A Mental Health Professional Discusses Working During COVID-19

There is no mistaking the fact that Mental Health professionals have been leaned on heavily throughout this pandemic. Helping professionals have had the arduous task of providing therapy for those struggling to manage continued isolation and fear, while living through a global pandemic themselves. The burnout rate is high ya’ll, and it’s important for us to make space to celebrate and validate the work of those taking care of our minds during such a turbulent time.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Patrick Grant, a friend and brilliant clinical psychologist candidate currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. Patrick discussed the complexities of his work, practicing self care as a helping professional, and what continues to motivate him during a global pandemic.

Can you tell us a bit about your work?

I work in mental health. I work with a diverse population of adults. Much of my therapeutic work involves treating individuals with mood (depressive) and anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and interpersonal/relationship stress. I work with those who live with substance dependence and who have endured various traumas. I additionally work with individuals who are expansive in their gender identities and sexual orientations.

Beyond therapy, I conduct and publish research on a range of topics related to sex and sexuality. I often focus on the lived experiences of Black same gender loving men. My most recent work (which I’m super proud of), includes an article that presents pain during anal sex as an unnecessary consequence of adhering to heteronormativity and patriarchal sexual performance.

HIT ME UP ON IG AND LET’S TALK ABOUT BUSSINISMUS!!!

Also, Google “bussinismus.” My article will pop up.

How has this global health crisis impacted the way in which you work?

My work usually requires a lot of face-to-face interaction, so the pandemic really changed my daily routine.  For safety reasons, my work went from in-person to 100% virtual. Working from home has really shown me how much I actually work (I work A LOT, haha). Working virtually has also highlighted how difficult it is to set boundaries between work and home when work is done at home. I’ve been able to find a bit of a balance. However, I remember how never-ending my job felt at the beginning of this pandemic. This quickly caused burnout, so I had to become intentional about setting professional boundaries while my environment remained unchanged.

How have you been practicing self-care during the pandemic?

I have been thinking a lot about self-care and the ways in which I typically engage the practice. In the past, I practiced self-care by working out, resting, eating well, and engaging in various mindfulness-based behaviors. I’ve currently adopted a different approach to self-care. As I near graduation (and experience the changes that come with this transition), I am practicing self-care by pursuing recovery in addition to rest. I am intentionally focused on healing chronic traumas I have endured over the years. My self-care might include recovering from being a student for almost 30 years by allowing myself to enjoy life’s spontaneous moments (without worrying about the next task I need to complete). Recovery may also include healing from damaging relationships by asserting my boundaries and observing my limits in future relationships. While rest, exercise, and healthy eating are great self-care habits, I am finding that my efforts toward recovery have added depth to my self-care routine.

How do you stay motivated?

I’m Jamaican? Haha! Thank you for this question because it’s actually quite interesting. Motivation is something a lot of us lack in this season because our worlds have been turned upside down, and many of us are grieving compounded losses. I think I stay motivated by embracing the moments when I’m not motivated. For the longest time, I convinced myself that I always had to be productive, lest I fail at . . . living! This pandemic really taught me that my value is not rooted in productivity. Actually, I am able to function at my highest capacity when I commit to pausing during my moments of low motivation. When I listen to myself and acknowledge the moments of low motivation, I honor myself, I am able to hold myself in a nurturing way, and I am able to explore and identify the things I need in order to recover and become productive when motivation returns.

This practice of listening to, and honoring, myself has influenced me to literally do no work on one day out of the week. There are times when I’m tempted to sneak onto my laptop or write down ideas for an upcoming project, but I intentionally pause and refuse to do any and all work. It’s kind of liberating.

Where do you pull inspiration from?

Black folx.

I’m so honored to say that I work mostly with Black patients. I do some amazing therapeutic work with Black folx who have been disenfranchised throughout their lives, and I am truly invigorated by the chance to assist them in creating the lives they wish to lead.

Much of my research centers on the lived experiences of Black same gender loving men. I’m also inspired by this cohort. A lot of the existing research on Black same gender loving men presents us as broken, defective, and always connected to trauma. The work I am currently doing with this group is really changing that presentation. I love it. I’m obsessed.

