Jilara (jilara) wrote,
Jilara
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Compassion Fatigue

My boss had a name for it, since it seems she's gone through something similar, lately. Compassion fatigue.

I try to do as much as I can for other people, often at the expense of my personal welbeing. It's because I figure that those who have more should put more into the system. And I figure it's my duty because I'm tougher, more resiliant, and more resourceful than a lot of the folks around me, and am used to self-sacrifice. But of recent years, it's harder and harder to do it at the expense of myself, to just swallow everything and do what I should do to be the most compassionate and selfless person I can be. This bothers me on a very basic level, despite the fact I know my shrink would say that it's healthy and a sign of increasing boundaries and self esteem. Yet continuing to do this self-sacrificing stuff is increasingly leading to depression and feelings of dispair and desperation.

For example, I've recently loaned a lot of money to a friend whose life has been a downward spiral into more and more demeaning jobs, destructive relationships, etc. This has been literally to keep a roof over his head. I don't expect to ever see it back, though my optimistic side hopes I might. I like him, he's a nice guy and has been a good friend, and I know it bothers him to be in this position. And there is no one else in the world who can bail him out. I'm also doing things like finding him job interviews, etc. But is it my responsibility? But think of the guilt I would feel if I didn't do what I could...

I still feel guilty for refusing to take on my ex-husband's cats when he asked me to. He was out of work, in foreclosure, and he and his family were moving out of state, and he didn't know what to do with the cats. But I have three cats already, and this would be more stress than they and my life could have taken. But compared to his situation, my life is going fairly well. Do I have the karmic right to say no? I've always found it hard to refuse him anything, anyway, which is why I assumed a lot of his debts on our divorce, and tried to be as understanding as possible. He just doesn't deal with the world as successfully as I do.

But lately, in so many ways, I've just gotten to a point of saying "no" to people. I'm giving up on rescues that come at considerable expense to myself. Especially when these are folks who are chronically in bad straits. I'm starting to move from doing things for individuals to making large monitary contributions to things like the food bank, trying to still make a difference, but in ways that aren't so completely draining to my soul.

I'm looking around in my late 40's and am realizing I need to take care of myself, as I go forward into my later life, because there is no one who is going to do it for me. I have drained my psychic and monitary resources taking care of other people for so long that I'm realizing I don't have much on reserve, and maybe I need to put myself and my own welbeing first. And yet it feels like I've turned into a selfish bitch. Yet part of me has been thinking it feels really good. Is this the first step on the road to perdition, making doing things like paying down credit cards a higher priority than paying an unemployed friend's electric bill?

Jilara
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