Africa Mercy Ship and the Introvert's Struggle
The Africa Mercy Ship is a ship committed to reaching the unreached. The ship travels to areas where there are others in need of clean water, food, medical care and, in our opinion, Jesus. The ship's goal is to reach out and to integrate with people around the world. It can be hard for introverts to get among people while still doing their job, but it also can be just as hard to find peace and quiet to recharge our metaphorical batteries. In this update post I'll talk about the hidden struggle for several crew members, including myself.
There are millions of people world wide that suffer from mental health issues. So it makes sense that some of those people would end up on this ship. I don't know how many are diagnosed and chronic, or how many just suffer from time to time. Regardless, it is still something to be spoken about.
Burnout is the biggest problem on this ship when it comes to mental health. It isn't always work related either. On a ship like this you have very few spaces where you can adequately escape from people. Nothing is reliably available for an escape so the crew get creative with this. And no, your cabin isn't a reliable get away either. The only way to get away is to be spontaneous in the locations that you choose. Go to all of your favorite locations on board and see if they are empty and then pick the best one.
Work related burnout is also present onboard even though all departments do their best to make sure this doesn't happen. When the ship is short-staffed, like it is right now, there are people doing two or three different jobs during the day and their off hours. Not to mention those who also volunteer to run the café or the library. In our training they teach us to take care of ourselves as well as those around us. Sadly, this thought can get forgotten easily enough.
Burnout in general happens and the best and only way to help those around you suffering is to just be there for them in whatever way they need. Let me repeat that. Be there in whatever way they need you to be. That is a very important part. Everyone differs in the ways they deal with burnout. Some need to have alone time and others need quality social interaction. But I think I can say that for us introverts, we need time away from social settings which is why it's the introverts who suffer more on the ship.
It many seem odd but the entire reception team right now is comprised of introverts. All four of us are introverted and all hide away in our cabins right after our shifts are done. Some of us only need an hour but others need the rest of the day. But if we don't take this time then we suffer even more.
This past week has been very hard for myself but also for Fanny. We both have had a few conversations about burnout because we both are feeling it right now. It's hard to avoid it when we work in such a social position. We have to be friendly and outgoing when behind the desk even when we aren't feeling up to the task. People always say that receptionists are lazy and they do nothing but they don't understand just how hard it is to keep the mask on all day. We have to project the right image even when we are feeling the opposite. No matter how our days are actually going we just smile and continue to present the happy and cheerful person that we are expected to be.
What they don't know is that we are trapped at the desk for eight to nine hours with only a thirty minute lunch/ dinner break. If we need to get up and go for a walk, we walk behind the desk. If we need to use the restroom, we wait until someone can relieve us from Duty so we can skitter off for a minute. We can't leave unless someone is here and there are times when no one comes. No one shows up when we ask because they just expect someone else to do it. But we endure it all because it's our job. We deal with it all and then we head back to our cabins to recharge our metaphorical batteries. As long as we make time for that, we usually can avoid the burnout. But we have to make time for ourselves which is not always that easy.
Regardless of being an introvert and working a very social job it is still crucial that you integrate into the community anyways. Push yourself and be outgoing. It doesn't mean that you have to be that way all the time but it does mean that you need to try. Spending all your spare time by yourself will end up promoting loneliness and alienation. No one said it would be easy to live and work on a ship. Your colleagues become your family so you just need to find the balance between the different aspects of life.
A few days ago I published an article about how important community is in life on the ship. All of the principles I spoke about still ring true. Introverts just need to prioritize themselves and make time to recharge. This is something I learned for myself this week and so heed my words. If you are an introvert, make sure you prioritize your mental health but don't shy away from getting involved.
If you want to learn more about my personal life on the ship then please click the link to be taken to the home page for the #MyDay series.