Friday, July 5, 2013

There's an ocean calling my name.

I'm suffering from some serious compassion fatigue.  In the last few weeks, the theme in my office seems to be "Life sucks, everyone around me sucks because they don't do enough for me, and there is no hope anything could ever get any better for me."

I actually had someone tell me straight out that she was unhappy, wanted to be happier, but was unwilling to do a single thing to change. Not. One. Thing. Yeah, let me just get my magic wand.

Another who finishes every thought with either, "It's just one thing after another" or "I can't win." I've got news for him - life is one thing after another. It's true for everyone. But that's no reason to refuse to see the good that's also there.

And another who has been announcing for literally nearly a decade that she is on the verge of death and that the last week has been the worst week anyone has ever had and that she is in the worst pain anyone could ever experience. Well holy hell, you can't be dying for years (unless you count the fact that you are technically moving toward death from the instant you are born). And pain and trauma can only escalate so much - every single week simply cannot be the worst week ever. And guess what? Everyone in her life keeps a wide berth because they're freaking worn out with it.

It's my job to listen and to hold all that sorrow and rage and disappointment and to guide people toward something a little more productive than just feeling bad. But when I watch people building a self-fulfilling prophecy, refusing to take any responsibility, and essentially vowing to stay unhappy, it wears on me. And for whatever reason, I wasn't getting through. Sometimes I can. Actually, often I can - I'm a pretty decent shrink. But when the wave is that high, it tells me one thing. I need a break. I need to re-group, breathe, and clear my head. Even if only for a few days.

My house is clean, my laundry is done, my paperwork is caught up, my car is packed, my reservations are made, and I'm headed out to the South Carolina coast for a long weekend. Just me and the ocean air. Because I know one thing - I'm in charge of my own happiness.

52 comments:

  1. Oh dear. It must be very aggravating to deal with people who come to you for help, but don't want to actually help themselves. I can think of one particular person in my group of friends who constantly complains about her two ex husbands, her adult children, her jobs, her house, etc. I try to be sympathetic, but now I just avoid sitting near her at gatherings.

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    1. I am more likely to avoid it in social situations, where it's not my job to be helpful.

      And thanks!

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  2. so true on that last line...take control of yourself...get the r&r and refresh...i def understand that completely...feeling much the same myself this last week...

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    1. I've mad a vow to do this more frequently.

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  3. I do agree, people who moan constantly about their life and tell you how unhappy they are, but make no effort to improve things, are exhausting and dispiriting. It's hardly surprising that other people avoid them. And hardly surprising that it wears you down. I hope your weekend break cures the compassion fatigue and lifts your spirits again.

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  4. Are they extreme cases of wanting to be heard? The expression "shit happens" has truth in it.

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    1. Wanting to be heard is fair enough. But at some point, you've been heard and it's time to make changes.

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  5. Enjoy and decompress. Books, walks on the beach and drinks with little umbrellas.

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    1. No little umbrellas, but the rest, absolutely.

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  6. We have some of those! Our counselors are very good, but if someone wants to wallow in it and not lift a finger to change the life they abhor...yeah. The compassion starts to wear thin! Have a great weekend.

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    1. I am generally very patient with it, so it's saying something when I need a break.

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  7. I can only imagine the frustration you must sometimes feel. People have to participate in their own therapy, beyond just the talking part.
    Enjoy your long weekend and the rejuvenation of the ocean :)

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    1. I give everyone a handout before they start explaining that therapy is WORK. I guess not everyone believes it!

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  8. I hope your getaway is everything you need!! And thanks for the reminder, we are all in charge of our own happiness :)

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  9. They sound like my daughter. She hates herself, hates her life and blames me for giving birth to her. She won't take any measures to move forward and better herself!

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    1. It's absurd to blame your mother for your birth. Life is a gift, not a burden.

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  10. Enjoy yourself!! I know of no better remedy than time by the sea.

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  11. We are singing the same tune, SAW. I was feeling particularly dragged by a close relationship gone completely sour and unfixable and thought: I need to get away with my best friend, me so I am planning too......
    Enjoy yourself.
    I love South Carolina...
    XO
    WWW

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    1. I'm thinking once a quarter would be a good escape plan for me.

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  12. This is just too ironic because yesterday someone I blog with posted something about "happiness" on her blog as well.

    "I've got news for him - life is one thing after another. It's true for everyone. But that's no reason to refuse to see the good that's also there."

