Ask Amy: Crisis worker feels guilty for being in crisis

April 12, 2014 

Dear Amy: I work on a crisis line, and this year I'm also in a rigorous academic program. The schedule has been incredibly isolating, and I've noticed that I'm having symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A few well-meaning friends have tried to offer me perspective. The thing is, I speak every day with people who have survived a lifetime of trauma, and I know how good I have it. Knowing this doesn't make me feel better; it just makes me feel guilty for feeling the way I do.

I'm being proactive about spending time with old friends, and I'm working with my supervisors to make my schedule more manageable. I'm also taking care of my body and creating healthy daily routines. It's helped a lot, but I still feel like I'm struggling.

I've considered seeking therapy, but I feel silly seeing a professional about isolation when I could have used that time to meet up with a friend. I also worry that they wouldn't understand why I'm struggling when I have so much to be grateful for.

— Worried

Dear Worried: It can be a gift to be reminded of all of the good things in your life, but telling someone who is struggling and depressed, "But you are so lucky! Look on the bright side!" is tantamount to saying, "Your authentic humanity is really getting in the way. Please, shut it down."

Everybody struggles. And when someone is in trouble, compassionate listening often trumps reality checks.

You must see a therapist. And the reason is simple: Healers need healing. You need to be able to deal effectively with your own sadness, isolation and depression in order to optimize your usefulness to others.

No therapist will ever judge you for having problems, but if you want, you can start every session by telling your therapist that you know how lucky you are. And once you have offered that caveat, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work. Your experience in therapy will deepen your understanding of the human condition and will be a great use of your time.

Dear Amy: Regarding "Torn," who was worried about moving five hours away from family, friends, etc. You were 100% correct. Give it a try — you have nothing to lose and all the experience to gain. I remember in an episode of "The Big Bang Theory," Leonard said he heard a man regrets more the things he didn't try than the things he did. Very true.

— Colin

Dear Colin: My mother used to say that, too. And it is so true.

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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