Dragonfly. The very name hints at magic. The creature begins life in the water, dries its wings on land, and then takes to the air. For its size, it is as fierce a predator as any dragon, yet it appears in an irridescent glimmer of rainbow colors and translucent wings. A shapeshifting creature if ever there was one, master of illusion, symbol of change.
There is something to be learned here.
I hadn’t planned on being a crisis response worker, certainly not a DMHP. When I began my master’s degree in mental health I had other ideas in mind, all connected to writing. When I dreamed about the jobs I would have in mental health, I envisioned sitting in a comfortable office, guiding motivated clients through journal therapy assignments, maybe running a poetry therapy group, teaching classes on mindfulness and relaxation with some guided imagery on the side.
Reality took a sidestep to the left, and here I am, working as a DMHP. What exactly is this? It stands for Designated Mental Health Professional. In Washington State, the decision of whether or not a person experiencing a mental health crisis can be involuntary detained to a psychiatric treatment center is made by DMHPs. AKA, me. The woman who spent years avoiding responsibility. The INFP who hates making decisions. Life loves to play its little jokes.
As you can imagine, this job is just a little different than peacefully working through life problems with writing, relaxation, and guided imagery. I spend a lot of time in jail and in the hospital emergency department. And, although I confess I’m not always excited about the idea of waking up to a ringing phone at 1 am, the work is endlessly fascinating.
And the writing still goes on. I’ve completed three novels and am hard at work on number four. I’m pursuing publication. Writing is still a major part of my life.
But I’m left with the dichotomy of work on one hand and writing on the other, instead of the lovely little fantasy where both things fit neatly together. Reality is never simple, it seems, always full of complications and contradictions.
I remember what I have learned from the dragonfly. I saw a white one yesterday, flying around my backyard, and it shone in the sunlight like magic, like hope. A reminder to me of the need to shapeshift between one role and another, that writing can promote healing from a mental illness or a life crisis, that it is first and foremost about creating story, about celebrating the wonder of words and ideas.
There is no dichotomy there, just a reminder that in the end, all things are one.