I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Mine was officially over two weeks ago, so it is time for me to head back and be the best I can be in order to help support the children and youth.
However, I would like to bring up a very important topic for my fellow frontliners.
Many of us work in settings with young people that deal with trauma every single day. For us, although we might not be directly impacted or involved in their trauma, we are indirectly absorbed by it. Hearing the pain and sometimes suffering our young people go through on a day to day basis can put an emotional toll on a helper’s mind, body, and soul.
I say this to be self-aware of how your body and your mind is reacting.
I also say this because I went through this first hand for the last few months.
When I came back to my hometown for summer vacation, my body physically and mentally started to shut down. What is shut down? My appetite was off, I was not able to sleep, my digestive felt like it was kicking me, and I was so negative about everything. What I was told when I consulted a few people about my issue was: “Marleigh you were finally in a safe place, relaxed to the point that your body was able to really respond from the last couple of months.” I did not understand: could the body be so powerful that it knows when it needs to survive during crisis and when it is time to shut down?
Answer is simply yes.
Through consulting with a few professionals in my own field and other fields; such as, my Naturopath; it was determined that I had symptoms of vicarious trauma (second hand trauma).
Through much reflection, I needed to accept these feelings and at the same time do something about them. I was not ready to go back to work and I dreaded my friends asking me when I was going back to work.
“Can’t you just enjoy me at the present moment, why are you planning my departure already?” I was frustrated and I reacted aggressively; however, at that moment, I realized I was not taking steps to heal. I was not happy and I was not ready to face my own reality.
It was so hard to admit help. I advocate for mental health services all the time, but for awhile I felt shame and guilt that going to another counselor would mean I was not competent enough in my own job. The ego is quite annoying, it creeps up and questions you but at the end of the day, do I want to work on my self-esteem or let myself go into burnout mode???
So many damn questions.
Finally, the best decision for myself, my students, my co-workers would be to heal. What is healing? sometimes we tend to associate it with self-care….honestly I am not sure what that really means though…
I will define healing as a journey to self love and self awareness. Understanding, we are holistic beings: we take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally, and physically. So, thats what I vow to do.
Here are some ways I am doing so:
- Setting boundaries (work life balance)…. I am more than Marleigh the Child and Youth Care Practitioner
- Acknowledging my limits in my friendships and relationships (Where does my energy go?)
- Going back to my hobbies and side projects that do are not the definition of my career
- Seeing a professional and seeking resources and strategies
- Reaching out to my friends and family when I need help.
Seems a lot and if you ask me if it is working? I will answer you by saying: I hope it will but I am just living and experiencing one day at a time. Do the best I can do.
I hope this encourages other frontliners to think and feel more. We are humans that work with other humans: lets not ignore this. We are more likely to take in energy rather expel energy.
Looking forward to the healing journey- Thanks for reading.