According to Wikipedia... Compassion fatigue (also known as a secondary traumatic stress disorder) is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among trauma victims and individuals that work directly with trauma victims. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt.
Personally, I don't feel like I've got less compassion. That doesn't seen to fit me at all. However, the symptoms they describe above fit me about perfectly.
I've been thinking about what it is that makes it so difficult for me. Because honestly, caring for Pumpkin (in and of itself) is not that incredibly hard. I mean...it is. But yet, it isn't. She can walk. She can feed herself. She just needs help with absolutely everything! And the babies are as basic as the day is long.
But it's something. I am so burnt out still from the trip to the hospital. Granted, I didn't sleep much at all the night there. But I've slept since. I should feel better.
But I don't.
It's the telling of the story that is so hard. Do you know how many people I had to tell Pumpkin's story to during those 24 hours at the hospital?! I'm not sure I could even count them all there were so many. And her story is riddled with trauma and neglect. And I have to explain it all to everyone.
Over and over I had to tell people:
the triage nurse
the ER nurse
the ER doctor
bits and pieces to the technicians that came in to do the chest xray and the CAT scan
the PICU nurse
the new PICU nurse after the shift change
Then, during it all, I had to keep others in the loop:
the on-call worker at our agency
the intake worker at the abuse hotline (hospitalized foster kids have to be reported)
the CPS worker
And, for my own sanity's sake, I told members of my family.
That's a lot of story telling. And it all centered around the abuse and neglect this child suffered at the hands of her mother. Almost every person needed to know about the recent events at her mom's during the unsupervised visit because, health-wise, I could not account for 48 hours of Pumpkin's life and I didn't know for sure if that mattered or not. How was I to know what else her mom may have done to her that could be contributing to the problem? Also, the nurses all had to account for all the bruises and scratches currently on Pumpkin in their records.
Then there are the responses:
"Oh my. You are such a saint."
"Well...now I'm depressed."
"You're an angel."
"I'm so glad there are people like you that do this."
and of course you can't forget... "How do you let them go?!"
The responses don't exactly help. As the time goes by they scream the opposite of how I'm actually feeling.
Hell no I'm not a saint!
YOU"RE depressed?! You don't even know this child or her full story! It's ain't about YOU lady!
I'm not an angel either!
I'm glad there are people like me too I guess.
As for letting them go -- I have no idea how to do it. (But I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to be saying goodbye to this little girl soon as the whole thing was wearing me thin. And wow, did that make me feel guilty.)
Yes, I promise I'm going to take care of myself. Thank you all for the kind words to my last post. I really did need to hear those things from other moms that I know "get it". I meant a lot to me!!!
But I'm still just barely hanging on. And Miss Supervisor just called me. She wants to stop by today smack in the middle of nap to see the babies. Please pray I don't get so frustrated with her that I say something I'll regret. She wants to talk about our out-of-state vacation. I so desperately want to bring the little cherubs with me. I have to play nice with Miss Supervisor to get that "OK" so they can come.