“i’m a therapist. i should be able to figure this out.” how many times have i had that thought?
my spirit isn’t quite as light as it used to be. i don’t (genuinely) smile as much as i used to. belly laughs are infrequent. i haven’t had a core group of friends that i see on a regular basis since i left dc years ago. my family tells me that i’m “too serious.” (they are right.) i’m much more critical of myself than i used to be. i look in the mirror and can see that my countenance has changed. i have far too many sleepless nights. i have dealt with more (actively) suicidal clients in the last nine (9) months than i have in my entire career as a therapist. my spirit is exhausted. i have been perpetually tired and withdrawing from relationships because i have nothing left to give. i need space and quiet all the time. all the time. i forgot to save some of me for me. this didn’t happen all at once. it snuck up on me. i woke up one day feeling anxious, inadequate and overwhelmed where once i felt confident, competent and fearless. it’s a mess. a mess that can be changed, but a mess nonetheless. time to clean up.
i attended a professional development training about compassion fatigue that resonated with me and validated my experiences. it provided a context for many of the feelings and experiences i described above and articulated the weight it has had on my psyche. i underestimated what a relief it would be to have a name for this. the speaker referenced this quote, “the expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.” an impossible task, but we can use our umbrella, rain coat and galoshes. a strong social support system, regular laughter, sleep, exercise, and being grounded in faith are my protective factors for living well while working as a trauma therapist.
“that which is to give light must endure burning.” ~victor frankel
i endured the burning successfully in the past and i can do it again. it is worth it when done correctly. the training was a tangible reminder of the importance of this project. there really is beauty in the breakdown.