Friday, 19 June 2009

a difficult decision

for the past 2 1/2 years, on and off, i've been a volunteer on a rape crisis helpline. on and off, because when projects got too crazy at work, and i had classes and papers too, i couldn't do the line as well. when i first started, i knew i wanted to do something, but i was really scared by the idea of answering calls on the helpline. the training was excellent, though, and i got over my fear, and for the most part i enjoyed volunteering. lots of our callers ring regularly, and you get to know them. sometimes i knew i was able to give information that people needed, and that felt right. and i believe women (this line is women-only - staff, counselors, volunteers are all women) need all the support they can get, especially in dealing with issues like sexual abuse and rape, where open dialogue is often not possible for a number of reasons.

a lot of our more recent volunteers are trained, or training as counselors themselves. hearing them on the line, it seems like they know just what to say. they are a different breed. i'm not all together sure i actually like them sometimes - there's a coldness somewhere i can't quite put my finger on. i never saw myself as a counselor type - in fact, when i found out that was what the helpline was, i thought, uh oh - not for me. maybe i was right.

for the last few months, i've been feeling increasingly uncomfortable on the line. i feel, at the core of it, that i can't offer anything. helpless. i have nothing in me to draw upon - and i can't pretend that i have any idea of anything - a futility of knowledge. a plaster (band-aid) on a sawed-off limb. one of the things that helped me overcome my fear at the beginning was knowing that we were not trained counselors, we were volunteers, and our job was to listen. this now feels really inadequate. i feel like i may have come to the end of my psychic availability, if that makes any sense.

i explained this to my friend j, who is a psychologist. she said people burn out, and that 2 1/2 years is a long time. she's subtle, isn't she?!

so i decided to quit, and that tonight would be my last time. and i felt relieved, which i took as a sign that it was the right thing to do. but then tonight, on the line, i just felt really guilty. all the empty spaces in the "july" rota, the nights that the line hasn't been open because a volunteer couldn't make it, or we just didn't have enough volunteers to fill the rota. am i being selfish? is an incompetent volunteer better than no volunteer at all?

i thought maybe i could offer to do something else - like write a monthly newsletter for all of the volunteers so we/they would feel more connected and up to date on issues, law, etc.

i really don't want to do it anymore. and i feel really bad and really guilty about not wanting to do it anymore.


Geosomin said...

If you don't want to do it, then don't. You're not the kind of person to just walk away from things...and people really do get burnt out on those kind of help lines. But don't stop because you feel you aren't good enough - if you weren't you wouldn't be there. And sometimes "trained" counsellors don't listen in the same way us regular people do.
Maybe take a year and stop and see if you want to go back to it? Being there if you don't want to is not the solution...maybe you could help them in other ways instead like you thought...