I wasn’t always a copywriter. Before I took the leap into my dream job I was first working at what I had hoped would be my dream job. Instead, it became a nightmare.
Once upon a time, I decided to quit my job as a receptionist and go to grad school to become a dance/movement therapist. I studied hard and through my internships decided I wanted to work in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. This was, I thought, the dream.
My first internship was rough, but as I began to identify as a therapist more and more I grew to like it. I enjoyed helping people who were in crisis. I liked giving them tools and coping skills. I liked the way movement brought people out of their shells and worked as a therapeutic tool. As a former dancer who is a major empath, I figured marrying dance and therapy together was the perfect job for me.
When I graduated I jumped headfirst into working in two different hospitals on a per diem basis. It was fast-paced work and I seemed to thrive. I enjoyed the freedom of simply going to work, running therapy groups, writing notes and then leaving. I didn’t have to worry about the rest of the work the full-time staff did. I was sheltered from the disfunction of the hospital by two great bosses who ran their creative arts therapy programs skillfully.
After six months I got a job full-time as a dance/movement therapist at a different inpatient psychiatric hospital. Suddenly I was responsible for a lot more than when I worked in a per diem role. Also, I no longer was sheltered from hospital disfunction.
I was eventually given my own unit that I was responsible for. I attended treatment teams, I spent time with the clients during their downtime, and I conducted individual and group sessions on my unit. It was the geriatric psychiatric unit.
I loved spending time with the older clients and grew used to them treating me like a granddaughter. I fought my way into their good graces by proving that even though I was only 30, I had things to offer to give them the help they needed.
The people on this particular unit tended to stay longer than on most other units because they were harder to place and often required more time to stabilize. There was also a lot of dementia in addition to psychiatric disorders, and that meant their stay was usually longer because a lot of nursing homes didn’t want to take someone with a psychiatric background. Sometimes it was very difficult not to get attached and upset when things didn’t go well for them. The worst was when someone was readmitted after a short period of time.
The more I got to know the clients, the thinner my skin got. They wanted to really get to know me and it was hard to keep healthy therapeutic boundaries.
I was also working in a hospital under an administration that didn’t believe in therapy and didn’t understand why we needed therapists, to begin with. This attitude trickled down to my experience as a therapist who felt over-worked and under-appreciated.
I started having physical symptoms that were signs of high stress. Headaches, fatigue, weird aches and pains and eventually costochondritis, which is inflammation of the sternum that causes severe pain in the chest. I thought I was having a heart attack.
Eventually, after a year of working there full-time, it all came to a head when I had my own version of a breakdown. I was unhealthy, I was miserable, I was stressed and I was mentally exhausted. I took some time off.
After six months of being unemployed, I started a new job as a dance/movement therapist at the first inpatient psychiatric hospital I had ever worked at. I lasted a month before I started getting these weird migraines that make me fall down and render me useless for the rest of the day. They’re generally caused by stress and heat. It was June and I was stressed beyond belief at being back in the hospital setting. I lasted a month.
I tried one final time at the other hospital I had worked at in a per diem role, working every other weekend and on an as-needed basis. I thought this would be the answer, going back to only running groups and doing notes and not having to worry about the rest of the stuff.
But running four groups a day with up to 26 people in a group, writing notes for each one of them and filing them yourself on each unit in eight hours became impossible. My stress-induced migraines started again and I had to miss work a lot. I left after less than three months.
I thought there was something wrong with me and didn’t understand why I couldn’t stick it out like other people. I didn’t understand why I was a physical and emotional mess. I was desperate for a change and unsure of how to get there.
Then I learned about freelance writing. I always knew I was a good writer and I liked writing, and when I learned you could write for a living, I decided to try it.
I dipped a toe in the water and got a client. I wrote a blog for her and it didn’t work out, so we parted ways amicably. I cautiously dipped another toe in the water, and the same thing happened. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Part of the problem was that I didn’t have any guidance, and part of the problem was that I was trying to write content, not copy.
The difference between content and copy is that content informs, copy gets you to do something.
I learned that I could contribute so much more to the field of mental health by being a copywriter for therapists than I could being a content writer or a burned-out therapist.
So I dove into a copywriting course and learned a lot about the way the world of copywriting works. I continue to spend at least 30 minutes a day learning more about copywriting and SEO (search engine optimization, the copywriter’s bread and butter).
It was difficult when I first started writing, before I found copywriting, to imagine myself actually getting to write for therapists. But once I began learning about the world of copywriting and all the different ways I could do it, the part of me that was desperate to still be connected to therapy couldn’t help but choose mental health as my niche.
Now I write for therapists. I write about things that matter to them. My writing helps them provide online resources to their clients. I’m still connected to the field of therapy and mental health without stressing myself out every day and wondering why being a therapist didn’t work for me.
I make my own schedule, I can work from anywhere, and I get to choose the clients I work with.