I have written this first sentence many times. I have backspaced it halfway through, to end up staring at a blank page wondering how I want to write this. I have so many mixed emotions that are all tangled up in my brain right now. My first instinct was to write this blog all about burnout and how it affects technicians and veterinarians every day. But the more I stared at this blank page, the more I thought. I thought about how terrible this past week was. It was filled with too many bad diagnoses, too many poor outcomes and too much sadness. At the end of that week, I cried in my car on the way home. I cried for my patients that week, and I cried for their owners. I love my job and my patients and many of my days are filled with happy, healthy patients, but sometimes the bad outweighs the good. However, thinking back on that week, I also thought about each person who rallied around me when I needed support. And now I know what I want to talk about.
It’s easy to talk about the negatives, to re-live the bad memories and make everyone else feel as bad as I did. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about your feelings, it’s good to talk and not let the negative feelings bottled up. But, it is also very easy to get stuck in a spiral, and it can be hard to get out of that. So instead of writing a blog about burnout or the negative aspects of being a veterinary technician and feeding my sadness, I want to talk about my support systems. These are my unsung heroes who don’t get near enough recognition for everything they do for me.
Everyone deserves to have a support system no matter what profession you are in. Support systems can be anyone or anything. Some people find support in physical activity like running or yoga, others find support in activities like cooking or baking, talking with friends over coffee, watching a movie, spending time with family etc. Support systems are different for everyone; you have to find what keeps you grounded and makes you happy. Some may value the support of their friends over their work peers; others may prefer the support of an animal before they turn to another person. Find the support that works the best for you and don’t be afraid to utilize multiple supports. I am lucky enough to have multiple supporting people in my life, and I know they don’t get enough recognition for all that they do for me.
First, there are my parents. My parents both work in the veterinary field so they understand how difficult it can be at times. They are my support when I get home from a hard day and need to vent to people after work. And as a bonus, nothing makes you feel better than a huge hug from your mom. They also support me in my impulsive decisions to take on stray pets. Not many parents are as cool as mine are, especially when it comes to taking on sick stray cats. I am starting to think that I have “Sucker for Stray Animals” stamped on my forehead. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but maybe my parents think differently if you ask them!
Next is my work family. I spend more time with my work family than I do with my actual family. They help me every day through tough cases and are my immediate source of support, as they are usually right in the middle of these tough cases with me. They are also the first to offer comfort food which goes a long way, trust me. The best thing about my work family is that when I am in need of little extra help, everyone is great at helping out in whatever way they can. And when someone else is in need of more support, I’ll be sure to join in and help them the way that they helped me. Just like a family should.
Then there’s my boyfriend. What a blessing he has been! He’s always there to make me laugh when I don’t feel like laughing. But he always seems to know that laughter is truly the best medicine. He reminds me that there is more to do than work and pushes me to get out and do things that are non-work related like hiking, canoeing, beach days and movie nights with friends. And if all else fails, he gives me a shoulder to cry on when I need it.
My friends. I can’t say enough good things about them! I have friends both in and out of the veterinary field, and they are all amazing people. They all help me by getting me out and doing things not related to work. We go on sushi dates; we go bowling, we go to the beach or the movies, or we hang out at home and catch up on our busy lives. In short, they help keep me sane. Friends are the family that we get to choose, and I think I’ve found a great group of friends to make up my extended family.
Lastly, even though he won’t be able to see this, my horse. He’s always there when I don’t feel like talking or being around people. The barn provides great aromatherapy with the smell of horses, hay and wood shavings. So when I’m in need of some quiet time, an hour at the barn sitting in my horses stall or grooming or riding usually does the trick. And just like a mom hug, horse hugs go a long way too.
So, as a final shoutout I want to thank my parents for supporting my soft side, my work family for supporting me in the immediate situations, my boyfriend for supporting me through my emotional breakdowns, my friends for supporting my mental and social health and my horse for essentially being my emotional support animal. I am so lucky to have all of these wonderful people in my life, and I couldn’t imagine life without them.
Remember, it’s okay to have bad days. Everyone does. Sometimes they are sporadic, or they come at you one after another for a week straight. But it’s just as important to remember to use your support systems to help you through those bad days. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health! Don’t be afraid to lean on people when you need to. And when it comes full circle and your supports need someone to help them, make sure to return the kindness they showed you and everyone will be a better person because of it.
To all my unsung heroes: I appreciate all that you have done for me, and I hope you know how much I love all of you. Keep being the awesome people you are.
Written by Kelsey Hewgill, RVT