Lost your colors? Lost connection?
The aid volunteer working in Haiti… Day after day, witnessing trauma, loss, and extreme suffering. Doing his best to help and rescue as many as he reach. One day he notices he has become numb. His ability to sleep and enjoy life has waned. He feels hopelessly inadequate and pushes those around him away. Seeking refuge, he just wishes to be alone. Prior passions have become distant memories. He has begun to lose hope… He may be a victim of vicarious trauma.
A therapist working with victims of sexual abuse… Day after day reliving the recollections of traumatized experiences. Doing her best to help them rebuild torn lives. One day, she notices she has become fearful of the future. Overly protective of her own children, she has difficulties around trust issues… She may be a victim of vicarious trauma.
The missionary worker helping HIV children and their mothers in a war torn country. Day after day, observing the sickness, death and emotional turmoil of innocent people. An awareness that she now feels irritability and vulnerability to over stimulation, self-blame, and a dampened meaning to her life and mission. She feels helpless and sorrow. There is too much suffering and she only has two hands and 24 hours in a day. She has come to experience a lack of boundaries when rescuing the trauma victims. She has also started to doubt her personal faith… she may be a victim of vicarious trauma.
A human rights investigator, tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongs. Investigating genocide, mass graves, rapes, and indescribable cruelty, one day he notices his restless sleep has been eroded by nightmares, unsettling images, flashbacks from stories he heard from eye-witnesses and families whose loved ones are missing. He has started to avoid social relationships and intimacy. He feels self-doubt, inability to make decisions, and he has become cynical. He has started to set rigid boundaries in relationships… He may be a victim of vicarious trauma.
Helping the Helper…. Getting back the colors
People we help change us. To appreciate them and ourselves, we must take care of ourselves too.
It is possible to gain empowerment over vicarious traumatization. The first step is to learn to appreciate and recognize our own emotions, needs, and boundaries. We also need to learn to gain a healthy balance between our work and rest. We all need the feeling of belonging, a true connection with others and to something greater (i.e. spirituality). We must gain back our sense of interdependence, meaning of life, and hope.