Before becoming a therapist, the term ‘compassion fatigue’ was unknown to me. It seems self-explanatory: exhaustion as a result of caring for the critical needs of one or more persons over a long period of time. Obviously, it can happen to anyone; a relative, a close friend or a professional. When it does, it is easy to see that compassion fatigue can lead to other problems, such as feeling helpless, cynical, even resentful.
You’ve probably heard the truism that you can’t help others unless you are in a good place, yourself.
Many years ago, a woman came for help. She was so depressed that she cried throughout the session. This was a church-goer, committed to the faith, and did everything she could to help others. As she spoke, it became clear that she was doing practically nothing to take care of herself. Unfortunately, she did not continue with therapy. We can only hope she got help in some other way.
Now, here’s a story that illustrates the opposite. That is, the truism about the importance of caring for yourself. Well into middle age, I was mentored to believe that Jesus was, indeed, the promised Messiah, by a lot of wonderful people. One family in particular stands out. This was a couple – call them Jerry and Rhonda – who had three children, all of whom were friendly and loving, as their parents were. But what surprised me most was their persistent curiousity about how and why I’d stumbled into their little church in Chicago (that’s a long story). They were always in good spirits – not phony, not pretending, as so many ‘church people’ can be. I knew they were for real, because I saw them in their private lives at home, not merely on Sundays. I even saw how Jerry responded when one of the kids got a little bratty.
Not long after we’d become friends, way back in 1997, Rhonda’s parents invited me to their home for Christmas dinner. Talking to her dad, Phil, I mentioned how wonderful they had been to me. I said, “They just give so much.” What Phil said in reply has stayed with me all these years. He said, “That’s because they’re consistently getting filled up, themselves.” He meant spiritually, of course. As you can imagine, Jerry and Rhonda, their kids and the in-laws will always be among my treasured friends.
To recap, it seems clear that some people erroneously believe that caring for people means sacrificing their own well-being for the well-being of others, at all times and at all costs. This is a not true. The Bible teaching is, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, not “Love your neighbor and disregard yourself.” One might wonder whether my depressed client misinterpreted the true teaching.
Are you feeling drained as a result of putting something or someone constantly, repeatedly ahead of your needs, even to your own detriment? if so, it may be time to do something about it. Professional help is available, and I assure you, it is possible to reverse this trend of self-imposed martyrdom. If you’d like to explore this possibility, please call. The phone number: (219) 309-3928. I’d be honored to be of service.
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Thanks for reading!