Updated: Jul 27, 2022
My Journey - Tyler Boris
This is my first ever blog and will likely be my longest post. In my experience as a writer, I have always felt it best to err on the side of openness, but there are also ethical guidelines I must consider as a therapist. Some of what I write may seem a bit revealing, but my intent is only to show that anyone, anywhere, at any time has the ability to cultivate a mindfulness practice.
Let me start by saying that I walked away from the behavioral health field within a year of receiving my master’s degree in clinical social work. It was 2009 and I was working for a non-profit in Phoenix, counseling 50+ clients a week, most of whom were mandated. I felt overworked, underpaid, and unable to help anyone. The system was so broken I didn’t know where to begin. It seemed that clients had been conditioned not to trust anyone in the public sector, including therapists. We were understaffed, underfunded, and limited to 6 sessions per client. So I quit.
I am not congratulating myself by any means for leaving the field when I did. Despite all the issues, there are many social workers who continue to work tirelessly to make the world a better place; people who work around the clock and push through bureaucratic barriers to create and sustain social change. They are the real heroes and deserve far more credit than they receive.
After making the decision to leave, I used some connections in New York to get a job in finance. Once there, I immediately buried all thoughts and emotions associated with the previous chapter of my life. I found that my comfort and confidence levels were highest in social situations so I made an effort to surround myself with people. When I was alone, I’d turn to my iPhone or television or any other distraction I could find to help me escape my thoughts.
Funny thing about thoughts though; they have a way of surfacing. For me, they came at night, lying awake in bed, away from the noise of the office, or the camouflage of a crowded bar, or the diversions of a screen. The ruminations would cycle around my mind like a whirlpool and I spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning until the sun came up.
The worst part was that no one seemed to notice. Despite my internal struggles, I continued to be positively reinforced both at work and in my social life. Moving forward, feelings of numbness transitioned into more palpable forms of anxiety.
I knew it was time for me to forge a new path, but had no idea how to begin. Thankfully, I had strong support and guidance along the way; and finally, in 2019, after 10 years, I was able to gather enough courage to quit my job and leave New York.
It was not until after I moved back home, while contemplating what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, that I heard the word mindfulness for the first time. My mind was so cluttered back then I couldn’t even really comprehend what it meant, but I knew it was time for a change.
At first, meditation seemed like an insurmountable task. The notion of being alone with my thoughts for any period of time was terrifying, and exactly what I had been trying to avoid for the previous 10 years. But the more I learned about it, the more it resonated.
I cannot emphasize the term baby-steps enough when it comes to meditation. Taking 5 minutes here, 3 deep breaths there, using an app or a guide or some music; whatever it takes to make the path feel a little less overwhelming. There are many resources available nowadays to help with those first steps.
In truth, it was not always easy for me to sit alone and be present with my thoughts, but the alternatives were much worse: avoidance, escapism, getting lost in an endless pool of distractions. I had been down those roads before and did not want to return.
Fast forward 3 years later and here I am, a licensed clinical social worker with my own mindfulness based therapy practice in Michigan. I wish I could say there was this profound, life changing, a-ha moment when I suddenly discovered meaning in my life, but that wasn’t my experience. Instead, over time, I began to feel more balanced and clear-minded, and in turn found my way back to the behavioral health field.
So that’s my story. It wasn’t always the easiest or the straightest path, but real life is usually neither easy nor straight. Looking back now, I can honestly say I’m grateful for the journey and hold no regrets.
Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane. I hope that mindfulness will resonate with you as it has resonated with me, and I look forward to sharing more in this blog.
Tyler Boris, LMSW