"Courageous care partners recharge with self-care, striving for peaceful pinnacles
in patience, persistence, and positive 
changes, knowing when to conquer and when to comfort."

Yes, some days the witch does live here!

Jan 16, 2020 by Eileen Adler

There are days when I wake up exhausted and the sun has barely risen. This feeling creeps in, and might I add, is most unwelcome. Is this going to be one of those bad witchy days? My father-in-law taught me that sometimes we need those bad days to help us appreciate the good ones. Great.

Yes, there are the bad days when the wicked witch does live here . . . and it doesn’t please me to admit this. With the non-ending feelings of being responsible, when my plate feels so full, when I feel lonely and just plain overwhelmed and exhausted from interrupted sleep, and ironically, because I care so deeply for my care receiver watching him struggling more each day, I become cranky (this is a euphuism – I become witchy). I’m happy to report that these feelings occur occasionally, and I know my self-care rituals help – self-care is life-care.  

Having bad days is normal but if they persist and the feelings don’t go away, it may be more than just a bad day. Prolonged witchy-ness may be defined in the medical sphere as compassion fatigue, “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time, taking on the emotional burden of a patient’s agony” as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary. We can’t let this linger too long because this may result in becoming the “second victim of the diagnosis.” If compassion fatigue continues untreated, it may also lead to feelings of apathy. 

The nomenclature has been expanded and today compassion fatigue is also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS). Along with care partners, many people in the caring health-related and social services industries including medical and critical care personnel, those on the front lines including first responders, EMTs (emergency medical technicians), firefighters and police officers, and even news reporters who may become desensitized to the recurring sadness they report may experience a sense of hopelessness and apathy.

What might compassion fatigue look like? In the movie Gone With the Wind, despite all the difficulties and hurts Scarlett inflicted upon Rhett Butler, in a moment of clarity she realized that she desperately loves him. The thought of living without him is devastating, but he’s had enough, and the movie ends with Scarlett pleading with Rhett, “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” and he responds, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

What can we do to prevent compassion fatigue? If the going gets too tough, seek professional help. My priority is my self-care which is not negotiable, it’s mandatory. These are part of my action plan:

  1. I must set clear boundaries so that I can participate in these life-saving self-care rituals. I schedule them as I would a medical appointment.
  2. I take time to focus on myself by participating in exercise, breathing exercises, and recreational activities.
  3. I must maintain a balanced worldview, in other words, I must get outside and be social with people or pets or both. With or without a dog, going to a dog park is extraordinarily enjoyable as they romp, run around, and come over for a loving touch. I know it is in my best interest to develop and cultivate a strong social support system.

Tomorrow I will share more strategies to off-set those witchy days, 

or better yet, eliminate them.