I had my performance review at work a couple of weeks ago and the subject of burnout came up. I admitted I was feeling a sense of hopelessness and helplessness about my ability to help some of our clients but I didn’t think I was burnt out.
After the performance review I went on holidays so I did some research into the subject and discovered I had all the symptoms.
I was at a loss as to how to regain hope when it comes to helping people who have tried everything without getting any better.
Meanwhile a lady has been sending me regular requests for help via my consultation page on this site. She has tried everything too and nothing works. I didn’t answer her because I didn’t know what to say.
There are only so many things people can do to try and overcome mental health issues. Therapy, counselling, medications, exercise and so on can help most people but some people don’t seem to get any better no matter how many therapists they see or how much medication they take.
How do you help such people?
Burnout happens when you come to the conclusion you can’t help them and start putting up defenses against the sense of failure that you feel. You start shifting the blame from yourself to the client and this promotes cynicism and a lack of compassion.
No therapist wants to feel cynicism or to be lacking in compassion so you try even harder to whip up hope and feel compassion for these clients. Trying to force yourself not to feel what you feel just burns you out faster.
Having a break helps and, for me, it has helped but having these regular emails from this lady has kept the issue at the front of my mind.
I want to help her and I have tried several times to reply to her but I felt I had nothing to offer.
Today I was sitting outside having a smoke and pondering nothing much in particular.
We have been having a heatwave here for the past few days and I was wondering how much longer it will last.
It all seemed to come together for me. The heatwave won’t last. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing stays the same forever and that includes us.
When I was young my hair was as straight as a ruler. I did not have one kink, curl or wave anywhere on my head. That has changed over the years and now I have kinks, curls, waves and even ringlets which is the exact opposite of what I used to have.
When I was young I used to be able to wear chain store cheap rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces but, after the birth of my second child, I began to get a rash from such items. I discovered my skin chemistry had been altered by the pregnancy somehow and now I can only wear gold or silver.
If the hair on my head can change from straight to curly and even the chemical nature of my skin can alter then what else can change with the passing of time?
My reaction to medications perhaps or my ability to get the most from a therapy that didn’t work the last time I tried it?
I realise now where I can find hope for those clients. It resides in the future.
Just because a course of treatment did not work the first or second or thirty third time they tried it does not guarantee it will not work the thirty fourth time they try it!
It may not be what they want to hear and they may not believe me but the way to help those who seem hopeless is to hang on to my own hope and try to give them that.
Without hope there is nothing to motivate them to keep trying and if they don’t keep trying they can’t succeed.
It never fails to amaze me when some tired old chestnut of a saying comes to life for me because I suddenly see more to it than I did before.
“If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again” has a wisdom to it I never really saw before.