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,