As some of you may have known, this was my first week as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line. I’ve completed 34 hours of training over 6 weeks and officially became a certified crisis counselor. Over the next year (and hopefully beyond), I will be spending a minimum of 4 hours a week responding to the texters who text into the CTL, listening and supporting them through their crisis. This can be anything from bullying, stress about finals, suicide, abuse, and more. This service was started so that you don’t have to call a hotline and talk to someone, which can be nerve-wracking, but instead, text them, which can be much less stressful.
Leading up to this week, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to start talking with texters and supporting them through their crises. In the hours before my first shift, I was downright terrified. My thoughts were racing: “what if I say the wrong thing and make it worse?” “what if I mess up using the platform?” “what if I’m not good enough and my supervisor fires me?” “what if I’m triggered and can’t help the texter?” … the thoughts went on and on. When it was time for me to log in, I was shaking from nerves. My supervisor was very supportive, and I was able to jump right in. For confidentiality reasons, I cannot share the nature of the conversations I had, but today I’m going to talk about my emotions as I went through my first hours of counseling.
Everything I heard while in training was right, as a counselor, you really do save lives, and let me tell you, it feels pretty great. I was so pumped up after helping my first few texters, I ended up working 5 hours straight instead of just 2 on my first shift. I’ve always known this was my passion in life. Earlier this week, my best friend reminded me that back when I was my sickest mentally, I still talked about how I couldn’t wait to be able to use my story and experiences to help others. Being able to live out that passion is pretty spectacular. But I quickly learned it isn’t all cake and roses.
I knew this was going to be difficult. I knew I might be triggered. I knew that it was going to drain me emotionally and mentally. But nothing can prepare you for the real experiences. Nothing prepares you for the unknowns. The people who when you end the conversation, you don’t know if they’ll be safe tonight. Nothing prepares you for the people who never text you back. And there’s the fact that there is nothing you can do about it. You did what you could. You probably even did your best. You’re helpless… even as a trained counselor, you couldn’t do it. I found myself thinking it was my fault. The “if only”s raced through my head and my heart. I held all the guilt and put it on myself. I failed. The fulfillment and the adrenaline were gone. I felt empty. I wanted to cry. Nothing could have prepared me for this.
I spent all of today shaken over the unknowns of last night’s shift. I could barely get out of bed this afternoon. My nightmares completely overcame me when I drifted off to sleep watching TV. I was practicing a lot of self-care last night after my shift. I drank tea, I snuggled my bunny and got lots of kisses. I meditated and watched my favorite movie while surrounded by my favorite stuffed animals. It still wasn’t enough. I was so wired I didn’t get to bed until 5 am I got out of the house today and met a dear friend at Barnes and Noble… and was an hour late. All I could think about when I was there was how much I needed to write… and how I wish it was easier for me to settle in with a good book. The second I got home I fell asleep again…. only to be met with more nightmares. It’s been clear to me that I am certainly an empath, and it was very apparent today.
This was only my first week. I have a lifetime to get it right. I’ll continue the mantra that I’ve done what I can. I’ll sing about how this is my calling in life. I’ll talk to my animals about the difficulties I faced during my shift. But most importantly, I’m going to persevere and continue to change lives both as a counselor and in my own life.
I can do this.
If you’re in need of help, know there is someone who is always there to listen. Text HELP to 741-741 or message the Crisis Text Line on Facebook.