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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
reasons why 
29th-Jul-2011 04:22 pm
Katchoo - Terry Moore
There are actually a bunch of reasons I left BARCC. Some aren't public yet because I'm still waiting for resolution on a few things. Some may not become public. Some of it I'm still figuring out.

The thing I've been most public about is that it was bad for my physical health - that I just purely didn't have enough spoons to maintain a five-day-a-week job with commute. And already my theories about that have proven out. I mean, having bronchitis was a bump in the road, certainly. But aside from when I was down hard with that, I've had a lot more energy, I've been sleeping better and more consistently - and aside from the worst days of the bronchitis, I have not required an afternoon nap at all. Which is huge. My available time and energy hasn't just doubled, it's maybe tripled. So that's awesome.

One of the things about the job that was always difficult for me: I have a specific skillset. I have things that I kick ass at, frankly. I'm really good at connecting to people face-to-face, and at the education and social change aspects of the work. I am not exaggerating when I say that I really do have special skill at that.

And the job wasn't that. It was admin and organization. Which I'm also very good at, mind. But a lot of people are very good at that. In the job, I wasn't getting to do the things I'm best at, which happen to be things that fewer people are good at, and that therefore I find a more valuable use of my time and energy. I've had people say "I can't believe they had you doing admin work!", and, well, that was the job I applied for. There was no bait and switch there. But the way the description was written and the way I thought it was presented to me implied a lot more community outreach and education, and the actual job was almost none of that. That's a thing I hope they correct in the job description.

The other thing that wasn't in the job description and didn't get stated in the interview? This is a receptionist position. What I was told was that the phone rings through the office and whoever can grab it first grabs it; the actual job = I was supposed to answer every time, and if I couldn't get it in three rings, it'd ring through the office.

Now, I hate telephones anyway. I really, really need to have body language and facial expressions in conversations. I'm awkward on the phone. I don't hear well in some ranges, I stutter, I'm slow to catch on to stuff, and I just don't do it well. Inability to communicate on the phone is maybe the price I pay for my Power of Social Justice Persuasion.

Also of note: When I applied to volunteer at BARCC, I considered medical advocacy and community awareness and prevention services (CAPS). I settled on CAPS because my body was still very unreliable at the time, and I couldn't commit to up to 8 hours in a hospital, but I could commit to doing a two-hour workshop. The one volunteer position I never considered? Hotline. Again, me and phones - this is a known thing. And I'm really good in in-person crisis situations, but I'm just all-around terrible on the phone.

Very frequently, people would call our office with what we called hotline-type calls. Either because they Googled and found the office number instead of the hotline number, or because they were existing clients, or whatever. Also, people would call the office to make counseling appointments, and often those would turn into hotline-type calls; we don't ask for details in the appointment-making process, but sometimes they pour out. And that's okay. Except that that left me shaking. You don't know the kind of calls we get, unless you've done RCC work. You just do not know. You cannot imagine. And I'm not going to tell you, because a) confidentiality and b) I don't want to give you nightmares. But suffice to say there was some horrifying stuff. I just - you are going to have to believe me on this. Secondary trauma. It's a thing.

I carry these things with me. I carry the stories home. The details are engraved in me.

This isn't a way to handle this. I was not handling this. I was coming home and collapsing.

That job requires someone of a different temperament. What they need in that job is the sort of person who'd choose to work the hotline, because that is part of what that job is. There are people who are amazing at hotline and who are able to hear, help, and put that story away and go about their day. I'm not one of them.

The usual hotline shift is eight hours a week. One eight-hour shift once a week.

I was on a 20-hour-a-week, 5-day-a-week hotline shift for a year and a half.

This was really, really bad for me.

I don't have a pithy conclusion to this post. Really, this particular realization came to me only Wednesday; there were so many work-related stressors that I wasn't seeing clearly anymore, and I'm just now sorting them out. But this was a big one.

I am tremendously grateful that Adam was so supportive about me leaving the job. If I hadn't known he'd be okay with it, if I hadn't felt safe in that, I would have kept pushing myself. And I was already breaking.
29th-Jul-2011 08:37 pm (UTC) - *hugs*
I am glad that you are taking care of you and that in the long run this is the better path for you.

Good luck with it. Hang in there, Hon.
29th-Jul-2011 10:13 pm (UTC)
The 5 days/week taking too many spoons is one I can utterly identify with. It's why I never tried to have my practice open 5days/week (well, also the secondary trauma thing a little too, not remotely to the same degree, but my profession has a *high* burnout rate & I was trying to prevent that) and why I consider dropping down to 3days/week every so often. I think the only reason I can manage my official 4 days/week is because I can usually sneak 20-30min to lie down on the massage table mid-day. I've been coming to the conclusion of late that the only way for someone w/chronic illness can work sustainably is to work for oneself -- where you can set the hours & control the environment.

And it sounds like the environment was a zillion times wrong for you and pretty completely out of your control. I'm glad you're out of it & recovering.
29th-Jul-2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
I know people who burned out on phones by working customer service or tech support. That's a LOT more mundane than hotline-style things, and it's still hard.

Taking care of yourself is a good thing.

30th-Jul-2011 12:06 am (UTC)
Unrelated: I like your icon.
30th-Jul-2011 01:14 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're doing what you need to not to break. I have every confidence that you'll find a different way to wield your awesome power in the world, one that gets more results without taking as much out of you. 'Cause you're amazing like that.
30th-Jul-2011 01:34 am (UTC)
My goal? To write the book I've been wanting to write about dismantling rape culture in your spare time. :)
30th-Jul-2011 01:15 am (UTC)
There's a lot to be said for taking care of yourself. Help where you can, when you can - you already practice this.
30th-Jul-2011 02:10 am (UTC)
Yes. Secondary trauma is a thing. Oh yes.

Good to hear you're taking care of yourself.
30th-Jul-2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
Hotline work is horrible: it's a million needles waiting to be pushed into your soul every time the phone rings. We know the ocean's always there, but still we can drown in the roar. Getting away is the right choice.
2nd-Aug-2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
1st-Aug-2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
My boss has done trainings and stuff on Vicarious Trauma - some of the resources he's used include The Headington Institute. If you want any other information, let me know. He's got some handouts on coping and managing secondary/vicarious trauma that I can send over.
2nd-Aug-2011 12:57 am (UTC)
Thank you!
11th-Aug-2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
Aww heck. Bravo for being strong so long; and bravo for the things you did on the job that were wonderful services, like all the volunteers you trained and all the people I am sure you helped in those phone calls; and I hope you get to do further wonderful things for BARCC as a volunteer. But that would have broken me.

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