    You said it! No, life does not always go smoothly or perfectly for any of us. But it's at those times we need to focus on the GOOD and what IS perfect in our life - because it's there.

    Have a faaaaaabulous weekend, girl! And it sounds like you have a great one planned!

    X

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    1. It's a complete waste of your life to only see the bad. I was explaining that there are even people serving life sentences in prison who make a conscious decision to find meaning in their lives. Who are we to do less?

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  13. Oh, I can empathize on this one. Wish I had a sea nearby. The grandchildren will have to do for me.

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    1. This is the first non-coastal state I've lived in. But at least it's in driving distance.

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  14. Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is one of the nicest books that I have ever read. Despite being a man, that is! I actually read it aloud to my late wife as her eyesight was not all that good and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing that book on top took me down memory lane. Thank you.

    You are indeed in charge of your own life. I hope that you collect different sea shells.

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    1. It's ideas cut across gender, I think. It really is a lovely little book.

      Unfortunately, these beaches don't have much in the way of collectible shells.

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  15. I love Marsha Linehan's options for dealing with pain and problems from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy:

    1. Solve the problem, or
    2. Change how you feel about and respond to the problem, or
    3. Accept the problem, or
    4. Stay miserable.

    I've used this with a particularly difficult counselling case who just wants to complain and figures everyone else should change. But it's so difficult for some people to see that they can only change themselves.

    Good for you for taking some time off to regroup and recoup and give your "compassion-er" a little rest. Enjoy your time away!

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    1. I've read Linehan's stuff, of course, and although my therapy style is a little more flexible, do see part of my job as teaching those life skills that help people make changes.

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  16. the beach... just saying that word brings peace...and you will there. good for you.

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  17. Sometimes those waves are there just because that's the way the universe works. Regardless, taking a vacation now is a good idea. A month from now, I'll bet all kinds of people will make all kinds of breakthroughs.

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    1. No doubt. There's an important thing for people in the helping professions to remember, though, and that is taking care of yourself. I can't do anyone any good if I'm feeling ragged.

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  18. Occupational hazard, sounds like. Mrs Rover will go a week or two and avoid socializing when the stories from friends start sounding too much like her clients. She sometimes wants to grab people (who are complaining about the "one damned thing after another that is life--much of it self-inflicted) by the lapels and scream, "STOP IT!"

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    1. That's why I avoid listening to people's dreams - it just feels like work!

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  19. PS: the clover-like plant I photographed is alfalfa, which is often grown agriculturally as high-protein fodder or as a "manure crop" plowed under to enhance soil. Not an attractive yard plant, though.

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    1. I know about it as a valuable crop, it just is a sucky addition to my lawn.

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  20. Good for you! Leave all the drama behind and E.N.J.O.Y yourself. You sure deserve it.
    Safe travels, xo jj

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  21. Can't even imagine how you can be such a good listener to others...I am a terrible listener! Not surprising I suppose, since I can be self-absorbed. :)

    Have a fantastic trip!

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    1. Most of the time, I promise, it's easy for me. Except when it's not.

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  22. Phew!! I'm exhausted from just hearing about it. I'm a good patient when it comes to therapy so I guess I don't think about all the people that go and refuse to take the necessary steps to change. You deserve the break my friend and I love that you are going alone. Sounds heavenly!

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    1. Most of my folks are good patients and a pleasure to work with. I was just having a bad run.

      This is my first all-solo trip.

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  23. That is a right pain!!!!!! yes, everyone is in charge of the way they tackle unhappiness & in the end we have to manage it and do something.
    You can't help everyone and we have to keep sane, somehow!
    Take a break!
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

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    1. I did, and in much better spirits for it!

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  24. You have a good time, you deserve a break. I don't think I could listen to other people's problems all day long, it would drive me crazy. :(

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    1. Mostly it's okay. Mostly, even, it's more than okay.

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  25. I guess in a sense, it's a good thing I have slightly sadistic tendencies. Because if you whine and complain but refuse to do anything about it, I laugh. Well, I laugh internally and then I laugh when I get home.

    And that makes me happy.

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    1. It's not a good thing if you want anyone to ever be sympathetic with you, though, If someone laughed at my problems, I'd sever that friendship immediately.

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  26. Good for you for not falling into freefall with your clients and becoming the odd sort of martyr that many (esp women) do when always asked to be giving and understanding. Sometimes you gotta just shut the shit down.

    As has happened before, I was again struck by the similarities between your clients and my students. Now I have the phrase "compassion fatigue" to use.

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