I used to think that Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma only happened because of the work we do until reality slapped me hard across the face.
At the time I was a single Mom to three teenage boys ages 13, 14 and 19. My sons were going through legal, school and mental health/substance abuse issues all at the same time. Daily chaos and crisis. I struggled with how to help them and how to help myself. With my physical and mental health suffering I was one hot mess and I was a “Trained Compassion Fatigue Specialist.” What a lesson life teaches you… that you really can’t help others until you help yourself.
During this time I began to experience lower back problems. As I went from doctor to doctor and from test to test, I was never asked about my stress level at home or work (the mind and body really are connected!). I ended up having two hip replacements in the span of three years. I do have arthritis but I truly believe the compassion fatigue and stress excelled the process in my body at an alarming rate.
I am better now at recognizing my compassion fatigue signs and symptoms and catching them earlier so they don’t progress. Am I perfect at it? NO. I try to do daily self-care. I am trying to say the word “no” because I know if I don’t say “no,” my body will say “no” for me.
As a recent empty nester I did one important project for myself and I don’t feel selfish or guilty about it! I created a safe private place in my home just for me… a Lady Lounge (see pictures). As a mother of three boys it was time to regain my feminine side with the color white, expensive sheets, rose bud lights, lace and books (no TV). I love it!
How do you create an environment that relieves your compassion fatigue? I'd love to see pictures of "your spaces." Feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.