This is a special blog with contributions from everyone on the Humanizing the Headset Team.
Where do I even start? My attention span has decreased greatly. I have trouble remembering things. Large crowds and loud parties make me anxious. All the noise and the need to pay attention is distracting. I want to focus on all the conversations, not just the one going on in front of me. Makes for sensory overload. I drive home in silence on some rare occasions. Despite all that, I think I have grown more than changed. Now I am more confident; not just as a telecommunicator, but in my personal life. I do not need the approval of others, but I still know when to ask for help and listen. Trust in my partners and my instincts. I just react. I also placed more importance on my own well-being. I discovered yoga, or rediscovered a yoga for me, with power yoga. It taught me how to control my breathing. To remember work is not my number one priority, I am. To remove myself from the equation and remember it is the caller’s emergency. I spend more time with family. I turn my phone on silent at certain times. I used to be available at any second for anything work related. Now I set boundaries. I understand my limits, even if I test them from time to time. It is the only way I make mistakes and grow. - Kiersten Anders
I would say that work has changed me most by making me have no feelings toward some of the things we see on the news or that happen in everyday life. For example, a friend may tag me in a news article that they are shocked by and when I see it, I feel nothing. In conversation, I may fake it and act surprised, knowing that's the reaction they expect because I know it will be awkward if I show no feeling at all. Besides this I look at certain holidays and warm days differently. These type of days used to make me feel happy and excited, whereas now (especially if I'm working) they make me cringe. - Neva Rodriguez
First, I want to say, any change that has happened to me as being a TC, I have allowed to happen. Some of it creeps in, I know, but when I recognize it and know that it happens, if I allow it to continue, that's on me. I used to be a lot more patient with people and I struggle with that sometimes because I felt that was a strength, but it has flowed over into my personal life and I don't have time for "stupidity". I also feel like getting people to understand what we do and the schedules we work, especially family members, is difficult. So I no longer try to explain it, I just tell them how it is. I always felt like people would approach me out of the blue and just start talking to me, but after being a TC, I turned it off or blocked that part out, so I get approached very little now. In part, some of the changes that I have experienced contributed to my marriage dissolving. However, I keep working at it. I work at listening and being compassionate. I go out and have fun, I hang out with a mix of people, both job related and non-job related. I take time off whenever I can. I spend time at work, and doing work related things, but it isn't my entire existence and it certainly doesn't define me as a person anymore. I KNOW what we do is critical and important and we make a difference in so many lives, however, I am much more than a Telecommunicator. - Norm Gann
I find that I have a hard time focusing outside of work. I will start a task, become sidetracked with something, and forget about the other thing altogether. I am not that way at work though, and I think because I know there’s no risk in me forgetting about something at home that I subconsciously give it a low priority. Sometimes I really think I may have adult ADD, but that’s just one more thing I don’t really want to deal with, so I haven’t talked to my doctor about it. I have a horrible short-term memory which I think is a byproduct of me having to learn to disassociate myself with callers' emergencies after I hang up.
I have distracting social anxiety. I will map out my exit strategy in a movie theater during the previews, and mentally role play an armed robbery scenario at the grocery store. I won’t sit with my back towards an entry/exit, unless there’s someone with me that has that same mindset. I find I drink more – not to excess – but towards the end of a rather difficult shift, I look forward to that unopened bottle of wine waiting at home. I don’t handle unnecessary drama well in my personal life. I'm quick to anger from it, but I do take some pride in the fact that I'm not reactive to it.
I’m not fazed by most of the horrible things that people do anymore. While I develop a rapport and empathize with my callers, the task-oriented part of the job itself is almost robotic in that the questions I need to ask become second nature – regardless of what the caller is throwing at me. Of course, there are some calls I do require a break from afterwards, and there are sounds from calls that I won't ever escape.
Outside of work, I try to get away a lot. I try to take a nice vacation once a year, and I have a camper in Wisconsin Dells that I get to often during the warmer months. I’m typing this from there now actually, and while I recognize that I’ll probably always have some work to do while I’m away, at least I get to enjoy a change in scenery. I take time away from my phone. I have a smart watch where I get all my phone notifications, and my phone remains on silent. So, when the watch comes off, I am disconnected. Sometimes I’ll play mindless video games (ad nauseam if you ask my fiancé!) just so I can do something that doesn’t require much thought. Above all, however, I find the most peace in music. Whether it be creating it, performing it, or listening to it, it has always brought me the most joy, and helps me to destress the most. Whatever it is I am doing, there is always music playing. - Brendhan Sears
Dispatching has affected my life in both negative and positive ways. More negative than positive, it seems lately. In fact, just today, I was told that I needed to pretend I was at work when I’m at home because I’m more calm while I’m working. That stung. I do find that I am more short-tempered at home. I have 4 kids ages 12,10,8 and almost 4 along with my husband and his mom, a dog and multiple fish, lizards and a couple of snakes. I was told that I use household tasks as a way to “check out” of whatever is happening at home. I don’t see it that way, but maybe since others do, I should work on that. I’m told that I’m passive aggressive as well. Perhaps that is a coping mechanism I’ve developed while working this job, too. Honestly, some days I feel like I’ve given all I have to my job and when I get home, I’m tapped out. And that’s not fair to my family.
I don’t drink or smoke. I don’t like not feeling in control of myself. I don’t like feeling like I can’t help in an emergency. I eat too much and exercise too little. I have some health issues that I’m sure would be somewhat alleviated by working toward healthier habits.
On the brighter side of things, I feel like I have learned how to be more compassionate toward callers, more empathetic. Understanding that their emergency is not MY emergency, thus making it easier for me to dissociate myself from their trauma. - Cori Johnson
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