My thoughts continued…
A few weeks ago I was at a training for my job as a Case Manager for a shelter in the Bronx. The theme of this particular training was about how to deal with the issues families in shelters face and the psychological toll it takes on them and on us as social service providers. I always had a big heart and I always felt empathy on a deep level. In addition to dealing with my client’s at the shelter I have a mother whose health has steadily declined and I struggle to pay the rent, keep food on the table, deal as best I can with my moms mental health, be the best big brother I can to provide my sister who does not live with me with resources: educational support, getting her hair done, providing clothes, and food. I wanted to go to graduate school and literally almost everyone in my social circle is in grad school. I try to maintain all of this and still try to have some semblance of a life and it is fucking hard and frustrating!
The preexisting issues I had in my life were conflated with the constant stench of sadness and despair is enough to drive me to the breaking point! At the training I was introduced to the concept of “Compassion Fatigue.” The idea behind “Compassion Fatigue” is that the secondary trauma felt by those who deal with those in duress can cause physical symptoms in the caregiver, caseworker, or second party. The official definition of “Compassion Fatigue” according to the American Institute of Stress is the “emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events.” I read over the symptoms of “Compassion Fatigue,” which may include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends,
- Loss of interest in things usually enjoyed,
- Persistent thoughts and images related to the problems of others,
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances and muscle tightness,
- Sleep disturbance, including nightmares,
Out of the 6 symptoms on the list I was suffering from 5! I never realized how much dealing with the residue of other people’s pain such as the young lady I was sweet on or my mom was taking a toll on me! I finally found the words to define how I felt and a standard definition for it! I used to blog and make music, but in the past years these things that I thoroughly enjoyed no longer brought me joy. My stomach is constantly bothering me and I can’t sleep well without a sleeping aide like Advil PM or Melatonin. I have wonderful social network that has become family to me called Ndugu and Nzinga African Rites of Passage that I see at least twice a week that I just fall back from them from time to time. When I am out having fun enjoying myself the time I’m never fully in the moment such as the time I was in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed my experience there, but the whole time I was thinking about coming back home and going back to the struggle that awaited me there. This is not living; it’s more like existing long enough to see things turn around for the better.