It’s been a few years, but in hindsight, I realise now , what happened that day.
An early morning visit. Going well. My officer arrived for a routine check that the visit was going well and assessing any changes that required attention.
All in all, everything was good…until; having come out of visit; I am casually asked, ‘How are you?’
The sobbing started and completely took over. I just hadn’t got anymore ‘give’ within me. I was on empty.
Thankfully, the rest of that morning was consumed with great support and understanding from my officer,manager, a very good friend who at the drop of a hat, sat and just listened and the rest of the team. (Those who had to cover my visits at such short notice and those who had to re arrange them.)
After a good talk, inbetween the uncontrolled sobbing; this ‘smiling’ carer was soon off to the doctors and signed off for 10 days with the instruction of concentrating on ‘me’.
So, what was it all about?
At the time I wasn’t aware of the term ‘compassion fatigue syndrome’ . It is defined as being
the emotional state of the helping person/ care worker that becomes affected.
On a day to day basis ,and over time, it can become a struggle to function in a care giving environment which constantly presents challenges of all kinds -emotional-physical & personal.
We use empathy and open our hearts and feelings to others, and can be affected by what they are experiencing.
Over time , it can reach a point whereby the emotional fatigue affects our ability to be compassionate in all areas of our lives both personal and professional.
I want you to understand, through all of this, I felt ‘guilty’. I felt I was letting people down. I felt unsure and awkward about admitting this to myself…it’s not what carers do, right? Aren’t we meant to keep going regardless? If I have ran out of ‘care’ , will it return? What if it doesn’t? I was embarrassed.
At the time I lived happily on my own and had done for many years. I considered myself as a’chuckly homily girl’. Organised, worked hard and rested when I could. People mattered and I wanted to do all I could to help.
I had reached a point where I was exhausted yet couldn’t sleep, I became sensitive to the slightest remark, and on days off I no longer ventured out on a walk on the beach to see where it would take me.
For 10 days, I was selfish. I concentrated on ME. I sobbed,wailed, sniffled, stared blankly at everything around me and cried some more. I had to let go of all the sadness and heartache I had seen within visits over the years, grief for those I had helped and then passed on and the sadness I felt for many families going through such dark times themselves.
Once I had allowed myself to do this, I had to find a way to turn it all around. We all have our comfort zones and for me it was to include a catch up on reading, getting the guitar out, listening to music I enjoyed , plenty of sleep and rest without having to clockwatch all the time. I even stopped wearing a watch because I didn’t want to be dictated by time. It was important for me to do it all at my own pace.
Give yourself permission to take care of yourself because you are the one person you may have forgotten about.
Below is a list of symptoms you may experience. It doesn’t have to be all of them but it may be a good idea to quietly look and see if you recognise any .
SYMPTOMS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL.
• Excessive blaming
• Bottled up emotions
• Isolation from others
• Receives an unusual amount of complaints from others
• Voices excessive complaints about administrative functions
• Substance abuse used to mask feelings
• Compulsive behaviors such as overspending, overeating, gambling, sexual addictions
• Poor self-care (i.e., hygiene, appearance)
• Legal problems, indebtedness
• Reoccurrence of nightmares and flashbacks to a traumatic event
• Chronic physical ailments such as gastrointestinal problems and recurrent colds
• Apathy, sad, no longer finding activities pleasurable
• Difficulty concentrating
• Mentally and physically tired
• In denial about problems
Advisory: This has been a reflection on a personnal experience.Please seek help from your gp or professional should you have any concerns with yourself.
You have not lost your ability to care…you hold those qualities deep within your heart. xx