Tag Archives: compassion fatigue

Compassion: Should you carry their load?

If you have been following my blog over the last couple of days, you will know that I have been participating in a global blogging movement 1000 Voices Writing for Compassion and it went live on Friday for the United Nations Day of Social Justice.  So, I have been spending what time I could over the weekend immersed in compassion, love but also a fair amount of cynicism and hurt..

I have uploaded a few posts but my main contribution was a somewhat humorous post: Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/

In this post, I warned about the signs of compassion overload, which could leave you at risk of compassion fatigue (which isn’t something to joke about, by the way):

“if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.”

Jen, from Driftwood Gardens http://driftwood-gardens.com/ suggested: “As far as the ant is concerned, my philosophy would not to be help him carry his load, but rather to leave him to his business instead of squashing him underfoot.”

That was a very insightful comment because there is that delicate balance between helping someone and dis-empowering them, which ultimately achieves what it describes. It takes away their independence leaving them unable to look after themselves, even when they might be quite able. Psychologically-speaking, this is known as “learned helplessness” but in everyday speak we call it: “use it or lose it”.

In the Unexpected Journey-Life”, Ameena from Ramblings of a Random quotes:

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to rely on, lean on, blame on.
The gift is yours-
it is an amazing journey- and you alone are responsible
for the quality of it. This is the day
your life really begins. – bob Moawad

You can read more here: https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/unexpected-journey-life/

All this thinking pressed even more buttons inside my think think think tank  and I remembered this excellent pearl of wisdom;

Education: a form of compassion.

Education: a form of compassion.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
-Maimonides

Of course, my daughter looked at this quote and pulled it to bits: “What if their fishing rod breaks?” “What if they have nowhere to cook it?” “What if they wanted to eat something else?”

Gee, I wonder why I’m going grey?

After reading the many posts which were uploaded for 1000 Speak , I am rethinking how we help others and whether we should be providing long term, intensive assistance. Instead, shouldn’t we be educating and empowering people to find ways around obstacles through education, lateral problem-solving as well as finding ways to draw out and develop their strengths, instead of only seeing weakness and what they can’t do? This way, we can all extend, stretch and become ourselves in every conceivable way instead of being stunted like a bonsai. An oak is meant to be an oak stretching its branches right across the sky. It was never meant to be a table ornament!.

Speaking as a person with a disability and when my auto immune disease flares up, I can become severely debilitated while my meds get increased to sky high levels. I sometimes get angry when I get stretched too far, especially as I have been doing this while parent two young, very active children . However, if I was never stretched, I wouldn’t grow and find out what I’m made of.  In the last few years despite these health issues, I’ve learned the violin and now play in an ensemble and I have also learned to ski. While this seems like a miracle, it was actually the result of incremental small steps, perseverance and persistence.

This seems to point to being stretched enough to challenge but not so far that we snap. Unfortunately, given the lack of support for people living with severe chronic illness or disability (by the way, anyone in the “severe” camp you could well have both) many are currently living in dire straights where even basic food and cleaning requirements are sadly lacking.

When it comes to helping people with perceived weakness, we should never assume they can’t do something, although it might be considerate to politely ask if they need a hand. I’m forever leaving my walking stick behind and am very thankful when people chase me to give it back. I have tripped, injured myself and dropped handfuls of things and appreciated assistance and lauded the “Good Samaritan”. A friend of mine has given the kids lifts to and often from school and friends have also minded the kids when I’ve had medical appointments (I have lots of these). We appreciate meals from friends or Church particularly during rough patches but I am also training my kids to cook and I am adept at cutting corners as well as doing the gourmet thing. I just choose my moments. Meanwhile, I try to give back and I photograph events at the school and write press releases to help out where I can.

After spending time with people with fairly significant physical disabilities, I have been quite surprised by what they can do both in terms of the everyday but also through incredible feats like climbing Mt Everest or completing the Kokoda Track. These achievements actually make me look twice at able bodied people wondering why so many are glued to the couch.

Moreover, when we step in and carry someone else’s load, we not only stop them from growing and reaching their God-given potential but we also stop them from developing resilience. I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about resilience because from where I sit, it’s that  magic ingredient that allows empowers us to roll up our sleeves and get through adversity.

