We are sharing our next update from our intern Sara who is going through WEAVE’s Peer Counselor Training Program. Sara is also tweeting during appropriate parts of the training. If you are on Twitter don’t forget to follow @WEAVEInc.
Even though this entry is about day 3, I didn’t want to just ignore day 2; day two was not as hard as I thought it would be. We learned about self-defense and gender socialization, which proved to be more informative and empowering than anything else. It left me inspired that there is more that I can do for myself even, to improve my personal growth, which is a great feeling to have. Now, on to day 3.
Day 3 was really an interesting class. One of the biggest things that I took away from the evening was in regards to vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is the impact of a culmination of the stories we hear from other people. Even though I knew that if you hear horrible stories often enough, it would have the potential to impact you, I wasn’t aware that there was a name for it or a way to really help mitigate the damages it can have. Often times the signs of vicarious trauma look very much like signs of actual trauma, so if you are aware of those signs in others it should be easy to realize them in yourself. However, this is not always the case, and it requires that you have a regular check in with yourself and it becomes very important that we take care of ourselves as we work to serve others who are experiencing traumatic events.
We learned about how to address vicarious trauma with an ABC approach:
What this means is that as we serve clients we need to be sure that we first are Aware and understand our own pasts and vulnerabilities, be sure to nurture ourselves and also to remember that we are not here to fix anything. Next we have to Balance our lives by paying attention to ourselves and how we are feeling and then finding an outlet for those feelings regularly. Last we must have a Connection, especially on rough days it is important to feel a connection to other people and spend time with those who care about us and who we care about.
I remember the first time I experienced vicarious trauma, and I didn’t know what it was. Not long after my own personal experience with domestic violence I received a call from a close friend who was being transported to the hospital after being beaten up by a significant other. I remember the drive to the hospital; at first I was angry, then I was crying; I felt as though my car could not go fast enough and the more fixated on that the more my heart began to pound. Suddenly, I felt a rush of fear sweep over my body and could not place the reason for the fear. Once at the hospital I realized that I could not face her trauma, it was too soon and too raw for me. This realization made me feel helpless and as though I was a burden at the hospital rather than a help. Luckily my friend’s children were brought to the hospital with her so I was able to be given the task of caring for the children in the lobby rather than having to go to her room and see her and her injuries. I was lucky and relieved to have an immediate purpose. In the days beyond this incident I slept a lot and was not able to focus on work or household duties.
It is comforting to now be able to put a name to what I was feeling then and to know that it is not only okay to have this response but that it is also quite normal. I feel empowered to know that I can impact this and that there are now ways I can recognize and take care of myself to minimize this effect going forward. We can self-regulate our moods by finding outlets that work for us, and using them regularly to keep this disruption to a minimum. What works for one person may not work for another mind you, but what I have found that works well for me is spending time outdoors, preferably with my children. I also recognize that it is important to take a break during the work day, because far too often I feel the need to work through breaks or lunches so that I can accomplish everything I feel is important, but this is not helping me out in the long run, rather it just causes more anxiety.
So, going forward I am committed to taking those much needed breaks to get outside and just take a walk. It is important to just find what works well for you and to be sure to do it, that is the important part – do it!