The first time I suffered from counsellor burnout, aka Compassion Fatigue, was at my first job at a residential treatment centre. I was young, fresh, idealistic and ready to dive into the rewarding work of helping others. After only about a year and a half, I was drinking regularly, smoking again after a hiatus of over a year and a half, and exercising compulsively (at least an hour and a half a day). I was crying on my way home from work, and frustrated and ashamed of myself and my apparent lack of healthier “coping skills”.
I didn’t know what was going on – how come I was struggling so much? Why was I feeling the need to escape from my feelings so compulsively? Why was I so emotionally sensitive? What had happened to the old me? Despite my efforts at distracting myself, the cracks started to show – I have two distinct memories that helped me realize something was really wrong.
The first one was during a massage, when the massage therapist placed her hands on my shoulders and asked, “why are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? “. This prompted a waterfall of tears. How did she know that was exactly how I was feeling?
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA