trent gave me a lot of ideas about how to frame this for other psychology people.
However, I’ve been wanting to do this sort of podcast episode since my last meltdown (at the time of recording anyway) in Newcastle in late October 2023. Due to this meltdown taught me a lot, it framed a lot for me and the different things I want to talk about in today’s episode really helped frame my recovery better.
And for newer listeners of the podcast episode, if you want to learn more about my mental health difficulties that were amplified in August 2023, please check What is Person-Centred Therapy? And What Is Emotional Dependency and Locus of Evaluation?
Anyway, for the rest of this psychology podcast episode, I’ll be exploring some general life rolls and life events that might affect you on your psychology journey. Then I’ll talk about them and reflect on them and then I’ll narrow in on my own experiences using a brilliant quote from Kris’s blog post. Afterwards, I’ll explain why Kris’s blog post has a lot of powerful lessons for all of us.
The life events I’ll be covering are death and grief, the ending of a major relationship and mental health.
How Can Death And Grief Impact Your Psychology Journey?
When someone major in our family or social network dies then this is extremely impactful on us. Maybe a parent, a close family member or a very close friend dies and you have to deal with all the grief, funeral arrangements and everything else that is forced on you when someone important dies.
If this happens to a psychology student then this might mean you cannot focus on your studies, you might not be able to focus on exams and you might miss deadlines because you’re dealing with a lot. Equally, if you’re more advanced in your psychology journey then you might have the same problems as professionals, even more so if you’re on professional placements during your Doctorate of Clinical Psychology.
Furthermore, if you’re a psychology professional, like a clinical psychologist, working in a service that involves a lot of grief and trauma. As well as if you know that a lot of clients with mental health difficulties associated with cancer deaths come in, then that can be very upsetting and triggering for you. Then this might have a knock-on effect on your work, your ability to focus and your ability to deliver high-quality care that our clients serve and come to us for.
None of these effects or impacts makes you a bad person. It makes you human, relatable and it certainly doesn’t make you weak or anything.
Therefore, when there is a death in the family or your social network, you need to grieve, you need to process your emotions and you need to make sure you’re going to be okay.
If you’re a psychology student then talk to your university. I know at my university there’s a lot of different things in place for students that need a small break whilst they focus on things outside their control. So make sure you contact your university, see what your School or department offers and even if they cannot help you, they can still signpost you to other services.
I was talking to one mature Masters student the other week and it turned out that her father had died of dementia last year so she needed an intermission. And I’m telling you this because I want you to know that asking the university for an intermission is okay, you can do that and it won’t end your life as you know. It will not make you a failure or a lesser student.
You have to do what is right for you. Something I am learning more and more as time goes on.
In addition, if you’re a psychology professional, then definitely consider taking some time off and focusing on processing your feelings, do what you need to do and then return to work. And even when you return to work, I’ve heard you can talk to your Line Manager and see if you can be given caseloads that are away from your death experience and you can slowly get back to work.
Which actually might be quite nice because you’ll be dealing with fewer clients so you can get the paperwork done without being snowed under between seeing tons of clients and a mountain of paperwork that grows more and more with each passing day.
How The End of A Major Relationship Impacts Your Psychology Journey?
Whilst I am hardly qualified to talk about this point because I have never been in a relationship, I still know stuff but this will be a briefer section. So you might be a psychology student or psychologist and your relationship of five years and you thought they were the One, is over. The relationship broke up and you would be feeling a lot of pain.
That is perfectly normal and you have every right to feel in pain, upset and confused. As well as you might even feel a little depressed and you might not be able to get out of bed or you won’t feel like moving or doing much for a few days.
When this does happen then life can also feel a little hopeless, joyless and like you’ll never be able to find happiness again.
And there is a minor problem with our professional, especially in clinical psychology, because you’re thinking like then we go into work and hear about a client’s negative mental health experiences. This is hardly going to make us feel great.
Therefore, it might be an idea, when we’re experiencing the end of a major, major relationship to take one or two days off. So we can process our emotions, get ourselves together and go back to work or university feeling a little better. Because we will still feel bad, a little joyless and a little empty.
However, the best cure for this sort of breakup loss is living, socialising and just being around other people that we like. And everyone else says that you will find love again and whilst I have never been in a relationship, my former emotional dependency still made me feel like this whenever I lost great friends.
