Are you suffering from ‘Empathy Fatigue’ Or I just don’t give a F*ck disorder?
Ok that sounds a little harsh and a tad unfeeling.
But I have been reflecting on my relationship with blogging and relationship or lack there of with others in the special needs community. This is a big community as there are so many varying degrees of disability that can affect our loved ones and so the assumption was from me that I would make ‘friends’.
However, I actually have no special need parent friends. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I speak to parents in passing at the school gates but I have no meaningful relationships. I noticed this when G was in nursery and at first I tried to correct this and be more engaged but I found that I became irritated with the conversations.
The conversations always seemed to be along the same vein:
There was always a complaint,
a fight happening
a worry or
a (self serving) acknowledgement that their child was suffering in some way.
I desperately craved a different kind of conversation. Something away from the negative aspects of special needs parenting. Even if it was about doing something to improve things or something that was great about it. Because there is good about being a special needs parent.
It was heavy, stark and gloomy – all the time.
Eventually, instead of feeling sympathy or empathy or even understanding, in those moments I just started to feel irritated and tired. Their reality was so relatable that I couldn’t stand to hear it anymore. It felt like people were rooted in the bad all the time. It felt like an addiction to complaining.
My lack of sympathy and understanding extended to other parents even those without special needs. Parents complaining of sleepless nights and fatigue were met from me, with silent dismissive thoughts. Silent thoughts that mocked or berated their pain as it was in no way any where close to the fatigue I was feeling. Their feeling were inconsequential. They were futile and somewhat pathetic.
To complain that a baby was not sleeping – to me became mockable.
I had become unfeeling and unsympathetic.
I tallied their pain against my pain and equated whether they were worthy of sympathy.
But before you sign me off as a cold hearted b*tch (Although you may still do!) I did some research and found out that this is actually a common side effect to being in the helping profession. Though I never viewed my role as a profession – I am a mummy and carer 24/7. It shed a bit of light on what could contribute towards a condition known as ‘Compassion Fatigue’.
Many people, nurses, doctors, mental health professionals and primary carers can be at risk of developing STS (Secondary traumatic stress).
This is when you are surrounded by continued stress and need for compassion that you start to become desensitised to instances that require empathy or compassion.
Symptoms can include:
- Decrease in experience pleasure,
- Constant stress,
- Sleeplessness or nightmares,
- Pervasive negative attitude.
Engaging in conversations with others that required me to feel for them, made me feel more pain and so I switched off. This perhaps was to protect myself.
Getting a better understanding of this has been really helpful as it also explain why I am so infrequent with my blogging.
My blogging has been a space for me to articulate some of my thoughts, as well as suggest ‘fixes’ to maybe help others in a similar situation.
But actually it is a space where I can moan, talk about my worries or fears. But it is contained. And one sided. You can read it or not. Respond or not. There is no chance that I do start talking about how I feel and have the other person respond with an equally non empathic in-compassionate way.
But these thoughts and ideas occur at a steady rate and therefore for my posts to be authentic they will naturally come at a slower rate. When I have a new post I then read others Special needs posts that are circulating at the time and I actually find my response is a lot more engaged and empathic as I have had that break.
To help keep me feeling for others I have to distance myself from the special needs community sometimes. Do any of you feel the same or think I am talking rubbish?!
Bye for now!
Catch my last post on Anger and Special Needs Parenting here