As a long-term caregiver, I recently learned about a condition called Compassion Fatigue. When I first heard the term I thought it was a joke but after researching I now know it is a very real condition that affects most caregivers. I quickly had to accept the fact that I, too, battle with Compassion Fatigue within my own life.
The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Both family and professional caregivers not only read this scripture but they live it out on a daily basis. Most would say, “Jessica, that’s great that caregivers are following the Word of God.” While in reality, this is the very thing that can lead to Compassion Fatigue. When we, as caregivers, focus our lives on others we can often feel that what we need or want no longer matters.
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now now called Compassion Fatigue. For family caregivers who also have a career as a caregiver in a medical setting, this can happen even faster without them realizing it is even happening.
Mother Teresa wrote in her plan to her superiors that it was MANDATORY for her nuns to take an entire year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of their care-giving work.” I am entering my 12th year as a family caregiver without even a month away from the concerns and stress of being a caregiver much less an entire year. For family caregivers, we care for the ones we love and live with. Even if I had the opportunity to get away, I wouldn’t. Even though it isn’t always easy, I would not change it for the world.
Accepting the presence of compassion fatigue in your life only serves to validate the fact that you are a deeply caring individual. For more information visit www.compassionfatigue.org. Don’t be afraid to talk with your physician about Compassion Fatigue and ways in which you can receive help.