No Drama Please

Of the many adjustments required as we age, one I did not anticipate has emerged as a result of coworkers taking time off for the seasonal holidays. In particular, a behavioral health care coordinator (BHCC) with whom I work closely has been on vacation since before Christmas, and won’t return until after New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, one of the clients we coordinate to assist has been in crisis, suicidal and starting to misuse drugs. I have done what I can to support his immediate family members who are the ones actively intervening to divert his self harm. He seems to be headed for inpatient assistance, and I did find another contact person for his family to call if they need further help while I in my turn take the next few days off.

In years past I have had a counseling license, and supported myself at times with a private clientele about evenly divided between couples unable to communicate about their incompatibilities, and men with anger issues. From the feedback I received, I was an effective practitioner, and I found the work rewarding. I learned much that has been useful to me in my subsequent years working in home health, and now as a care coordinator for a managed care organization. I even thought about applying to work for the behavioral health component of the organization. Something held me back – and now I think I know what that something is.

Age.

Not that I’m too old to do the job, which is no more demanding than my own. In fact the  BHCCs have smaller caseloads, more paid vacation, and the same working hours as I do, so the capacity of my older body to see the work week through might well be less stressed by a BH caseload. That’s not the issue.

While I don’t agree that getting older means getting more conservative, I do see in myself a subtle shift in values that can perhaps best be described as less engaged with the drama of others’ lives. For those who seek help, I am ready to provide supports, encouragement, instruction, empowerment and accompaniment if that is needed. I don’t expect immediate success nor do I limit the number of repeats necessary or the amount of time allowed to achieve progress, however minimal, toward the client’s stated goals. What I used to also offer was intervention when misunderstandings escalated into high drama, persistent redirection when drug use became a burden, and a generally more receptive involvement with the ups and downs of my clients.

No more.

In one of several descriptions of the stages of life, the later years are said to be dominated by contemplation. Whether reviewing one’s own life, or reflecting on the state of society, older people are perceived to be thinkers more than doers. Pragmatically, we’ve learned the often negative consequences of impulsive, reactive behavior. We see benefit in giving reasoned responses and we know that few important decisions need to be made “right here, right now.” Which is not to say that we procrastinate (though some of us may do so), nor that we resist acting promptly, in a timely manner, to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. But we do so with forethought, and at least in my case, with a degree of detachment from the decision.

Perhaps what I’m trying to express is simply that few things that arise strike me as dire and in need of immediate action. Few things, equally, are apt to cause my world to collapse around me, if my decision turns out to be faulty. As a consequence, I apparently also prefer not to be unduly engaged , at this point in my life, with people for whom every decision is fraught with high drama. I care about, but do not fear, outcomes. I am confident that if things don’t work out as I hoped, I will not only survive but appreciate the different direction my life goes as a result of the unexpected outcome.

This preference definitely carries over into my work; I don’t wish to engage much with people in the midst of high drama, panicking over decisions that may seem, but seldom are, life threatening. Ergo, I would not do well with a caseload of clients with such mental instability that they need care coordination to get through the basics of their daily lives. My own clients need care coordination as well, but primarily to help them access supports for their physical shortcomings. I am occasionally called on for counseling on how to accept new physical limitations, plan for end of life, or adapt to new and frightening diagnoses. That is a type of mental/emotional support I still feel easily able to provide.

Without this past week’s experience, I might not have recognized my shift in perspective. I do know that I don’t want emotional tension in my life now. I used to live with a degree of dramatic stress which I would now find totally exhausting. Loss of energy with age? Loss of patience with false intensity of feeling? Or gain in understanding and perspective, with an accompanying gain in ability to express and manifest my preferences?

Whatever the underlying reason for my shift in preferences, I’m glad to recognize them and know that I have the capacity to implement them in both my personal and my work life.

Now, I wonder what previously unconscious inclinations, habits, tendencies and preferences will be revealed to me in the new year? I look forward to finding out.

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Standing Proudly

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3 Responses to “No Drama Please”

  1. Therapist In McKinney Texas Says:

    Hello everybody, here every one is sharing these knowledge, thus it’s nice
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  2. Ronald Maltais Says:

    A very thoughtful essay which reflects on some of my own concerns as I prepare for a new chapter in my professional career. The ability to invest in the care of others takes enormous energy, and it’s good to be reminded by this author of the importance of maintaining a proper and healthier balance in our own lives. The well can indeed run dry.

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