What is it like being a MH professional during this time?

Being a mental health professional during this time is hectic! There are a lot of people suffering. You see this at work, on social media, and in daily interactions (virtually, of course). I think more than ever, a part of being a good clinician involves managing your own mental health before dealing with patients. You cannot pour from an empty vessel; and patients need MH professionals who are present and not preoccupied with their own “stuff.” I previously mentioned my efforts to recover from various traumas. What I did not share is that over the past months, I have been involved in rigorous therapy that has really helped me grow personally and professionally. I have witnessed the work with my patients evolve tremendously. I have also experienced deeper connectedness with my loved ones (which is a form of self-care and recovery). So yeah . . . this time is hectic, but it is also a time for learning and growing if one is open to learning and growing.

What the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself?

This may sound super wild, but I’m really “that girl.” I will be turning 30 in a little over a month. Come May, I will be graduating with my doctorate in clinical psychology. I’m a pretty kickass clinician. My research has taken me both domestically and internationally. I have published numerous articles exploring sexuality . . . Black sexuality . . . Black same gender loving sexuality! I don’t list these accomplishments to flex, but I remember being a child and being made to feel like my uniqueness would negatively impact my spiritual, physical, social selves. Now here I am, 30 and fabulous —scratch that, 30 and flirty—and all the things people have tried to shame and suppress (i.e., my joy, my sexuality, my body) have been used to fill me spiritually, physically, and socially; and have elevated me beyond my wildest dreams. AND your girl is not finished evolving and growing, so imagine how much of a “mind blown emoji” I am right now.

I learned that I’m “that girl” and I’m not going to be humble about it.

What is the most rewarding part of your profession?

That’s a really tough question. I’m honestly just grateful to be in a profession that is congruent with my spirit. I love every bit of what I do. There are so many folx who actively ignore their callings. From an early age, I tapped into my inner Taurus and stubbornly followed my spirit, which pulled me away from a STEM career focus and pointed me toward psychology and sexuality. I think the biggest reward, so far, has been finding an ever-evolving career that feeds and aligns with my spirit.

Tell us about your Podcast and other passion projects? 

The Rosé + Thorns podcast (found on all streaming platforms) feels like a churchy happy hour. I started this podcast during the pandemic after previously being in the podcast game for over a year and leaving abruptly. I felt like I still had more to say and explore, so I created this platform to build a tribe and chat with folx who are doing some amazing things in the community. What I thought would be a small “ki-ki space” has now become a thriving show (so many listens)!! I feel so full! And what’s even more amazing is that this time around, I don’t feel burdened by podcasting! My listeners pause when I pause and flood the streams when I publish an episode. Shoutout to the Rosé + Thorns podcast and its faithful listers (the Lovebugs)!!

I am currently in the process of wrapping up season one, which explored the ups and downs of life and relationship during the pandemic. I am SO excited to start taping season 2 (listeners are going to GAG)!!

You can follow Rosé + Thorns on IG and Twitter: @rosentpod

In addition to podcasting, I will always have my hand in music (I’m nervously typing this because music is pretty sacred to me). I’m currently in a space where I am renewing my relationship with music and trying to move from a space of creative fear. I’m simultaneously resisting the urge to make music a hardcore hustle (not every talented singer needs to be Chloe x Halle). I jokingly call myself a SoundCloud artist, but I don’t know . . . I just create music I like and release things when I feel like they’re worthy to be released (I’m a really critical about my music and have consequently only released one song out of the many I’ve toyed with over the years . . . yay, anxiety and perfectionism!!). Last year I released a single called ‘American Beauty’—it’s a great song to get high and vibe out too.

I hope to release another tune when the Spirit says so. 😉

We thank Patrick for his continued work for our community!

You can reach Patrick here:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/iampryan

Instagram: www.instagram.com/iampryan

Stream Rosé + Thorns: www.solo.to/rosentpod

Stream ‘American Beauty’: https://soundcloud.com/p-ryan/american-beauty

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