And I always did manage to friends, so you really can find love and friends and everything again but you have to keep living.
How Mental Health Impacts Your Psychology Journey?
I’ve already spoken a lot on the podcast about my own mental health breakdowns, my child abuse and trauma so I won’t go into too much depth because you can look at past episodes for that. Yet something I have noticed is, and is NOT a rule of thumb or a generalisation, that some people attracted to psychology do have their own mental health difficulties or past. For example, I have my trauma, self-harming and suicide. A woman in my cohort has anxiety and another woman had domestic violence against her in the past.
And at some point if you have had a traumatic past, you will break and you will shatter and this can put your entire psychology journey up in the air because you have to focus on your recovery.
Especially, as I was out for dinner with a friend last night and They were saying how They’re 25 now and it is only now they are comfortable admitting that they have recovered from their trauma. And their trauma happened when they were 12 or 13 and was a single incident that had 5 years’ worth of consequences for them. Then it is about them recovering from the aftermath. That was a hard pill for me to swallow because my mind is still very much, I want to recover now or within a few months.
But no Connor, recovery takes a long, long time from mental wounds and trauma.
That’s why focusing on recovery is critical.
This is basically what I have been doing since August 2023. I have been trying to recover, get myself “solid” again (whatever that means) and I want to be a position in my life where I am okay. And do I know what okay looks like, no, not really. Since I have never been okay, I am a survivor and it is all I know. I don’t know how to live, I don’t know how to not be on high alert and because a lot of old trauma responses like my emotional dependency, have been dealt with. I have no idea how to experience certain things.
For example, before my template of a close friendship was intense, all-consuming, very toxic and it wasn’t healthy at all. But now I have a few close friendships but they feel weird to me because they aren’t intense, they aren’t all-consuming and they are healthy relationships for the first time.
Anyway, linking this back to your psychology journey, I am honestly scared at the moment because I still have smaller meltdowns. I had my breakdown on the 13th August 2023 then I had my first meltdown in early September then I had another meltdown 6 weeks later.
Also, I am beginning to realise that I used to be perfectly okay with so many psychology topics. I was happy to learn about self-harm, suicide, trauma and real-world experiences of the amazing clients that we get to help. But now, I am finding that I am not as resilient to certain things as I once was and certain psychology topics are triggering or upsetting to hear about. Not when I read about them or learn about them in a lecture per se, but in the real world when people actually have to deal with these things.
I am not always okay with that.
And it scares me.
You all know I love psychology, I love this podcast and I love clinical psychology tons. It is my world, my domain and it is where I want to work so badly in the future because I love this profession.
Therefore, with me still having meltdowns on occasion, with me still being scared, fragile and not always okay with my own past and mental health, I am scared that I will never be okay enough to do the work I want to do so badly. That scares me and I know I am not the only person that feels like this.
In addition, these feelings aren’t always helped by the way that my life is stupidly busy. For example, my Masters degree takes up a lot of my time (as you would expect), my Mondays and Fridays are busy helping out a friend run his control group for his PhD and even my Thursdays which look free on paper are busy because my counselling (which ends today as I write this post) is at a weird time. Yet this week I’m working all day Thursday anyway.
I raise this because normally in therapy and other mental health work, we always try to say to clients, you need to find activities that make you happy as well as you need structure and routine. At least I do because of my autism.
However, this is difficult because I have a good structure and routine, but I am not able to focus on writing, publishing and my business as much as I want to. And I know this isn’t very relatable but you can substitute it for any hobby or any other activity that keeps you grounded and really helps.
I used to be very stressed about this lack of writing time, but unfortunately Kris’s husband, Dean Wesley Smith who is a sensational writer and I have a good working relationship with him, had a shattered shoulder after a charity run one weekend. Kris wrote a blog post with something I want to quote and then I’ll explain why this is useful for all of us in terms of mental health recovery.
“I know that my mind will be very busy with the changes to our lives. We have to make adjustments for the next several months as Dean heals.
As I’ve written many times before, shit happens. We all have to deal with those things and take the time to work through them.
Sometimes, writing isn’t possible.
Sometimes, writing what you were writing before the event isn’t possible either—at least, not for a while. Maybe not at all.
