Our helpline officer, Uschi, opens up about what it’s really like working on a helpline.
Every call tells a different story, but there is one common thread: epilepsy.
People phone because they struggle with medication side effects; they’ve been told to give up their driving licence; they’ve lost their job because of their epilepsy; they sometimes question a diagnosis of epilepsy; they are struggling financially and wonder if they can apply for any benefits; they may feel suicidal; they can’t get hold of their neurologist; or they feel their child is not getting enough support at school.
Many callers start off with a straightforward question or request for a publication. This is often a way for them to see if they want to talk to me if they feel they can trust me.
I completely understand this. It’s not always easy to open up to anyone, but a stranger listening to you can be powerful. And the good thing about talking to a stranger is that the caller does not need to worry about my reactions and how I feel.
I always try and listen with an open mind, compassion, and empathy.
Importance of self-care
When you take calls of this nature, self-care is so important.
To be a good helpline officer means taking time out after a difficult call, tuning into yourself, and noticing what comes up for you.
Ignoring how a call may affect you stores up problems and may get in the way of effective listening.
That’s why we also have non-managerial supervision with a psychotherapist who will tease out what’s going on for us and help us deal with our own issues.
When I started this job 15 years ago, I had no idea what it would be like. I learned on the job, did a counselling skills course, learned suicide intervention skills, and fully immersed myself in the job.
I feel humbled by the trust people show me when they literally invite me into their lives, when they let me bear witness to their struggles and challenges.
I never want to lose that feeling of humility, it’s what keeps me going. Sometimes, I might feel exhausted at the end of a busy day on the helpline. But I never want to give up.
I can’t think of anything more rewarding. I really do have the best job in the world.
Our Helpline is open to anyone who has questions about epilepsy or needs guidance to find the right support for them.
It is free and confidential and is open Monday – Friday, 10am to 4:30pm (excluding some public holidays). Call us today on 0808 800 2200.