Do you ask women about black eyes?

Do you ask women about black eyes?

I went for a walk after work.

I like to go walking around ‘the nice area’, the area with million dollar homes and beautifully landscaped yards.

Once upon a time I would have been envious of the people who live in these homes. Envious of the money they had and what I believed would mean a better life.

But not anymore…

The people in these homes have just as much of a chance of experiencing addictions, violence and mental illness as everyone else in society.


Half way through my walk I saw a young woman (mid 20s) walking her dog. Adorable black lab.

As I passed her I asked if I could pet her dog and she said yes.

Immediately I saw the make up over her bruised eye.

My first job as a clinical social worker was in a woman’s shelter. I know exactly what day old bruises look like.

When I see a woman with a bruised face, I immediately think partner abuse.

While petting her dog and asking her a few questions about him, I began to wonder, should I should ask her about it?

I know from my work that “domestic violence is everyone’s responsibility” and that if we witness it we should report it.

It’s not a conversation I shy away from at all with my patients.

I also know that sometimes I have a hard time putting down my Social Worker hat to be a regular citizen.

Yes, she had a bruised eye, but was there another possibility aside from partner abuse?

I once gave myself a bruised eye putting up a Christmas tree – it happens! Perhaps she’s a party girl and got into a bar fight on the weekend.

Or maybe she’s a sporty girl and got hit in a game of volleyball. I really have no idea.

Part of being a helping professional means hearing the painful stories of what people experience everyday.

Overtime this can distort your world view. You may begin to see abuse, child neglect, accidents, health crises, or addiction all over the place.

Someone else in my shoes may have had a different initial thought. In fact, they may not even have noticed it at all.

As part of my own compassion fatigue management, I purposely look for healthy and happy interactions in the world. Every. single. day.

I make note of people who hold doors for other people. Of moms who really attend to their child’s communication. Of elderly couples who still look so in love.

I do this so that my world view doesn’t focus on the bad, the scary and the suffering.

In the end I didn’t say anything.

I told her to have a good evening and I continued on. I sent a positive vibe out to her wishing that she be free from pain and suffering.

That was my role this evening.

How do you manage compassion fatigue and the impact it can have on your world view? Let me know in the comments!

Peace, love & joy,

Continuing education for Compassion Fatigue Management

Continuing education for Compassion Fatigue Management

I’m pretty lucky that the organization I work for really supports and provides for our ongoing professional development and continuing education.  Both of these are protective factors for compassion fatigue management.

Yesterday we had a psychiatrist come in and present on some of the latest research around food addictions.  I was quite happy.  My background is in co-occuring disorders (addictions and mental health) and I’ve been following the slow to emerge research on food addictions.

It’s so cool that we now have scientific proof that some people’s brains react to certain food the same way the brains of people who are addicted to alcohol or cocaine do, when around their substance of choice.

Basically, if someone has an addiction to sugar, when they saw the picture of the cupcake at the beginning of this post, their brains would react differently than those without an addiction.

I think what is important to note is that there is a difference between people who eat a lot of food, people who have eating disorders and people who have a food addiction.

Just like most of the population can drink alcohol without becoming addicted, most of the population can eat foods without having an addiction.

Over the holidays I read a new book written by a doctor in Toronto, Canada called Food Junkies.

This book is a great resource for people who want to learn more about the process of food addiction, the research that supports it, the types of foods that are most addictive and the types of treatments available.

I will definitely be referring patients to this book.

I truly feel that the more education, training and resources in my toolbox, the better able I am to manage my own Compassion Fatigue… I’m still in the Zealous Phase and I couldn’t be happier!

Want to learn more about the Compassion Fatigue trajectory and how to manage your own compassion fatigue.  Check out the online Compassion Fatigue Recover course here.

Peace, love & joy