Ah god, I’ve given too much of myself this week I think. And by week, I mean the past 9 days since I don’t exist on a conventional weekly calendar system anymore. Ho hum.
I usually pride myself on being pretty hardy. A Series of Unfortunate Events, several series in fact, across my life have taught me how to look after myself and I find usually I can intuitively give myself what I need, and then some. But this past run of shifts has been extra difficult, and I feel emotionally drained. This is a new feeling, as I don’t usually get that ‘compassion fatigue’ you read about. But today, when I just could not keep my mind from wandering when I had a hysterically weeping, desperate lady on the end of my phone… yep there we go, I think my compassion is well and truly tired out.
Why? In the context of a team where I find a not-insignificant proportion of the members to be punitive, unkind, and slapdash, I end up covering their gaps. I do this because I want to, and because I can, but I also am aware I find it hard to say no and I’m not very good at drawing lines. I’ve gained myself the reputation of a) being good at my job (this is good), and b) being good at everyone else’s job too (this is less good), I get dumped with work that shouldn’t really be mine. We should be sharing equally. But I say yes, anyway, because I have faith in myself to do a good, or at least well-intentioned, job. Maybe tomorrow when someone says ‘d0 you mind just popping down to see so and so’ I should just say no. I also feel like I am fighting people’s corner constantly, which is actually so tiring (good job, lawyers, it ain’t easy). In meetings I’m tempering multiple mean remarks about people who are in terrible pain, and trying to say ‘believe it or not, they probably aren’t self harming just to spite you’: this leaves me feeling battered. I’m not very good at confrontation in any situation, and so I find this emotionally and socially difficult to cope with. This all sounds dramatic and paints me in the light of being some kind of crisis team hero: I’m really not. When shifts are staffed with the positive, compassionate half of the team it’s a walk in the park. I’ve just had a run of shifts where this hasn’t been the case; and I’m not afraid to call out some caring ‘professionals’ for what they are: not professional nor caring.
In the context of a city full of social pain, as a crisis service who accepts everybody, I feel I have to cover the gaps our cruel government leaves gaping open. The person who would probably be feeling a lot better if the DWP didn’t keep declaring him fit to work when he really isn’t? Sure, I’ll sit with you and do your claim forms, the appeal forms, all while hearing your painful life stories. The ‘illegal immigrant’ who is so, so traumatised by what happened to him (as a result of us getting involved in) his country? He’s never going to access long-term mental health services in the UK because he isn’t meant to be here. So I will sit here, and try to absorb some of your sadness, and try to help you know you are worthy and you are not to blame and you are not bad. The woman who’s children who have been taken from her because she couldn’t stop taking drugs because her ex partner couldn’t treat her like a human? I guess I’ll sit with you, too, and try not to cry myself when I think of my mum in your situation*. I know I can’t solve things, I know no one person can. Believe me, my ‘rescue complex’ buzzers are beeping so loudly right now. It’s extra difficult because at this career stage, what I can do is limited. I’d never step outside of these competency limits because that would be unsafe, but it does feel a bit helpless: what am I actually doing?
This is such a woe-is-me, self-indulgent rant but I’m feeling sad and tired. Time to go eat some nice food and go for a long radio-4 fuelled drive I think, time for me. I’ll bounce back, but I don’t think it would be human to do this work without having days like this where I feel angry, sad, and a bit useless. Such is life 🙂
I also haven’t proof read this – I have ice cream to attend to – so excuse any typos in amongst the tenuously related brain vomit. xx
*These are all – of course – created characters. An amalgamation of different people, situations, and problems I and others have encountered.