Thursday, April 7, 2016

Care Giver Burn Out

CAUTION: I must warn you about my language, there’s not much- but still, you have been warned. Yes, I am educated enough to choose different words. But I am making a point.

Caregiver. Burn. Out.

Burned out. Exhausted. Mentally checked out.  Ineffective. Compassion fatigue.

Ever been there?
I have- I AM, actually. It’s foreign and Hell:

After spending the weekend with Soldiers, I was told a few things that really stuck with me.

The thing that suck with me was:

1. “You’re not very good at saying NO, are you?”

Uh- Yes, I am. I can say no. I can do whatever I WANT to do. I am empowered woman. (……Right?) Okay----alright. No---- I’m NOT so good at it. Saying no is not easy for me. Overcommitting myself has generally been “easy” for me. Or at least “normal” for me. Saying no isn’t natural for me. Don’t get me wrong here- I am capable say NO to things:  “No, I don’t want to choose a salad over a donut.” ---------TOO EASY, right?

But let’s be real here- I want to be able do it all. Whatever IT is- I “should” be able to handle it, I got it. Or at least, I THINK I can handle it all.  So, instead of saying- “I’m overbooked, or I need more time, or just no I can’t.” I have been a YES woman. Continuously overcommitting myself.  So anyway….The rest of this blog may or may not be:
“Confessions of a YES Woman: A Day in the Life of a passionate, yet burned out Social Worker.”

The second thing that stuck with me over the weekend:
2. “You are SO passionate”

YES. That part I do know about myself. I am told this all the time. I am very passionate. Everything I do I do it with all my heart and give everything I have. I think it shows to other people because I am very passionate about the work I do. Being passionate takes a lot of energy- emotional energy and sometimes physical energy. Passion is good. But, here’s the thing- passion can sometimes get me into trouble- because I can be a hot head. A passionate, stubborn, hot head. (I know…..for those of you that know me, are probably like: Wait, what….Laura?! A hot head? Yeah… right.)

 Being passionate burns A LOT of energy.  I’m not exactly sure if people tell me this as a compliment or not- but Hell, I’ll take it. Either way- sometimes at the end of the day, it’s EXHAUSTING. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes passion can be energizing. Truthfully, MOST of the time passion can be energizing. When you do what you love, it energizes you.  Put it this way- when you put your whole heart and soul into things and you don’t take CARE of yourSELF, that’s when passion can drain you. Eventually, when you constantly pour and pour into other people lives and you don’t pour into your own life- you are empty.
Because you’ll end up like this.
Have you ever felt like this? At work or even just at life?

The third thing that stuck with me over the weekend:

3. “You know, you can’t save everyone” & “You have a bleeding heart”

These were two entirely different statements, two different times, two different people- both directed at me. Let me start with “you have a bleeding heart.”

First, what the HELL does that even mean? Piss off, PLEASE! I’ll tell you what it means, it literally means, a dangerously SOFT heart--excessively sympathetic--giving in to emotions TOO quickly. Ok, first how about fuck off? I’m not soft. Or “sympathetic.” OR overly emotional. Don’t get confused. Yes, I have emotions, damn it. I feel things. In my line of work- if I didn’t FEEL things- THAT is when you should be concerned, okay? My “bleeding heart” was bless with a gift- a gift of compassion and servitude to help bless other people’s lives.

“You can’t save everyone” This, I know. But- hey, guess what, it’s REEEALLY hard to understand and internalize that. I am learning. I’m still going to try though, you know? I’m just working on the whole acceptance part.

4. “Jeep Grand Chirio”

I know, you’re probably thinking- WHAT?  Listen up, let me explain. This weekend, an Army Captain who is very supportive, has a ton of experience, deployments, and wisdom called me “Jeep Grand Chirio” after a comment I made. I said something like, “people probably just think of me as the bearer of bad news, or I am the one always responding to a crisis.”

He started off by telling me: “back in the day,” there was a point in the Army, when all the Soldiers drove HMMWVs, but the Chaplain still drove a Jeep. A Jeep Grand Cherokee. So when the Jeep Grand Cherokee would show up in their combat zone, they always knew it was the Chaplain.  As you can imagine- the Chaplain showing up in a combat zone, lets you know something happened.  It gives you that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach because that something, usually isn’t good. “…..Oh no, what’s the Chaplain about to tell us?

I’ve always said the Chaplain’s job is the hardest in the Army. I don’t know how they do it. I really don’t. They are often the bearer of bad news. Sometimes the one to be avoided, because you know if the Chaplain shows up, some shit just went down.

 So…. turns out, I kind of have that same “vibe” with people. Some know that when I come around and I have a serious face- some shit is happening. “Chirio called, or Chirio interrupted a meeting, or Chirio is serious today…..something’s going down.
I shared this conversation with a good Sergeant of mine. I laughed it off- because I enjoy using humor as a coping mechanism. She didn’t laugh though. She said to me very seriously- “yeah, but think about the Chaplain ---- they are the first person people think of to go to for counsel, for advice, for comfort and for support.  YOU are that person for a lot of people. THAT is why people come to YOU. Don’t ever forget that”

I’m an Officer- I get it: Sometimes you need a good NCO to give you a reality check, slap in the face style.


It’s not just a phrase.
A couple things I know for sure: You CANNOT pour into other lives, if you don’t pour into 
YOUR life first.
No matter HOW much to WANT to.

Self-care is not an option. It’s essential. Especially in this line of work. If you’re anything like me- Hell, you don’t have to be a Social Worker or work with people in crisis…but if you are caring for someone other than yourself- DON’T FORGET TO CARE FOR YOURSELF.  It’s not selfish to care for yourself, it’s essential. Anyhow- these are the things on my heart. I’m a pretty private person. I don’t like sharing my “shit” because I like to just deal with it, but today I felt compelled enough to share it. Because I’m not perfect one is. We’re all human here.

Today- I booked my first counseling appointment. Like, where I’m actually the client, and not the counselor. That’s huge for me. It’s not a New Year resolution- it’s a life sustaining resolution- I am making promises to myself to take care of myself better- because when I do, I can take care of other people more effectively. Which is my true passion.

So- as weird as writing this whole blog was for me- spilling my guts out, I hope that even ONE person who reads this blog can take something from it. I know I did.

You DESERVE to be as nice to yourself as you are to other people. You’re a good friend to other people-be a good friend to yourself!
When you need help:
You are only human.

What are you going to do today to help save your life?

-Laura Chirio, VRN VP