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Reaching burnout

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
Hi everyone

I'm not sure if this is a request for input or a rant, but thanks in advance for any responses that you might want to put out there.

I've been offered an absolute dream job, which starts around Christmas time. Until then, I'm temping on a self-harm/suicide support line. I've worked with homeless people before, in domestic violence refuges, with people who misuse controlled substances, the whole shebang.

I'm usually very, very good at maintaining the boundaries between work and my own life - when i lock the office door I lock in the day's stresses and go and have fun. The nature of work has never infringed on my life or well being before. I have carefully maintained self-care strategies (I do Capoeira and run, I meditate, I eat well, spend time with my friends, and I get lots of sleep).

The last couple of weeks have been pretty rocky for me; I ended a long-term relationship, had to ask him to move out, and have been sleeping on other people's couches ever since as he has nowhere to go until his new tenancy starts.

Last Friday night I took a call from a new caller, who had gone through a number of severely distressing events over the past year and had dealt with them (or not dealt with them, depending on how you see it) largely on her own as she felt that they were her fault (they weren't). She had self-harmed quite severely and due to our duty of care I had to call out the emergency services to find her.

She rang back on Saturday, and we had a long talk about alternatives to self-harm, coping strategies, agencies in her area that could support her if she chose to allow them to, and support structures she already had in her life but wasn't making use of. I came off the phone feeling that some progress had been made, and she thanked me before she hung up, saying the world felt bigger than it had in a long time.

Then on Sunday she rang me from a significant suicide spot in London. She was very distressed and angry and when I told her I had to contact the emergency services as I believed she was going to do herself some serious harm, she completely let rip at me. I had lied to her, wasted her time, if she jumped it would be my fault, I had no right to screw up her decisions, it was her life and she should be able to choose to end it when she wanted (that part I actually agree with), and I was no good at my job.

She hung up, and we haven't heard from her since.

This is relatively common; we often have one-off callers or those who call us in crisis and we never find out the outcome. But she was so vicious on the phone, so aggressive and desperate and in so much emotional pain, I can't get her out of my head. I've been threatened before, blamed, bullied, had things thrown at me, and I've always been able to box it up, deal with it and move forward. This one, I can't. It has only been a week, and I'm a bit wibbly emotionally now anyway, but it really has been bothering me, to the point where I'm hearing her voice in my meditation. I feel haunted, by her, and by the not-knowing, and it's starting to really bother me.

As I said, I don't think this is a specific request for one thing, but if anyone has anything insightful to offer, I'd really appreciate it.

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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Is there some councelling you could get through your job to manage this? sounds really stressful.
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Is there any way you could find out if there were any suicides at that spot recently? Knowing if she's dead or not might begin to put your mind at rest.
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi Butterflykisses,

    Did you have a debrief after this call with someone at the helpline? Helplines where staff have to deal with this type of call should have a solid debrief and support system in place for precisely this sort of situation.

    I worked on a helpline before I started at YouthNet and we were all given access to a helpline number for helpline workers/counsellors to talk about their difficulties with calls - worth checking if your manager has access to this number and can give it to you.

    It sounds like, in general, you are good at being able to maintain distance between your work and your home life - which is admirable. One possible coping technique, particularly around suicides is to try and remind yourself that sadly, this pain, anger and suicide does exist in the world whether you are there or not - but your being there has made some positive difference, however small you feel it might be.

    Try not to underestimate the impact of possible lack of sleep and difficult emotional situations in your own life - it will certainly have weakened your coping strategies around the work you do. Be gentle with yourself and perhaps try to talk to someone about it...

    And congrats on your new job!
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi Butterflykisses,

    How are you feeling today? Has it got any easier?

    *hug*
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi Fostress, thanks for your concern.

    I've spoken to her a few times this weekend; all been exhausting 1 1/2-2hr calls. She always starts out very low and by the time we hang up she's feeling better, more positive and ready to take things on.

    Then last night she called to tell me she'd made the wrong decision - outlined her plans to end her life on a particular date in a couple of months, thanked me for my time and support and hung up. It threw me a bit as she sounded far less emotive than usual; like it was a considered decision and she was cold to it.

    I've spoken to my line manager and debriefed with her, and I've done a fair bit of self-care stuff today to balance last night as it was a pretty busy one and I'm lone-working at the moment.

    Tough, but I'm fairly confident she'll call again. If she hadn't wanted help she wouldn't have called in the first place, and a couple of months is a long time when you're feeling low.
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    At the end of the day you did your job when you phoned for emergency services, imagine if you hadn't and something had happened to her. If she doesn't understand that then that's her problem, I mean she actively sought out help from calling you so what did she think you were going to do?! If she has been abusive to you or you are finding it difficult to cope with her, then I'd suggest you get another member of staff to talk to her when she calls again. You should also warn her you did have a duty of care to follow and "completely letting it rip" at you, however emotional she is, won't be tolerated.
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    BK- this post has been completly inspirational to me. You are an amazing person! the strength and compassion you have shown whilst not having body language to rely on and to have this girl be able to trust you enough to keep calling in is amazing. One day i hope to be able to contribute to services like this and eventually become a worker within mental health services.
    In londoner- you have mad skillz bruv!!
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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    skakitty wrote: »
    You are an amazing person! the strength and compassion you have shown whilst not having body language to rely on and to have this girl be able to trust you enough to keep calling in is amazing!

    :yes:

    It sounds like, despite her distressed anger in the past, she really values the help you are giving her. It's a really positive thing you have been able to offer her this support and, whatever happens, you have made things easier for her. Glad you're taking time to look after yourself as well - make sure you keep your manager in the loop about how you're coping, particularly if it's really busy at the moment and you're under pressure. Just talking it out and getting another perspective can help you take a step back from it when you leave work.
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