Every day, I’m grateful to wake up feeling good. Because there was a time when I struggled. There was a time when my compassion for others was dwindling little by little.
I chose social work because all I wanted was to help people. I had yet to complete my Bachelor of Social Work at Carleton University when I was recruited by an Ottawa organization to do crisis intervention and case management with the homeless. I eventually completed my degree, and as the only social worker on the team, I felt useful and competent. But I saw things that no degree would have prepared me for.
I quickly took on a more clinical role, counselling people with addictions and trauma. After a while, I started noticing that my colleagues had a hard time coping with their work, experiencing occupational stress. Everyone reacted differently; some put in considerable overtime and would obsess about work, while others put their brain on hold and showed very little compassion towards the people we were helping. I soon realized this was the result of emotional stress and of being overworked, in an environment with too little resources to fully accomplish the task at hand. Truth was, I was going down the drain myself.
When I became a mom, I started seeing that my work was consuming my life. By the time I had my third child, I was sick all the time and had developed traumatic stress symptoms. As a clinical social worker, I knew all about post-traumatic stress. As I read more and more self-care books, I discovered the concept of compassion fatigue. That was it! I learned as much as I could about it and found a path to wellness. I wanted to teach others about this and help them embark on their own healing journey so I got certified as a compassion fatigue therapist, went back to Carleton University to get my Masters of Social Work and eventually opened my own practice specializing in supporting those in helping professions.
If I’m telling you about my own healing journey, it’s because I want you to know that you’re not alone and that compassion fatigue is not something to be ashamed of; it’s actually very common.
A lot of people suffer from it without knowing. We all give care to someone, whether because it’s our job or because we have dependents to take care of. The thing is that you don’t even need to experience trauma directly to be affected by it – it’s called secondary traumatic stress.
Today, I’m proud to help people get back on track with their lives. I do this by counselling individuals one-on-one and by giving workshops and presentations on the topic. Over the years, I’ve spoken to more than 600 groups and helped hundreds of individuals tackle compassion fatigue, burnout and vicarious trauma.
Taking care of yourself is much more than relaxing in a warm bubble bath.
It takes time, effort and determination. And by seeking professional help,
you’ll be that much more efficient in your recovery and your healing journey.
I’m a bit like the deep-rooted tree that you can lean on while you navigate your way to wellness.