It is a precarious calling in life to walk the path of a healer.
On the best days it is satisfying to connect so deeply with others in their most vulnerable times, and be a part of them healing and growing. And, on the worst days, it is agonizing to hold your professional persona together, while in your personal life, you feel lost, and in deep pain, while every client seems to share material that triggers recognition of your ( the healer’s) own deep wounding. The “good” days are invigorating. We feel like we are living our purpose, and we know the meaning of life. We feel connected, powerful, loving, and expansive. It is a spiritually fulfilling experience. While on the “bad” days, we feel extremely drained, and become anxious, ashamed, depressed, and despairing in regard to deeper existential doubts and concerns about the work we do, as well as who we are.
Others, who are healers and not healers, alike, project a whole lot upon you (the healer), in terms of how you should experience your self, your work, your life, and what it is to define yourself as a “healer”. Somehow, as healers, we get the implicit, and sometimes explicit, message, we are supposed to understand the deepest, darkest existential pain, yet are somehow supposed to never actually travel there, stay there, struggle through it, or share openly about it when going through it.
In many ways we are exposed to, and as healers, enforce an unspoken code of conduct; a code of conduct regarding silence about our humanity. We perpetuate this code in order to protect the respect for our healing profession, as a means to maintain a persona where we appear to have overcome suffering, or at least we have already learned how to deal with our personal suffering in a perfect, or somewhat perfect, non-messy way.
This persona protects our brand and, for may of us, makes us marketable, relevant, and commodofiable. If we ever hope to be successful business people, we have to craft a beautiful persona, pitch and image, that makes us approachable, human, wise, and warm, but also conveniently perfect, not too emotional, and extra competent. Forming this persona and a business presents a difficult walk upon a razor’s edge, and this is why there are many healers struggling to make ends meet.
For those of us who do succeed as business people, and manage to build wealth, we face even more challenges. As our healer persona becomes more and more “branded”, and profitable, we find that the standards and expectations for this code of conduct (silence), as well as the range of humanity we are allowed to express within our persona, becomes even more limiting and stifling. The risks are higher if we break free and express our messy, darker humanity, as we may lose our empire.
I have nothing but compassion for all of us healers, while in this predicament. In our modern-day, fast-paced, capitalistic, highly competitive field, this persona helps us continue to monetize our craft and our presence. Because, let’s face it, as it stands, no one seeks a therapist, acupuncturist, body-worker, energy worker, coach, or yoga teacher who seems neurotic and like they are lost in their own suffering. They want to spend their hard-earned money knowing they can have more of a guaranteed “return” on their investment, having time with someone who outwardly seems to approach a level of perfection and self-love that we want to attain. And, so as healers we adjust according to these expectations, and that’s that.
That leaves us healers to feel our pain behind closed doors, alone, or in our innermost circles. We designate time to fall apart, as we often feel we can’t just cancel that healing session we scheduled for a client. As, this is our livelihood and we often are successful because of our consistency and ability to show up, with presence, for who we hold space for, no matter what. And, for the times we do happen to fall apart, and it doesn’t conveniently happen after office or studio hours, we claim a “family emergency”, “illness”, or cancel last minute, only to have to “owe” the client one, for robbing them of their special time.
And, sadly, in the midst of it all, the toll it takes to privilege time for clients over the time for yourself (over and over again), to heavily compartmentalize, to project a persona that excludes the darker elements of your humanity, and to feel heavy shame and isolation around not being the person every client and colleague thinks you are, leads many healers to even darker times.
It is no coincidence that alcoholism and suicide, are some of the highest rates per professional person, in the field of psychotherapy.
I have watched 4 prominent healers in my community commit suicide in the past few months, and as a healer, this further compels me to share my opinions of the path of a healer, as it relates to suicidality.
Observing the aftermath of these suicides has also encouraged me to realize how important it is for healers and our larger culture, to begin to share more openly about our pain and struggles. To share not after the fact, but DURING.
So, here I want to publicly commit an act of subversion, by sharing honestly and openly about my mental health struggles, though I am a healer, a therapist, and a coach.
I struggle with self-worth, as well as PTSD. I struggle with depression and anxiety, due to my issues around low self-worth. I sometimes have days where I get triggered into PTSD episodes, and it is difficult to remember that I am a high-functioning adult. I have contemplated suicide in my life, more times than I can count, and was actually very close to it somewhat recently.
Sometimes I am a total mess. AND, I learn, heal, and grow from being a mess, and finding my way. AND, I still have so much to offer as a healer, even though I haven’t figured everything out in my own life. And YES, I am helping people heal the very issues I haven’t mastered healing in my own life.
AND, my clients heal. AND, my clients are better off for meeting with me. AND, what I offer them is every bit as good and valuable, than if I were someone who had their “shit together”.
So, now that I have publicly declared this, I want to recommend you investigate your own projections and expectations upon the healers in your life. Do you let them be fully human? And, if not, ask yourself why they perhaps don’t get to be fully human, too?
Or, if you are a healer, I recommend you start to share more openly about your humanity, and seek as much support as possible. The more of us who choose to break the code of silence we enforce through our personas, the more we change the way our culture relates to healers.
THIS is how we collectively reduce suicide, and save the lives of future healers, from ending in suicide.