Spending time in my former office today as a consultant (something I now do on a weekly basis), I was struck by how sincerely I miss a handful of patients, and how much I truly don't miss a small group of my most needy former patients.
After three months of not working full-time following a seven year sojourn of intensive case management, I'm feeling the loss involved in saying goodbye and walking away from a number of close long-term connections. Periodically I think of calling one or another of my former patients, and one of these days I'll probably pick up the phone and do so. Those goodbyes can be hard, and the hellos can now seem equally challenging.
The intimate connections nurtured over those years came to be part and parcel of my life, and while that closeness eventually did indeed contribute to my experience of burnout and compassion fatigue, it also was a part of the fabric of my life, and now it seems like certain threads are sorely missing.
For now, I can sit with the uncertainty and emptiness that those losses have engendered, and I can also sit with the notion that calling and saying hello may be a new way of connecting (if, of course, I choose to do so at all). Providing such intimate and long-term care over time creates dependencies on both sides of the equation, and I am beginning to feel that some of those emotional equations are as yet unresolved. Will I attempt to balance them? Only time will tell.