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There’s something about Sunday night
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Friday, June 02, 2006


I feel like I'm drowning. I don't know if knowing what I'm drowning in makes it better or worse.

I sat in on a teleconference on compassion fatigue yesterday. The ironic part is that I couldn't focus on the topic at hand because I was feeling guilty from taking an hour from my day to discuss something I very much am suffering from. My mind kept wandering to one particular client, over whose problems and their possible solutions I had been mulling for a few days.

It's a grandiloquent term for something I had always considered burn-out. I thought I had always been successful at listening and helping without getting too burdened myself. Compassion fatigue is vicarious trauma, and I can't detect how I personally feel trauma just by empathizing. But I know that since I do enjoy the actual tasks of my job, the overwhelming feeling of being pulled under and smothered has to come from the hopelessness I feel with some of the situations I encounter.

I thought I preferred working with adults because at least with them, you can pretend they have some control over their destiny, and autonomy over their actions. But I sometimes feel like I'm working with my hands tied behind my back with the lack of resources and options in the city where I live.

What made me finally break down last night, though, was realizing how little support I have. There are one or two co-workers who I will occasionally bitch with, but it's usually conveyed with an eye roll and complaint about work politics. I don't ever take anything else to them. And my boss is even less supportive. I think she's probably burnt out as well, but she has always felt more like a co-worker than a supervisor. And it's not even something I could address with her, because she just wouldn't get it. As it is, I have to repeat every question, statement, and request to her about three times because she's just not present. In the height of my rant about her, my sister pointed out that you don't always get lucky at work. And I realize that, but it's incredibly detrimental to not have an emotional outlet at a job like this.

I never needed anyone to emotionally check with me when I was an editor. I just needed someone who I could occasionally ask, "what's your opinion about allowing this comma splice to be printed?" and who would assign me my next task.

But I can't tell if being alone in my job is actually making me good at working alone. I wish it would make me a better decision-maker, but instead I constantly long to go to someone more knowledgeable than me, because I feel like I'm struggling blindly.

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Blogger Sarah said...

I wish that you didn't feel that way. The fact that your boss doesn't feel like your boss and you can't go to her for support totally sucks. I believe that there should be support groups for social workers. You all provide so much for everyone else that you need somewhere where there are others who know exactly what you feel. I'm sending you a big hug.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Yes, it makes complete sense that social workers -- people who are always being support for others -- should have an emotional, supportive outlets for themselves! I'm so sorry that you are dealing with this lack of support. Maybe the thing to remember at this point in time is that you are going to move and start a program that will allow you to find such support? Does the move to Chicago seem invigorating right now or overwhelming? The change is coming soon, and I hope it brings a new sense of support from others your way.

12:22 PM  

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