Events change you. The person I was before Dean fell is not the person I am now. Dean is not the same person either.
We don’t know how much will change, but some things will.
Other things won’t change. We’re both writers, after all.”
As a result, there are three things I want to reflect on here. The first paragraph stresses how when something happens, our minds are very busy and we have to change and adapt to a new reality. For Kris, this meant adapting into a new routine to help Dean heal and recover from his shattered shoulder. For me, this means I need to allow myself to change and adapt because my mind is filled with recovering, being okay and adapting to a very new and exciting reality. A reality where I am loved, where there is no risk of me being beaten and a reality where I can be me without threat of death.
After a decade of that reality that is extremely hard to get used to.
Secondly, I want to reflect on the next three paragraphs because Kris points out how in life, life events and life rolls will always happen and you cannot control them. These will happen, that is just how life works. Yet it is our job and our responsibility to work through them so we can keep living and enjoying life, and having fun. As well as, you can change writing for another activity that brings you joy, so if you were doing an activity then maybe you will need to stop for a little bit, or slow down or change it entirely.
I’ve written a lot since my breakdown. I’ve written a lot of science fiction, some fantasy and some mystery, but I have a lot of critical voice about romance. Since a good romance is positive, happy and there is chemistry between the two love interests. I do not know if I am able to get in that headspace for now where I can be so positive, so focused on the romance and I have hit all the traditional romance expectations that readers love. That doesn’t make me a failure, it just means I don’t want to go there at the moment, but I will in the future.
Because I am a writer, but I have to focus on adapting to this new reality and recovering first.
Finally, Kris talks about events changing you, and that is extremely true. Since like Kris, ever since my life-changing, I have not been the same person. I can feel emotions for starters, I am no longer a survivor and I am a shard of the person I used to be in a good way. And that is extremely hard but I loved when I read that quote because it was meaningful. I am changed and that’s okay because there is always a lot of stuff that doesn’t change.
I am still a podcaster, a writer, a business owner, a psychology student. I still have amazing listeners, readers and a family that loves me. As well as I have a group of friends that is growing and I am happy with.
So whenever you feel like your life is changing and it shattering, just know that things will change and you will have to focus on your recovery and adapting. Yet there are always things that don’t change and they will always stay the same too.
Clinical Psychology Conclusion and A Footnote On Spoon Theory
At the end of this podcast episode that focused on Careers In Psychology and your psychology journey, I want to remind you that life rolls will happen. You will be upset, blindsided and you will feel like you’re drowning. Just make sure that you process your feelings, seek professional help if you need to and just make sure that you’re okay.
You will have to adapt and change because of your life roll. I won’t pretend that you won’t and chances are, you might be a different person afterwards and that’s okay too. As long as you know when to get professional help, if needed, and you focus on the things that are the same too.
Personally, I am having to really prioritise these days because I am still not 100% and I am still learning and trying to train the New Me about certain aspects of life. For example, early today I wanted to get up at 7 am and be on my laptop doing some work by 8 am. I couldn’t get up, I was too scared about some stuff and I was struggling a little so I woke up at 8 am and I got to my laptop about 9:18 am. It wasn’t ideal but I was compassionate because that is still better than some past Tuesdays. Since Tuesdays are my only free days to be honest.
Therefore, I have to really focus and really prioritise what I absolutely have to get done that day. If you’re on my email list, you might know I haven’t been emailing very much lately, this is why. I have to focus on the podcast, writing and the various online courses I’ve paid for. Then university work takes up a lot of my time too, but that’s okay and remembering Spoon Theory helps too.
When life events happen, the old saying of “life is what you make it” still holds true, you can allow life events to harm and control you, or you can start walking the very long and hard but joyous journey towards recovering and getting past your life events too. But this is a choice, a hard one, but the end result is all within your power.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Careers In Psychology: A Guide To Careers in Careers In Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Business Psychology and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Have a great day.
Clinical Psychology References
The Aspiring Psychologist Podcast by Dr Marianna Trent- Unknown Episode
Kristine Kathryn Rusch- Business Musings: Spoons (A Process Blog) Available at kriswrites.com
Kristine Kathryn Rusch- Business Musings: Focus And Escape. Available at kriswrites.com
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