Maybe there is someone who wonders why we are here for a couple of months. This is the reason, although a few reasons have since also been added...but this is my main reason....
A few definitions of the term "Compassion Fatigue" .....
Compassion fatigue has been described as the “cost of caring” for others in emotional pain (Figley, 1982).
"Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper." Dr. Charles Figley
Compassion fatigue, also known as second-hand shock and secondary stress reaction, describes a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatised or under significant emotional duress.
"Compassion Fatigue (CF) refers to the profound emotional and physical erosion that takes place when helpers are unable to refuel and regenerate..."
I felt like a failure. No, let me rephrase that. A. Total. Failure. I had nothing left to give. I could not see one more sick person, child or even animal. I was totally drained and empty. 8 Years of living in a small village with no health clinic, good friends or____,etc...
Compassion fatigue is a silent killer. You care, you give - all looks good. But you suffer silently and slowly empty out. One more heart breaking story, one more small child suffering bc of lack of health care or parental care or any type of care! Kind of like a slow bleeding wound when no pressure is applied...a certain slow death.
I was beyond helping anyone. Drained by the people i was really hard trying to love and take care of. This shocked even me. I mean, the Readers Digest First Aid book was about my 1st reader! I stuck plasters on my sisters with my still own pudgy small hands, washed their wounds, patched them up when they fell. Studied physiotherapy because i knew i would have more time with a patient so that i could really Care. When i am helping someone i forget to eat, to sleep or whatever i am doing. I am a Carer. I feel useless if not needed.....and now here i was ... spent. Nothing to give. Shocking.
What a failure of a missionary I was! The thing God gave me to do i cannot do anymore. Now what?
Well, i guess this started a long time ago already. Believe me, i knew the signs and tried to do things differently. More boundaries of when the sick can come, leave the village once a week to get out of the environment, try and send them to the village health worker first, etc, etc. i tried everything. It just got worse. And worse of all, i just pushed on. Who would understand? Who would care if i stopped? So a vicious cycle started. No way out.
What made matters a bit worse for me, was the fact that in our village the mothers are so young. 15-16 years old with a baby in the arms and another on the way. Sometimes they even looked relieved when the firstborn passed away from malaria, malnutrition, diarrhoea or everything together! They would drop the near dying child in my arms and say something in the line of fix her...and then laugh either at my pathetic language mistakes or because they felt embarrassed or who knows why but it didn't do me any good!
I would lie awake at night wondering if they were giving the re-hydration fluid every 5 min or not. I would wonder and pray and hope for the best. I cared until it hurt and they couldn't care less. Or so it seemed to me at least.
In the end we decided to take a long holiday - 2 whole weeks away! Yes, this is us. Two weeks tops. It helped a bit but then I came down with malaria myself because we were so much more exposed! So much for that. All this to say I was in a bad place and feelings of disappointing God was at the order of the day.
So, we had to leave the country as it was at a point where I was falling apart - and with me, the rest of us too!
The irony was when we were in our lovely home country all 4 of my men either had operations or many doctors appointments, so i had to continue on...caring until it hurt and then some more. All of this while struggling with how to share this plus feeling like a failure. So i stopped talking about it. Just put one foot in front of the other. nobody asked me questions and i did not volunteer information. Vicious cycle feeded. Nobody cares about me the failure.
For weeks this went on until yesterday i realised suddenly, and i have to add - Divinely - that the reason I am am where i am is because I cared TOO much. I cared too much without caring for me. This was a turning point for me. I am not a failure. God loves me still. He is not disappointed with me. I gave 110%!! I guess, if you have suffered from compassion fatigue you will understand what i mean. God CARES. He Cares for me. I am not alone in all of this.
Whereto now? For one, i need rest. I need to be away from the constant demands of village life. I need to spend time with God. I want to go back but not yet. I trust God has this. He knows me. It helps me to know Jesus also went away to be by Himself. I pray for balance. Hope. Compassion. To be and to know that i am enough without me proving it or die trying, in my case.
God in His gentle way has encouraged me in many ways. Through His Word, through people, places.
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength" Isaiah 30:15
"A bruised reed He will not break and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out." Is 42:3
"He tends His flock like a Shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young." Is 40:11
I would like to go back with Joy in my heart. I would love to be that caring person again that God created me to be. But only with God's help and care will it be done. I cannot function on my own steam. I need God and His balance in my life. But first i need to get better. And that is ok.
Bella, a broken reed in God's loving Hands.