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I think my depression on Friday was partly due to the abuse I have to take at work and partly due to the fact that my home environment is not a refuge, but additional stress.

I work in customer service and at this time of year we're very busy. Many calls are simple; the customer needs information and/or a straightforward resolution and we end the call both satisfied with the result.

Many calls are much more complex; oftentimes both the customer and I are frustrated and disappointed that the solutions available are not optimal or even possible. However, this kind of customer is working with me and usually understands that we have optimized the solution within the possible parameters. They may start out screaming and using abusive language, but gradually, as we work on the problem, the emotional tone quiets down and the end result is accepted and understood by both parties.

But then there is the third type of call, more frequent than you might imagine. This customer is verbally abusive; often the call is just an excuse to spew venom and verbal violence on the customer service rep (me). This customer isn't looking for a resolution so much as they want a captive audience for their anger. Many of them are mentally unsound or high on drugs or alcohol; therefore, there is no way to a reasonable solution. I simply have to take it, politely as I can, often for 30 minutes or more.

And the same caller, having found a trapped victim, will call back, day after day. Day after day they will hurl insults, looking for the "button" that will get me to react. I've been called names you wouldn't believe.

I'm left with an enormous puddle of rage, furious and frustrated that there is no way to cut them off or fight back. Friday, the caller found my button. She said I didn't care. And I raised my voice and said, "Don't you DARE say that. You don't even know me." And now she can report me for raising my voice to her (never mind the fact that she screamed at me for 20 minutes straight, telling me not to interrupt her).

I do owe her a bit of thanks, though. Now I know that accusation is a "hot button" for me, I will be on the watch for it and not react verbally, though my gut will churn (Tums, please) and my blood pressure rise.

I have no solution for the rage and impotence I feel, except the knowledge that time will distance me from it and eventually it will fade away.

Until the next series of calls from the next vicious abuser.

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