I began my second day of counseling in the same manner as I did yesterday: I returned calls, asked for additional information, and then talked to my supervisor before I gave the callers information. So far, so good.
In the late afternoon, I took my first Priority 0 call. A call denoted 0 means that the caller is facing an emergency situation in which she is facing real danger.
I knew before I returned the woman’s call, this would be a hard conversation. I perhaps, however, underestimated the difficulty. As the caller’s story unfolded, it got worse and worse and worse. I’m not sure what part got to me more: the fact that the justice system had failed this woman time and time again or her quiet dignity when talking to me about the whole terrible situation. She was so grateful that I was even willing to listen to her story.
As I scribbled a note asking for help and passed it to the Telephone Counselor sitting next to me, the WLP staff sprung into action looking for resources for my caller.
Once I got off the phone, I realized that I had a huge surge of adrenaline. I was angry at everyone and every institution that had failed our caller. I was upset by the caller’s story. I felt that the responses I gave to the woman’s questions could never be sufficient. When she asked me why the justice system had failed her, I hardly had the heart to tell her what she already knew: this is sometimes just the way things work out. It is not right, but it is the way it is.
Hopefully, what we told the caller will help her ameliorate her problems. Maybe it won’t, but the best I can do is hope it will.
(After reading my post, my supervisor responded by saying that my “having listened and devoted so much time to this caller may be the one beacon of light in her darkness; it surely helped her to feel a little bit better. We hear this time and time again from callers. They feel less alone after talking to our counselors.” As well as making me feel better, I think her words reminded me that an important part of this job is to simply stand witness to our callers’ struggles and let them know that someone hears them.)