Not that long ago, Victim Services decided to pay more attention to the whole social media thing. We switched up our facebook page, started a twitter account, started a blog and are hoping to have a youtube channel soon. Exciting times for sure! Prior to this we just dabbled in social media stuff via a facebook page that was a little hit or miss by various staff. Once we figured out that we wanted to actually invest the time to do it properly, we came up with a plan and a bit of a communication strategy. Since I’m the only one who doesn’t have a personal facebook page (yes, I’m one of THOSE people), I figured I would take on the bulk of it. I got into the habit of searching for victim related bits of news articles and information and “stuff” for our facebook page to post daily.
I must say, it is a bit time consuming but I’ve figured out how to split it up so that it works into my work day and if I get too busy, well so be it; one of the various other staff can help along the way. The time consuming part, I was prepared for, the other impact I’ve noticed so far I wasn’t.
Recently I’ve been fairly moody and I’ve noticed my stress level going up. I seem to be struggling a bit and my sleeping is not the best. Then I noticed that I was starting to avoid reading articles about anything too traumatic or negative, skimming them over since they seemed to make me feel overwhelmed and depressed. I wanted to find and began to search for “feel good” articles about resilience and survival but even these stories weren’t enough. What I finally realized was that the sheer volume of information I was exposing myself to on a daily basis about victims, victimization, trauma and related stories was taking it’s toll.
I have a lifetime of stories, well, maybe not a lifetime but almost 30 years worth that I have heard from people of all ages. Stories about being hurt and abused and assaulted; about grief and hopelessness and despair, and yet I’ve managed to keep my head afloat through all these stories, with minimal issue. The difference this time seems to be the magnitude of endless stories that I am exposing myself too. There is no balance anymore. Before, in my various positions in counseling based services, I could work my life around in such a way as to help create that balance. I started going to the gym regularly, started doing yoga, took dance classes for fun, started up some photography, started kayaking, started snowboarding – all things to help provide some fun and sunshine in my life in various forms. Social media however is a whole different scenario but at the end of the day, I need to get back to my center again.
What I’m talking about is secondary or vicarious trauma, otherwise known as compassion fatigue. It’s something that happens to all of us that work in helping professions in various degrees. None of us are immune and none of us will escape it. We either learn how to manage it properly and stay in our careers, or we don’t and end up switching to something else, or taking time off, or getting sick or whatever. I guess what concerns me is that this is something that was “reserved” for helping professions but with the onslaught of trauma-based stories, some incredibly graphic, in the media, how many other people may also be experiencing some various forms of secondary trauma without realizing it?
Signs and symptoms of Compassion Fatigue include the following. (from www.compassionfatigue.ca )
Exhaustion (emotional and physical)
Insomnia / sleep disturbances
Increased susceptibility to illness
Increased use of alcohol and / or drugs
Irritability and / or anger
Increased anxiety and / or irrational fears
Distancing yourself from others
Reduced ability to feel empathy for others
Changes to the way you view the world
Inability to tolerate strong feelings
Loss of hope
Difficulty separating work life from personal life
Diminished sense of enjoyment with your career
Failure to nurture and develop non career aspects of your life
Increased sense of vulnerability
For more information, please go to www.compassionfatigue.ca