When one embarks on a career providing mental health crisis support services, there are plenty of warnings. Most of them are to do with self-care and boundaries. And for the most part, I am pretty good at sticking to the safe side of the boundaries. I use my own support services to debrief and supervise. I set limits on what I can do for people. I have my tried and true strategies for self-care.
One of my self-care routines is driving. I love to drive alone. The commute between home and office is an important part of my self-care. I talk to my imaginary audience - a client, a friend, an interviewer, the characters in a story. I replay conversations, discuss the conversations. It's my own private therapy session, and the therapist always says exactly the right thing. In fact the only time I had a bad reaction was that one time my husband drove me home. Without my alone time I didn't process that shift properly, and it hung around for days.
Recently I drove for two days to reach my friend in crisis. I stayed a few days, and drove another two days home. Not a long trip, but I had to get back for my son's birthday.
I thought the drive would be long enough.
Twenty minutes between the office and home has always been enough. No matter the trauma and tragedy, twenty minutes is enough to process it and be singing before I reach my driveway.
I did a lot of singing.
I don't know how long I would need to drive for this one. I broke every rule. There were no boundaries, no barriers. It isn't over yet.
It's different when it's personal. This isn't a client. It isn't even a friend, not in the usual sense. I didn't hold my clients when they were a few hours old. I didn't pick my friends up from school, juggling car seats and strollers and more children than I'm used to.
I usually talk with adults. I usually say things like, "Okay, I'm really worried. Can we make a plan to keep you safe?" No matter the crisis, an adult controls their own destiny. I can help them make choices, I can help them work out what they need to do.
I have never before said, "I'm going to do whatever I have to do to keep you safe. You did your job by telling me. Now I'm going to do my job as the adult, by keeping you safe."