This month, I have been fighting an uphill battle against a force that is either compassion fatigue, burn out or something by another name. While criss-crossing the country these past two weeks for HIV-related work, I have felt so worn down. It wasn’t so much that my body was tired. My soul was tired.
Earlier this month, I attended the US Conference on AIDS (USCA), which usually leaves me energized. However, this year’s conference totally DRAINED me. Over the past 18 months, I have spent a lot of time viewing public health is a social justice issue. Doing so has caused me to take in information very differently and I sometimes get
angry overwhelmed by the fight against structural barriers, like racism, homophobia, and sexism.
I’ve started seeing a lack of access to quality healthcare as acts of violence on communities in need.
I’ve thrown actual things while reading about white men making decisions that impact the reproductive health of women, particularly women of color.
My heart has felt like it could explode when people don’t realize that violence in Black communities creates a host of mental and public health issues that are largely unchecked.
These moments are just a handful of ones that have put me on edge and have subsequently brought my spirit down. I don’t want to stop caring about causes and people impacted by issues, but I have been struggling with staying present. I’m trying to recharge myself and find ways to better arm myself against moments like this. In addition to lots of prayer, I’m also working through these three things to add to my self-care arsenal.
Acknowledging my feelings
Sometimes I can’t put the words to my exact feelings but I recognize how important this is. If I don’t know what is triggering negative reactions, I can’t build the appropriate coping (or avoidance) strategies.
Building a network of people with similar experiences
I love my friends but I also recognize that they may not be able to identify with my stories. Whether it is a professional network or a colleague, find someone to have an open dialogue about your feelings. Since USCA, I’ve talked to three people about my thoughts and have listened to their perspectives as well. It’s been so beneficial to know that I’m not alone.
Deciding if I need to switch gears
A friend of mine used to work as a youth social worker. After a few years, she made a decision to switch gears and pursue a different career path still related to therapy. For her, she’d reached a breaking point and needed to walk away. I’m currently having an honest conversation with myself and thinking about if I need to find another way to exercise my gift. After all, our passion(s) and our purpose are not always the same thing. I can still live out the purpose that God has for me, even if there is a shift in what I’m passionate about.
If you’re in a similar situation, remember that while only you know what will work best for you but please take some time to care for yourself. Whether you are an educator, a therapist, or community activist, supporting and fighting for others can be exhausting. Self care for advocates has to be a priority – first for ourselves and then for the people who we serve.
When you need a refresher, set your mind and hearts on Galatians 6:9. I’m praying for your strength. We got this!