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Tales From the Crisis Hotline, part 1

July 26, 2018

I had a call where I talked to someone in real danger for over an hour and felt like I made a real difference. I probably saved the person’s life. It was intense. I was passionate and convincing and honest. The person was reticent at first, not open to communication, but I managed to get through the tough, stoic facade and helped them open up. I helped them be open about their vulnerability, something that they might not have been able to ever do before. And I told them it’s okay. I caused the person look at themselves and the world a little differently. These are the calls I’m the most grateful for, the moments that I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. I’m making a difference in someone’s life and it helps me be a better person, too.

But it’s also incredibly draining. It’s a lot of emotional labor. And once I have a really good, successful call like this, I can’t stop. I have to keep taking calls. Most of them probably aren’t going to be that important. But some of them might be. And I’m spent. I’m emotionally drained. If I get another call, I’m not going to be that helpful. And maybe it’s going to be someone else who needs help equally badly, and I won’t be able to spend the same amount of effort on them. Maybe that person would die because of me.

Needing to be “on” all the time isn’t sustainable, for anyone. If I were a therapist, I would be able to take some time to collect my thoughts and decompress before the next client. And I would know how many people I’m going to talk to that day, and how long each session would be, and I could prepare myself accordingly. But I’m not. I took my hour lunch break, but after that it was just right back on the phone. An equally urgent call could come in anytime even as I’m writing this, and it’s terrifying. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this.


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