Coffee along the way

Coffee along the way
Coffee along the way

May 02, 2017

The cost of caring....an open letter on Compassion Fatigue..




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.







9 comments:

  1. Lots iof love and healing prayers for you x

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  2. Is it not so that we need to be broken first before we are ready to see that God wants to work through us in His way and in His timing and how much and how little He sees fit etc.
    And that it is not us doing things for Him - us wanting to help others for God is a trap, it will burn us up.
    Our need is to realise that we cannot do it by ourselves and have no wisdom what the real need of people is. But God knows that need and knows how to act. We need to know how to trust and see His leading and follow in doing that.
    Jesus Himself didn't heal everybody and walked away sometimes .
    A huge lesson that all of us keep learning I'm sure.
    The needs around us are too much for sure.
    But it is God' s responsibility. Our responsibility is to follow Him.
    Just some thoughts as I know your battle and are in it with you as a sister in Christ.
    Love from Marjan- Holland

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  3. Adding something here Belinda🙂, I think we don't realise how priveliged we are when God takes us through these things. Lot s of pain but at the same time these truths are precious and meeting our own deepest needs. What grace is this.👋🏻

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  7. I can so relate, Bella -- and I have had it easier than you in so many ways!
    Like my visiting nephew told me, "I couldn't imagine how you're living, Auntie, even if you tried to describe it..." Honestly, no one living in our normal Western world culture can understand all you/we have endured.
    Also, there's no easy or cheap way to get to a restful place for a break there. Consistent struggle to set up and maintain within very deprived, isolated conditions in a strange occultic culture... You have done well holding fast to the faith. Jesus has been the Anchor of your soul through it all.
    Jesus knows our spirits are so willing but our flesh is weak, and even He wished His friends would have watched and prayed with Him in His time of distress.
    I find I sometimes have to forgive the Church for failing us missionaries. They just don't know what we go through -- especially being in probably the poorest and darkest province of Mozambique.
    Bella, God bless you. You have suffered much and done better than I could, I know for sure! May God's angels now minister to you as they did to our Jesus after His test in the desert. May even the Church rise to do so better than ever before. Xo

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  8. Sorry, my phone connection is poor so I didn't know it repeatedly sent. (Even on furlough I have poor net; actually now worse than Moz's 3G due to our trailer's location.) I deleted the repeats.

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  9. Unless you have experienced the pain of loving others to the point of loss of self it is very difficult to understand. Bella, you are not a failure, your problem is your an over acheiver!!! Those who experience this are aking to PTSD. You empty yourself of you for others, now God can fill you with HIM!

    Never feel like a failure, you are not. Your honest and real and too many times people are not honest with what is happening. You have served your King, well done all of you for your service to the Most High.

    Now, take your rest. Allow him to restore you in his time. Dont hurry the process. Love you lots

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