I loved this definition of resilience:

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

However, encouraging and nurturing people to reach their potential doesn’t mean we should cut people who are struggling off without a safety net. Without the financial means to lead a dignified life, which for many people living with chronic illness or disability means a pension. We should never be left to fend for ourselves out on the street. Some of us can’t. We might be able to find ways around hurdles or pull off significant physical challenges for some one-off quest but that is different to what it takes to maintain a full-time job day in day out…especially while juggling medical appointments and procedures which I’ve heard so many describe as “a full-time job” in themselves.

Perhaps, what I’m suggesting is that we offer a hand without taking over or accepting a gracious “no” if our assistance not required. We can also share our resources, I guess through the village which Lizzie Rogers wrote so eloquently about here: . We all have different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling our resources, we can all benefit: T.E.A.M: Together Everybody Achieves More.

At this stage, this post is very much a work-in-progress and me thinking out loud in a bloggy kind of way and so I would really appreciate your ideas and feedback as these ideas are rather complex and probably something that requires more stewing but I wanted get it posted before 1000 Voices for Compassion finally clocks off in an hour’s time.

After over-dosing on love and compassion over the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. you can’t overdose on love. Anyway, after all of this good stuff,  I’m feeling 10ft tall…a tree which has outgrown so many, many expectations.

Year after year, the cleansing rains fall and the rejuvenating sun shines through my leaves and warms my soul. My leaves change colour, fall and decay recharging the soil and feeding the worms working unseen. Children climb my twisted branches while their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles shelter under the shade of my lush, green leaves. Families of birds nest in my leaves and sing each morning greeting the dawn. Possums swing from my branches at night and sleep in my hollows by day. Falling acorns spread my mysteries to foreign shores…or at least just further down the street. Sorry, there aren’t any koalas here. I am an oak tree, not a eucalyptus.

Anyway, time waits for no one and it’s time to quickly upload this before the bell tolls.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: This is a huge and very sensitive topic I’ve bitten off and really addressed on the run. Already, I am coming up with further points.

For all of us, there is an issue of quality of life and finding ways of giving us meaning. So, if we can cut corners in some areas so we can have enough energy or finances to do what matters, that’s sensible. I know a very inspirational person living with a disability who uses a wheelchair, rides a bike and can walk somewhat. Using the chair extends what she can get done but she is still maintaining her fitness and mobility. I used to think you either used a wheelchair or you didn’t not that you could do this juggling act, which is yet another way of empowering the individual!

I also wanted to mention finances for families living with chronic illness. I would estimate that many families with either a sick parent or child are in effect living on half an income. That one parent can’t work and might get some small amount from the government and then the illness chews up the other half of the income and then there’s what’s left and you’d better snaffle that up quick before the kids get hold of it!!

 

 

Compassionately Blessed.

Today, I am participating in an incredibly inspirational global blogging movement called 1000 Voice Speak for Compassion where a thousand bloggers are writing about compassion.

I have spent the entire day reading through over 60 of these posts, which though a drop in to the proverbial ocean, I feel myself enriched, nurtured and like my heart and soul have richly fertilised through very intimate stories of hurt, pain trauma and loss. How someone’s kindness touched their hearts and brought a light through the incredible darkness. I have read very concise posts with some excellent tips on how to exercise more compassion in our lives because, as other bloggers pointed out, compassion is a verb. There have also been a lot of people looking around them and feeling a sense of despair as they observe and feel immersed in a culture that either doesn’t care, has compassion fatigue or is simple the “ME generation”. At the same time, these compassionate souls are determined to flow against this tide and be the difference.

Doubly Blessed

Doubly Blessed

At the same time I have appreciated all that I have read and hopefully soaked it up like a sponge because as I said, I really felt touched, changed encouraged by what I read, I am also conscious that I haven’t even bitten off the tip of the iceberg. I want to read all 1000 posts even though this seems like such an impossibility. But you see, I don’t want to miss out. This project has brought bloggers together from right around the world and each of us has I’m sure tried to produce our very best and surely most inspirational work. This is the “if I could only write one post before I die, this is what I’d say” type of stuff…life-changing, unforgettable and something to cling onto like a limpet to a rock. If you haven’t tried getting a limpet off a rock at the beach, it’s pretty much impossible. They cling very, very tight!!

