Okay… that’s not a fair question. I think right now we ALL feel trapped in our circumstances right now.
We are all emotionally and physically exhausted from constant change and unknowns. For those of us who work in a caregiving role (nurses, counsellors, ministry leaders, teachers, family supporters) there is added stress when considering the needs of others during this time of covid-19.
The sudden changes and dramatically shifted priorities may bring up unexpected thoughts, emotions and physical reactions that compound the impacts of serving others.
I’m reminded of the time I needed to take took two months off of work because I was experiencing compassion fatigue. I was exhausted from the work of caring and supporting others, I was feeling hopeless, hard and dried up.
I began to doubt that anything would change.
And I became more and more exhausted and burnt-out.
My compassion and empathy were dried up.
But I knew people depended on me to support them. I wanted to be a better spouse and parent, more in tune with people’s needs but I was maxed out.
My intentions were good, right?
I wanted to live to my full potential (whatever that even was!) and I knew God had created me for a reason and to love and serve others.
But in desperation, I began to strive in my own strength.
I was dried up not knowing where to turn.
I questioned if it was even God’s will for me to live refreshed and fulfilled.
I came to the end of myself and ended up needing to take some time off of work. I thought this time was going to be filled with reading, organizing closets, exercising, spending quality time with my family. (sound familiar?) But instead, during this time-off the rains came.
Just like this one day while we were camping.
“Quick get inside!”
The rain started without any warning. Sure there were rolls of thunder in the distance, but only a few minutes ago we could see the stars as we sat at the campfire.
The drops were huge!
The roaring fire was extinguished in seconds.
What was our dry tidy campsite was within minutes a flood zone.
Shoes floating away.
Water making our mats float.
The awning of our trailer about to rip off with the weight of the sudden water.
What was a peaceful campfire after putting the kids to bed turned into a flooded campsite and chaos as we frantically gathered our belongings while trying to avoid the sudden increase in the frog population.
We had been camping in the famous Canadian Algonquin park with our family.
It was a great week. The weather perfect for hiking, biking and swimming. Miraculously there were no pesky mosquitos and black flies, who are known in the area to snack on campers.
You see, after a long cold and very wet spring the area had experienced a hot dry summer.
And as campers we were grateful.
But when the rains came, the ground was so hard and dry that it wasn’t absorbing the water fast enough.
The whole park flooded.
My family huddled in the trailer watching the storm, feeling completely out of control with what was happening outside.
Eventually, we fell asleep hoping in the morning all would be well.
Back to my life.
During this time-off the rains came.
This wasn’t a gentle sprinkling, it was a hard and fast rain like what we experienced camping this summer.
The ground desperately in need of the water.
Before the ground could soak it up there was a flood and everything was out of place or out of control.
Isaiah 44:3 says: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
When I was off of work the refreshing rain that my soul and body desperately needed came.
But like the campgrounds, I was so dry and hard I didn’t absorb it.
It came like a flood and caused chaos.
In those 2 months off of work, it felt like I was out of control.
I became physically ill, an old back injury flared up, viruses attacked, nightmares occurred and my sleep was often disturbed.
Annnnnnd I experienced emotional dysregulation, or quick mood swings, and would easily fly off the handle and get angry.
It felt like I was flooded and all the past doubts and negative messages that I had neatly tucked away hoping to never face emerged like the frogs.
The junk that I was carrying around for years floated to the top, like driftwood and made themselves very evident in my life.
Before the rain, I was desperately thirsty for change and something different.
But when the rains came I felt out of control and flooded.
I’m reminded of the scripture in Psalms 30:5: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
After a stormy night, we woke up to sunshine streaming into our trailer windows. We looked out and found that the flood had receded.
Our campsite showed signs of water.
There were sticks and mud everywhere and some of our belongings were washed out of place, but the ground had eventually absorbed the water.
We were able to collect and wash our camping gear. The sun dried the mud and we were able to sweep away the sticks.
In my life, after a time of resting and recouping from the physical blow of the flood, I realized that the impact of helping and supporting others was contributing to me drying up.
I was weary and burdened from helping others.
Hearing traumatic stories every day took a toll.
I tried working harder because I thought what I was experiencing was a personal failure.
A lacking, or limitation, but it was only exhausting me further.
I wasn’t finding rest in God.
It didn’t happen right away, but as I learned more about compassion fatigue and opened my life to God’s healing the floodwaters receded.
I set boundaries and more reasonable expectations of my time.
I prioritized time for fun, recreation and family. Something I hadn’t done in months trying to push through.
It wasn’t always easy, but God’s grace is sufficient and the results have been worth it.
I still have stress and doubts and moments of overwhelm, but I am more aware of it and I see it as a warning sign and I take the hint to take a step back, rely on God more and stop striving.
If you think you might be struggling with compassion fatigue or burnout take this free assessment and have your results emailed directly to you.