Feeling the Burn(out)

Unchecked, this type of “professional depression” can not only affect you at work, but in all areas of your life. Fighting burnout is a critical survival skill for a police officer that is often overlooked.

Seven days underpaid, gotta give it up;
Got no time for this life that I'm livin' up;
Shackled down, kicked around, now slave to the grind;
Need some time for myself.

Lyrics from “Not Enough” by 3 Doors Down 

Ever feel like this? 

I do!  I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.  Mike always knows when this is happening to me because he will get into my car and find the radio tuned in and turned (way) on grungy, raw, alternative rock that goes to really dark place (like my beloved 3 Doors Down does so well!).  He also knows when he hears this that my job is taking a toll on me emotionally, and the intensity of my clientele is challenging, angry, and conflictual with issues that are heavy.  When work gets deep I need a release and I often find this in music that reflects the emotions I am taking on.

It can be very energizing at times but also challenging, draining, sometimes painful and often hard on me to be a professional psychotherapist.  Everything I do is behind closed doors for ethical and legal reasons.  It is always about the people in my office and I am taught to leave my personal self outside the walls of my office, so it always means being in a good mood, focused, and ready to concentrate on the person or couple in front of me.  “You’re job is easy… all you have to do is listen to people talk all day” is what some may think, but try listening to a person who is in crisis for 45 minutes, remembering every important detail, keeping it all about them, guiding them through the emotions so that they can have a cathartic release that prompts personal insight and healing, and pointing out how their thought process may be hurting them.  This, in essence is what I repeat every hour up to 10 times a day and every time my client feels, I feel right along with them

Now I am a seasoned professional, a veteran since 1990 in a career that, according to the NASW (National Association of Social Workers), the average practitioner will leave after only 10 years & 2 months.  I know how to detach from my emotions and leave them behind.  Every night I close my office door and lock it; the locking of the door symbolizes in my mind, body, and soul to also leave what happens behind that door behind it.  I am trained not to let it affect me and I am legally bound to not talk about it.  It is a career built upon silence as my profession holds confidentiality and respect for the client as sacred.  It is preeminent in our code of ethics and it is a value we willingly fight to maintain.  We gladly are the keepers of our clients’ secrets.

However, today I woke up and realized I am experiencing burnout.  I know this because I am dragging emotionally and physically.  Being around people in my personal life is off putting and takes more energy than normal.  I don’t want to hear anything negative from anyone.  I’ve heard enough.  Instead I would rather seek solitude in a good book, take many walks with the rescue pup Wilson, or just putz around the house.  I do not want to put myself in the position of anyone in my personal world telling me about what is troubling them or seeking advice, or in any position where someone needs something from me emotionally.  I listen all day as a professional and sometimes just don’t have the capacity to listen to one more thing.  I am literally full and have nothing more to give to anyone, not even myself because I am giving too much as a professional caretaker of others.

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