Depression: Preventing Compassion Fatigue

Jerry Kennard Health Pro June 03, 2014
  • In my last post on depression and the signs of compassion fatigue I stressed the importance of striking a balance between meeting the needs of a loved one who is suffering depression and your own needs. In this post I'm suggesting a few self-help tips that may assist in preventing compassion fatigue.

     

    My first tip involves knowledge, specifically addressing the facts and fallacies that surround depression. The less you know about something the more confusing it can seem and more helpless and out of control you feel. Sites like this are all about depression so a good starting point is to read. Begin with a summary about the common features of depression and then broaden your understanding at a pace and speed that suits you. It’s a big area so don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are people here only too willing and able to address your concerns.

     

    Next I suggest you try to involve others. There are two sides to this. The first relates to the care and support of your loved one and the second relates to you. Within this second context you need somehow to convey to your loved one that while you love and care for them and look to meeting their needs, you also have needs. You may need to be strong as the reaction may be he or she doesn’t care, or you should ‘do what you want.’ The effect may be to make you feel guilty but you mustn’t put your life on hold. It’s important that you continue to nurture your friendships and your contact with family.

     

    Routines are your friend. Daily routines provide a necessary structure and help to put some order back into the turmoil. Routines can be simple or complex and involve anything from getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time, to eating meals together, to shopping, exercising, even reading or listening to a favorite radio program.

     

    Accept you have limits. No matter what you do or how hard you try it is impossible to control the way another person thinks and feels. Sure, you can support positive actions but ultimately we all share the same limits over the extent to which we can change people. When we care deeply about someone the urge to exercise control over the situation is compelling but this also becomes an issue of self-deception. You are allowed to love and care for someone without feeling the need to live their life.

     

    Denial has its limitations. Depression still carries a strong stigma and, quite possibly, you may find yourself in situations where you start to make excuses as to why you can’t attend certain functions. This serves two purposes. First, it reinforces the fact that you will step in and protect the person from outside intrusions and secondly it protects you from the questions and embarrassment that can come from disclosure. Is there a point where hiding the truth amounts to denial for both you and your loved one? It’s a question I’m putting to you because it’s something you might want to reflect on. Just how far can denial take you? Is denial stopping progress, preventing help or blocking treatment?

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    Finally, keep in mind that none of this is your fault. Your actions and your words do not cause depression. You haven’t overlooked some secret method of making things better, so stop searching.

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