by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
Recently, there has been quite a bit of chat in my life about the pros and cons of venting. There was an interesting article on VIN, and then a few discussions here.
I will admit that I am a venter and have done so recently on the board. I have a monumentally bad temper. This is not something I am proud of. Through many boring exercises I have learned to control it. Ever count to 100 when you are seeing-red mad? Yeah... not as easy as it sounds, but effective for me.
My husband regularly puts his life at risk when he sees me stop mid "discussion" to ask "What number are you on?" to which I reply "Lower than the one that will save your life, so watch it."
This back and forth actually works for us for a few reasons:
1) It acknowledges that whatever we are talking about is hard.
2) It acknowledges that I am human, and am working to control my emotions.
3) It's funny (usually, to me at least) and it reminds me that despite my current visions of removing his trachea, I love him and this will pass.
So, at this point you may be asking- Carrie- why in the world are you telling us about your marriage?! Holy over-share batman. I am telling you this because I see venting as a similar exercise.
I love my clients on the whole. Most of them are really excellent people. I have pretty solid boundaries and try really hard to be good about self care. But, when one gets under my skin... wow. That's hard. And in the moment I can count in my head and not strangle them, but I find I will carry that home with me. And then there is no where to put it. I can't resolve this conflict with my problem client, so I have to internally resolve it.
So, when its particularly bad- I bring it to NOMV. I almost always feel better after.
But here's the thing- we have to be careful that we treat these moments for what they are. We cannot let this become a narrative. This is not our fight song. And we should model our behavior after my husband, who loves me, who when my temper is bad looks at me and says "Whoa babe, you are super angry- and yeah this moment is shitty- but its only that, a moment. And we'll get through it and things will be okay again."
I disagree with the people who say we shouldn't talk about this stuff. As an admin of this site though, I do see where it can turn toxic. And sometimes when you are in a bad place, it's hard to hear about others bad experiences as it can turn in to validation of your bad place. You hate your client today, and so does NOMVer X, so clearly all clients are bad, right? Nope. That's the stuff that the VIN article is discussing. That we cannot let a vent, or even a collection of vents, become our reality.
We need to recognize these moments for what they are. This is a moment where a colleague we care for needs to be propped up. They need help releasing this demon. They need reminders that this moment is just a moment, and there are positive moments ahead. They need a sympathetic ear and also a reminder that it's not all bad. Maybe they need to hear how you deal with similar things, so they can find a positive way to handle it when it happens next time. And yeah- sometimes they do need validation that this moment is in fact really shitty and not fair.
And can I get really really real with you right now. This is the exact reason Nicole started this page. So we could share our experiences and learn that we aren't alone. As we've grown- we've expanded our goal. We recognize the real problems in our profession through this shared conversation and we want to help each other develop better skills to deal with them.
I think of venting as the first part of a mindfulness exercise. Mindfulness for people who do not live in the hippy capital of the world (California- where everyone talks like yoga teachers all day long) is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings. Basically it's a check in with yourself. "Hey Carrie, why are you so pissed off?" "I'm pissed off cause this crappy thing happened today and I just had to take it" Venting for me is me letting my angry brain tell me what is wrong so I can process it.
I think of it like asking my internal four year old why she is crying. You are going to hear a whole lot of stuff... some of it valid, some of it ridiculous. And after I do it, I think about it in a less emotional way, and process it better. But as anyone who has ever cared for a toddler can tell you- listening to that stuff all the time can drive you batty.
If I had any point of critique for the page, including myself, I think we could all work together with people who are venting to help flip the narrative back to positive. Working on solutions. Helping each other form the right boundaries, develop the right mental skills, so we can love our jobs 95% of the time (nobody, in any profession, loves their job all of the time).
I get that not everybody likes or agrees with every piece of content on this page. We're a community, an ever growing one- we won't always agree. The only thing I hope everyone can agree on is that we are hear to support each other. Our main plea is that if you do not like something, if you cannot handle it in your own life for whatever reason, please keep scrolling. And if you are really worried- please tag an admin.
Thanks for listening. I hope you all have an awesome day.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.