This is a topic that comes up fairly often; in workshops, training material, and ongoing discussions. I think it remains a subject that many people don’t fully understand, or even know what to do about.
How do we acknowledge, and offer compassion and care, to those who fulfill a role as teacher, guide, mentor, and healer? Do we, or is that solely their responsibility?
Do people fully comprehend the concept of spiritual fatigue and burn-out?
When each day has blended into the next. When there is exhaustion of heart, mind and body. When all you feel is anger, irritability, sadness, and loss. When you wonder why you’re still doing this work, even though you continue to feel that spiritual Call to serve.
As a professional counselor and Wiccan High Priestess, I think I get a double-whammy of spiritual fatigue. Though I practice a variety of self-care skills (and seem to have more tools than some), I have revisited that dark place of sadness and emptiness. A place that seems to hold me much longer than someone not in a caregiver role.
When every thought is one of doubting, when every word is questioned for its wisdom, when every effort seems pointless, and every criticism seems like ego-annihilation. What then is a caregiver to do? Where then do we find succor and food for the soul? When you doubt your own self-worth and purpose. When you question your very existence and whether anyone will ever remember you. What then?
Yes, this is part of the spiritual journey, with the darkness and negative feelings being used for transformation. I think most caregivers are fully aware of that. I also think that we get tired of constantly feeling like Persephone and Innana on that damn descent into the underworld.
I think one of the biggest holes in a caregiver’s life would be that they are seldom: appreciated, validated, acknowledged, nourished, and nurtured. Caregivers still need to receive.
No, we’re not in this for any sort of acclaim or prizes. We have been Called and though some of us may have fought that Call, we have found ourselves on this path. We are not automatons, we are not unfeeling, we are not tireless. We bleed, we cry, we have personal issues we try to work on. We have doubts and insecurities, as well as many other responsibilities.
What can be done?
Offer thanks, bring a gift, look us in the eye and give a compliment, bake us something yummy, give us a massage, tell us a story of some way we’ve impacted you. Let us know, in some small way that everything we’ve done has had some impact on your life.
My story is that of many Caregivers. We get tired, we like to know we’re appreciated. Sometimes all the self-care in the world isn’t enough. Sometimes the answer of “I do this for the gods” isn’t enough. We do many of these things for our communities, for the human connection. We sometimes need that human connection to give back.