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Compassion Fatigue

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

Writing About Narcissistic Abuse, part 2

There is one thing I’ve noticed that sometimes happens with people who write about narcissistic abuse.  They become smug.

 

As an example, I’ve seen conversations online where someone has recently learned their mother is a narcissist.  She’s naturally overwhelmed & relieved, as all of us in that position have been.  She finds someone who writes on the topic & follows them on social media.  This author responds to her comments by telling her “Just go no contact.  I don’t know why you’re dragging your feet about it.  I did 8 years ago & it worked fine for me.”

 

Thankfully, I haven’t seen this scenario often, but I have seen it. No one in this position needs shaming, especially at this time.  She needs understanding, compassion & information!  She also needs time to let this newfound knowledge sink in before she can even think about making such a huge decision as no contact.  Learning your mother is the abuser & you’re the victim rather than the other way around is a shock.  It takes time to accept, & that is the first step in healing from narcissistic abuse.

 

If you write about narcissistic abuse, there are times it can be frustrating when you’re speaking with someone in an abusive situation who isn’t making moves to protect themselves.  Once you’ve been there, done that & found freedom from your abuser, you often can see what would be the best course of action for other people in similar situations to take.  It can be very frustrating that they either can’t or won’t see it too.

 

If you get angry or smug in those situations, you may be dealing with burnout or compassion fatigue.  When you write about narcissistic abuse, you pretty much live & breathe narcissism.  People tell you their stories, you do research, & you work on your own emotional healing.  Chances are good you also have C-PTSD.  Narcissism is a huge part of your life & you get tired of it.  Although you want to help people, sometimes you want to never think of this topic again.  When people tell you their stories, you can feel indifferent to their suffering & their need for good information.  That is a big sign of compassion fatigue.  It isn’t that you don’t care.  You do.  You’re simply burned out & need a break.

 

Compassion fatigue is common in helping professions such as those in the medical field, caregivers, counselors/therapists, or law enforcement.  It’s very evident by how they interact with people.  Have you been to a doctor who acts like you’re bothering him with your health concern or seen a caregiver in a nursing home who is testy with the patients?  That is compassion fatigue.  Thankfully, it’s fixable.

 

When you realize that you feel burned out & even indifferent to people’s problems, it’s time to take action immediately.  Take a break.  I don’t mean 15 minutes away from what you do.  I mean as much time as you can.  If you run an online forum, find someone who you know you can trust who can watch it for a few days.  If you write a blog, I highly recommend writing many blog posts that you can schedule to publish so if you need a break, your blog continues on as normal in your absence.  If you’re working on a book, stop.  Take time away from it.

 

Once you’ve decided to take a break, spend your time doing things that nurture you.  Pray, spend time in nature, snuggle your furkids, watch funny movies or listen to music.   And, do NOT think about narcissism!  If you have flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts, I know this is a challenge since those things have a mind of their own.  If they happen, deal with them as usual & once that is done, resume not thinking about narcissism.

 

Also, reevaluate your boundaries.  You can’t help everyone- you aren’t God!  That’s ok!  Instead of trying to help everyone, pray with or for them.  Remind them that they need to pray as well as read their Bible.

 

Reevaluate how you spend your time.  Find where you can cut back on obligations, & do it.  This will give you more free time which is so vital to your mental health.

 

Pray.  Ask God to show you what changes you should make & how to make them.  Ask Him to weed out the people in your life that aren’t good for you & that you’re not good for, so you have more time for those that are good for you.

 

Writing about narcissistic abuse can be incredibly difficult, I know.  It is possible though when you don’t neglect yourself.  Good self care will make you a better writer as well as a happier person.

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a little discussed phenomenon.  It happens when someone continually puts other people’s needs first while ignoring their own, & eventually burns out.  It can happen with caregivers, people in helping professions such as nursing or teachers, & also with adult children of narcissists.

Adult children of narcissists learn early in life to ignore their own needs & put their parents’ needs ahead of their own.   Their parents demand it & doing so means the child has less of a chance of facing a narcissistic rage, so it becomes a means of survival.  Sadly, this sets in place a pattern of behavior that often lasts into adulthood.  A lifetime of ignoring your own needs for the needs of others can take a toll, both physically & mentally.

Some signs of compassion fatigue are as follows:

  • Being irritable.  Anyone who is tired can be irritable.  But, when you are beyond tired, irritability is pretty much a given.  Little things that normally wouldn’t bother you suddenly can seem like a huge crisis.
  • Anxiety is also common.  Being too tired can make a person feel “off.”  When that person is off, anxiety is more likely to happen, especially if the person in question already has issues with anxiety.
  • Lacking motivation.  How can a person be motivated when they are exhausted & sick of doing for everyone else?
  • Trouble with sleeping can happen too.  Have you ever heard the phrase “too tired to sleep”?  It does happen.  You may find yourself unable to sleep when normally you don’t have that problem.  You also may wake up frequently during the night or have unusual dreams or nightmares that disrupt your sleep.
  • Depression is also a common problem.  Some people are very sensitive to others, so when they need our help often, we can get depressed.  We feel badly for them because they can’t do things on their own, or the problems they tell us about make us sad for them.
  • A big red flag to compassion fatigue is feeling numb.  When you hear of someone having a serious problem, you simply feel nothing.  You just don’t care, even if the person with the problem is someone you love dearly.  This numbness can happen when you have cared too much for too long.
  • Headaches can happen as well.  If you never had migraines, they may start.  At the very least, chances are your head may ache on a regular basis even if you never suffered with frequent headaches before

If you can relate to any of these signs, then it’s time for you to take a break.  You need time to reevaluate your situation as well as to relax.

If at all possible, take some time to yourself & pray.  Tell God how you feel, ask Him to show you what to do in your situation & then listen to what He tells you to do.  He may not tell you obviously by saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord”.  It may be much more subtle such as you suddenly getting the urge to resume a hobby you once enjoyed or spending time with your closest friend that you haven’t seen in a few months.  Whatever you feel you should do, then do it!  It WILL help you!

Also do things that help you feel nurtured & comforted.  Indulge in herbal teas, buy yourself that new CD you’ve been wanting or snuggle up in a soft blanket & watch Netflix all day.  Little things like that can have a surprisingly positive affect on your emotional state.

Take a break if at all possible & do it frequently.  Everyone needs breaks & there is no shame in it. And, while you take that break, refuse to think at all about what is causing this compassion fatigue.

If you’re a caregiver, arrange for help.  Tell your family you need help a couple of days per week or whatever you need.  If they refuse to help, look into professional in home care.  Contact your local Department Of Aging or Social Services.  They may be able to help you or at least point you in the right direction.  Local churches also may be of some assistance, whether or not you’re a member.  Also, don’t forget the library.  Libraries are truly a wealth of information.  My local library has a lot of very helpful pamphlets right inside the front door, & many of them pertain to caregiving.

Balance is the key to avoiding compassion fatigue.  It may feel strange & hard at first, but you need to set reasonable boundaries.  You have the right to say no sometimes & to set limits on what you do for others.  After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you help others?

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health, Narcissism