Caregiver's fatigue or compassion fatigue is the condition where a person who works in a helping profession or is in a position of caring for others, becomes drained, burned out, exhausted. You can Google these terms to find a definition, but instead, just insert a picture of me from the fall of 2009. I had been a Clinical Social Worker for thirteen years, and had a Social Workers' dream position - a thriving private therapy practice where I could work around my husband and three kids' schedules.
It was a perfect life until 2009. My life's demands escalated and began to feel like a pressure-cooker. At home, there was the constant homework, sports practices, stacks of papers to be reviewed, sleepovers, and so on. At work, there were phone calls to return, constant paperwork, and a steady stream of struggling clients looking to me for relief.
After much thought, I realized I was suffering from Caregiver's Fatigue. I had all of the symptoms -trouble sleeping, constant anxiety, unexpected crying, exhaustion, distractibility. Naming my condition was empowering, but it forced me to make a change. So, on January 1, 2010, I made decided to walk away from my therapy practice. By the end of January, my clients had been transferred and my office was in boxes in my basement.
People questioned my decision. I was a good therapist. It was my career, my identity. But I knew what they didn't. I was no longer able to hold space for my clients. Holding space means to support and help another person by being fully present. Doing this as a therapist is a beautiful process. It was an honor to witness my clients transform, heal, and evolve. But I knew if couldn't be fully present with my clients, than I was no longer helping.
So, now, I am re-learning how to hold space for myself. I am breathing. I am laughing. I am taking piano lessons. I am writing children's books. I am dreaming about running a half-marathon and am working on making it all the way across the monkey bars. I am treating myself and everyone around me with loving-kindness.
Sometimes, I miss my old career and I worry about what my future career will look like. But when I have these thoughts, I take a deep breath. I remind myself that my focus is to live in the present and to hold space.