As I travel this current journey of mine, trying to support and educate others about compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, I have to keep looking back. I have to look to the times and event that lead me to here in order for me to support others.
How did I get here? When I left my job in social services after 21 years, I was managing really well. I was very in tune with my needs and had spent the previous 2 years putting many supports in place for myself. So if things were better why did I still say I had CF and how come I still felt I had to leave my job?
I spent the last three months in my job asking those questions. I wanted to stay for security reasons. I wanted to stay for social reasons. I wanted to stay for family reasons. If my symptoms were managed why could I not shake the deep knowing I had to leave? My best analysis goes back to the description of the issues being cumulative. I hadn't taken in the trauma and crises of clients as I used to. I scheduled my day as carefully as I could to protect myself and to be the best caseworker I could be. I took long walks at breaks and lunch. I prepared myself and my environment for difficult situations. I developed a strong support system in my workplace. That said, none of that changed what I had literally inhaled from my work the previous 20 years.
There was a time when we ran to each other to tell stories of what we had heard and experienced. Somewhere along the way that stopped and we just held it within ourselves.
The difficult cases I had were just cases. They happened on top of supervisory issues, union issues, co-worker issues, policy and procedure issues. Somewhere on my path I just learned to carry it. It was part of our day and we didn't really see the seriousness of the need of others and the impact on ourselves. I am not proud of this shift. I am proud of the shift I made back again, toward understanding compassion fatigue and working on my skills to be more giving and present to my clients, but some of the damage to me was done. There was no changing that.
My job had hurt me. When I finally learned that and put the necessary pieces in place and started to educate others, I felt somewhat whole again. I knew I could slip back into having symptoms of cf and vt much quicker and I didn't want that to happen. I had become hyper vigilant about protecting myself. My front line work was over. I'm know others can put the right tools and supports in place to stay where they are, and I am helping people do that. It just wasn't possible for me. I hope my story might help you take a second look at where you are and what you need to do.