Compassion Fatigue And The Struggle To Go On

It’s been days since I’ve written anything. No journals, no posts, no novels, no stories. I’ve done little except escape into fiction books of dubious authorship and drink. Oh, and plan a little party for Abel that went well considering how my week had been.

Why do I do this? Why is it when I most need to look at my feelings, I ignore my best coping skill? I can’t answer that right now. That is a question for another day.

For today, I am feeling sad and scared. I feel like a failure or at least like I’m going to fail.

Where’s that magic wand when I need it the most?

I would wave it over each of my clients, simply to take away their pain. A wand would take away all of the emotional charge connected to painful feelings.  That feeling of despondency each one often feels – all gone.

But I don’t have one and I must see the pain in you. I cannot turn away from your pain. If you can live through it to face each day, I can see all of it, all of you.

And try not to absorb that energy into my compassionate heart.

Therein lies the rub. How do I hold space as you bare your soul without some of it sinking into mine?

How do I take care of myself during these dark times so that I can remain strong? Strong enough to walk with you through your darkness and into the light and still have strength to walk again and again through the darkness with others who seek help.

I know I am not alone in this struggle.

Who hasn’t been affected by the searing pain of another as you sit and listen to story after story of horror and tears?

It’s no wonder that burnout is so high for those in the helping professions.

Each day, I rise and brace myself with copious amounts of coffee, to meet each soul, exactly where they are, in the midst of their pain and hopelessness. Most days I find a reason to continue to do so.

But then there are days.

You know the ones.

Those days where no reasons can be found and the profound darkness threatens to overshadow even your best efforts. Those days that your best efforts are shrugged off and all hope seems lost. The helplessness pours over you and you can’t take another step.

How do you go on?

How do I go on?

At times, the only solace to be found in these situations is seeking joy. And, if you are like me, sometimes that is difficult to find.


I’ve found it in the first star to appear as night falls.

I’ve found it in the contagious laughter of children bouncing on a trampoline.

I’ve found it in the bumble bees clumsly making their way through my anniversary flowers as I try hard not to interrupt their work.

I’ve found it in a beautiful fire on a clear, starry night surrounded by friends and family.

I’ve found it in the laughter of friends as I learn not to take myself too seriously.

I stand back and take a breath. I remind myself that I am okay and am doing the best that I can. I remind myself that I cannot work harder than those who seek my help. I remind myself that asking for help isn’t the worst thing I can do when in fact, it is exactly what I need in the moment.

And, I remind myself that life goes on.

This is a moment, just a moment. It will flow by in the course of my life regardless of any outcome.

Not that there will be no meaning in this moment. Rather, a lesson to be learned along side that meaning.

It is this lesson I seek: the meaning of the pain and suffering.

I’ve learned enough in my life that I must learn these lessons, no matter how painful, to face those next things that eventually come.

And, to find joy and comfort in the bright spots that appear infrequently and I can breathe again.

Until next time,

If you are struggling and need to reach out, here are a few numbers to get you started:

Michigan Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-855-VOICES4
Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
Mental Health Hotline – SAMHSA – 1-877-726-4727
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – 1-800-799-7233