Many adult children of narcissistic parents grow into very compassionate, empathetic adults. We listen to others & offer support, even when strangers approach us in a grocery store & want to tell us their problems. We help generously. We’re often caregivers in many ways- taking care of the sick as well as providing emotional or even financial support to those in need. And, truthfully, we often enjoy it.
Whether you enjoy caregiving or not, though, sometimes it burns you out.
It’s like a bank account- you can’t withdraw money without ever putting in a deposit or you will overdraft your account. The exact same thing happens with your mental health- if you do nothing but give, there is nothing left over for you. You become tired, mentally & physically. You also become very irritable & bottle up your emotions. You may abuse substances or overeat. You isolate yourself because you feel you don’t have the energy or patience to deal with people. You become indifferent to their suffering. You have plenty of aches & pains without a physical cause & you have difficulty concentrating on things. Some people stop their good self-care habits, even hygienic habits.
This is a frustrating place to be! I’ve felt some degree of compassion fatigue for years, but it has reached a peak during my recent recovery. When all you can do is lay around & do very minimal tasks, it gives you plenty of time to think. I realized how very few people close to me genuinely cared about the fact I came very close to death recently. Very few have even asked how I’m doing more than once. Aside from the obvious anger about this, it hurt me badly. I have done my best to be there for those in my life as much as possible, & this is how I’m treated after trauma? This seemed to rocket the compassion fatigue into overdrive. As I write this, there aren’t many people I’m close to that I can muster up some empathy for at this time.
So.. how does one combat compassion fatigue? Honestly I had to research it because I’ve never found a way to do it on my own. The suggestions I’ve found are below along with some things I’ve been trying to do myself.
- Sometimes people won’t be there for you, but God will be. Give Him first priority in your life, & go to Him when you need comfort before you go to people.
- Don’t judge yourself for how you feel.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Practice good self-care rituals.
- Set & enforce good boundaries to give yourself a break as you need.
- Remember, when people come to you for help, you should do your best to point them back to God as much as possible, & not become a god to them by fixing their problems.
- Talk with others who understand how you feel.
- Participate in your hobbies often, or start new ones.
I hope this helps you to combat compassion fatigue & to achieve a healthier balance with helping other people. May God bless you!