how I recognized compassion fatigue and am now trying to heal from it

When I first read about compassion fatigue it was like a veil lifted for me. I recognised so much! There were periods of time when I did not even knew myself and the people around me sometimes suffered for it. Usually, when I had taken some time off it got a little better. For a while.

I work as an animal caretaker in a Dutch no-kill shelter. It has been a life long dream to work with animals en help them hands-on. Little did I realize the impact this would have on my mental health, because doing the work you love so much couldn’t cause trouble, right?

However, my responses to people and situations changed over time, the feedback I sometimes received surprised me yet I understood to some extent. But never did I realize the caring was the cause. Add to this I am an INFP empath sponging everyone’s feelings and trouble is brewing.

Needless to say I started looking in to what may be “wrong” with me recognizing some signs of burnout, but deep down knowing this wasn’t the case. When mindlessly scrolling Pinterest one day I came across this post and there it was! Even before I saw my job listed as high risk, I knew this had been what’s been ailing me all along!

The steps to overcome it were almost to easy to believe and I guess therein lies the pitfall. Recognizing it for what it is may be simple, but then you have to consciously take care of yourself.

Well yeah, don’t we all?

But those of us who, either professionally or personally, take care of others usually forget to follow their own advice. We’re usually too busy caring, or worrying about those we may not be able to care for. And if we do “give in” to caring for ourselves, we feel guilty about using the time not caring. And this mindset needs to change.

Because you are caring! You should view the time spend on taking care of yourself as equally important (if not more so) to the time spend taking care of others. The cliché is true for a reason: You can’t pour from an empty cup!

I have been struggling with this for about three years before I realized what the “problem” was (I am working this job for over five years now). I am at the very beginning of the path to heal myself and realize this has to be a lifelong commitment. With this realisation I am allowing myself to ask for the help of a professional to point me in the right direction.

If you are reading this and it sounds familiar, please feel free to contact me. I have figured out all of the above on my own, because there is very little recognition and understanding from those who do not feel as deeply as you and me do. Let’s care for each other.

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