I have made a few observations on my travels today:

1) Thank you to those who use first names on their blog. So many bloggers don’t have first names or even no name at all. Here we are writing about the importance of compassion without getting personal. I almost always leave a comment on a blog because I want people to that someone has read their work and appreciated it. Comments make my day and being an advocate for the Golden Rule, I like to treat people the way I like to be treated. My name is Rowena although I also go by Roweeee and I like to start all my comments with a “Hi….” While just leaving names blank seems to be such a part of blogging etiquette, if you are reading this, I consider you more enlightened. We don’t need to be afraid of each other or ourselves and a first name isn’t going to announce your whereabouts.

2) While it’s all very well to write about compassion, we also need to read these posts ourselves…as many of the 1000 posts as we can. We will be so much better people for it. Moreover, what’s the point of spreading compassion out into the world if we don’t read and absorb our own medicine. The change starts with us. Writing really is in so many ways a monologue of talk and to be truly compassionate, we need to listen and in this context that means read! Read! Read! Yes, and respond writing comments and share and exchange perspectives and personal parts of ourselves. We need to be the change!

It now seems like writing the post was the easy part!

3) I have noticed a mix of posts sharing positive experiences of people being compassionate to them through hard times and how the blogger was also there for someone. Came to their rescue. There have also been quite a few laments about a lack of compassion in our world and also the widespread prevalence of compassion fatigue both due to overexposure on TV or charitable fundraising efforts.

I would like to remind people of the very public outpourings of love, compassion and practical support which really warm your hearts and restore your faith in human nature. Here are a few examples:

The Brisbane Floods 2011:

Queenslanders played on during the flood clean-up.

Queenslanders played on during the flood clean-up.

When severe flooding devastated Brisbane in January, 2011 more than 26,000 Brisbane homes were flooded: 11,900 completely submerged and another 14,700 were partially flooded. This crisis resulted in the creation of a volunteer army to help people clean the stinky river mud out of their home and clean the place up. The response was incredible with volunteers even coming from inter-state. More than 22,000 people registered with Volunteering Queensland to help. Talk about compassion in action!!

The Paris March January 11, 2015

Huge Crowds March through Paris January 11, 2015

Huge Crowds March through Paris January 11, 2015

The huge floral tribute in Sydney’s Martin Place after the Sydney Siege in the Lindt Cafe in December, 2014.

Floral tributes in Martin Place: www.abc.net.au

Floral tributes in Martin Place: http://www.abc.net.au

It is important that int those times of doubt that we remember these moments were love and compassion have triumphed over hate, violence, natural disasters and more.

Through this celebration of compassion, we have sown the seeds of compassion on very fertile ground and we are now called on to nurture, water and feed those seeds to see them grow tall.

This post is part of a blessed initiative 1000 Voices for Compassion conjured up by the wonderful Yvonne Spence and Lizzi Rogers at Considerings. Please visit their blogs and consider joining this huge campaign. We could all use more compassion.

The link up hosts are:

http://1000speak.wordpress.com
Roshni AaMom http://www.indianamericanmom.com/
Kristi Rieger Campbell http://www.findingninee.com/
Crystal Cook http://www.theqwietmuse.com
Erin Fangboner https://chronicallysickmanicmother.wordpress.com/
Gene’o Gordon https://justgeneo.wordpress.com/
Jen St Germain Leeman http://driftwood-gardens.com/
Michelle Liew http://gettingliteral.com/
Lisa Listwa http://www.themeaningofme.com/
Pooja S Mulleth https://ilirianravings.wordpress.com/
Katie Paul http://head-heart-health.com/
Lizzi Rogers https://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/
Yvonne Spence http://yvonnespence.com/
Leah Vidal https://littlemisswordy.wordpress.com/
T.A. Woods http://penpaperpad.com/

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

 

 

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

IMG_0061

There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena