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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Does ten years make me an expert?

Or just tired?

I think I'm reaching the end of my tether with domestic violence. I guess it's important to know when to quit. The problem is, I really like my job, I need the extra few dollars a month, and it's not 100% always like this.

I took a "crisis" call from someone who just needed to talk. Generally, I have no problem with those calls, and enjoy them usually. It's extremely gratifying to be able to be maybe the first person a caller has ever heard "I believe you; I support you" from, and to be able to give resources and foster empowerment. But this person was really needy, and immediately asked for my name (I can never think fast enough on my feet to make up a name--which I really feel more comfortable doing), and then kept saying, "Ellie, tell me what to do. Ellie, what should I do, Ellie?" She didn't accept my "I'm not here to tell you what to do; I'm here to discuss options with you." She talked without breathing, like she never had any opportunity to talk and felt like she needed to get everything out at once.

Names have power. That's why I try to use them on the phone if the caller tells me hers. I have a very hard time when someone unknown uses mine.

I tried talking about options. I tried, "what do you feel like you are ready to do?" I tried discussing safety plans, and then the guy she's calling about came home. I told her to make sure she's safe, and call me back, but she insisted on continuing our conversation, no matter how much I tried to make her realize this was a terrible idea. "Don't leave me, Ellie!"

And so I had a hard time caring whether years of emotional abuse had rendered her manipulative and needy, or if that was her natural personality. I just knew I needed to get her off the phone before the conversation went on for hours. (Honestly, I had that reaction about 30 seconds into the call, and it took half an hour to wrap things up.)

I feel supreme guilt and shame, and try to tell myself that I've been in the field long enough to discern someone who is immediate need or danger, and someone who just needs to open her mouth, regardless of who is on the receiving end, and my role is to help the former.

But still. Maybe I've been doing this work for far too long.



Blogger Suzanne said...

You have far more patience than I, especially when the person is just being needy... At least, in your field, it is wide open to chose from, as there are plenty of people in need.

If I don't want someone to use my name, I'll usually use a name that I've been mistaken for in the past...like in NY, when someone in Queens walked up to me and thought I was Rosella. Or names I used in Spanish class, or my favorite, Walnice (Val-knee-see) which is Portugese for something boring, but sounded more interesting in Portugese. Or just Catherine. If I know someone is going to call me that, I'll turn around.

5:00 PM  

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