October is INTENSE!!! For me has a whole lot of energy! It holds space for a lot of wonderful things, but for some reason, it’s the time when I dig down and work on my shadow side. Perhaps it’s because October represents a significant seasonal change. The waning of the warm sun, the retreat of the wildlife, the death of vegetation. October holds the energetic space of death and ending. A time to turn inward and retreat. For me it holds a lot of traumatic memories in my a personal life and from former animal welfare career.
This is sweet girl was one of them. Seeing her photo pop up earlier this month on Facebook opened some unresolved feelings and deep wounds. This dog was my breaking point and the realization that it was time for me to leave animal welfare because I was so toxic and so damaged. I felt guilt, shame, hopeless, grief, and really pissed off, ALL of the time. I was withdrawing from the world, yelling at my family, and stewing in my own negativity. BUT I got up every morning at 4 am to put in a 10-12 hour work day, bringing critters home over night that needed extra care, sleeping 2-4 hours a night. Then up to do it all over again with a fake smile and a broken heart. I was cruising through the world on auto pilot. The joy in life was swallowed up in the dark grungy pit of darkness I kept myself in- a self induced prison. I wore it like a badge of honor, with a sense of entitlement, that I had the right to be angry and sad because I was taking care of society’s stupidity, bad choices, and lack of compassion and commitment to the animals they had failed. Sure, I had every reason to feel this way. But living in this vortex of negativity lead to a serious health crisis.
I loved this girl deeply and wanted more than anything to keep her. But a tragic accident that happened at the shelters “under my watch” took her life. It was something that could have been prevented, in fact, I had brought the issue up a few times, but there’ were always other priorities.
After that incident I no longer had it in me to continue to fight. I felt I could not do my job effectively. I could not lead my team and be in integrity with myself while working against a broken system within the shelter, and the animal welfare field. I was broken too! I carried so much of the trauma of the animals I rescued, the trauma of the people I worked with, along with my own suitcase full of hurt, neglect and pain from my childhood. I never allowed the space to recognize or process the trauma I was exposed to everyday. Nor didn’t think it was important enough (at that time) to do so. I thought that would show weakness and failure on my part, if I couldn’t “handle it.” Perhaps I was too deep in my own anger and playing the victim card, that no one could possibly understand how I was feeling. The truth is, there WERE and ARE so many that do. I suffered 15 years of not knowing how to manage or live a life while working in animal welfare.
Does this sound familiar to you?
For those of you that work in animal welfare, or in a job that requires you to take care of others, put your life at risk, or are exposed to trauma regularly! Please, please, please…. take care of YOU! You can only show up and give your best to the world, if you take the best care of yourself! Self-care is not just about massages, pedicures, glitter night with friends, but those activities can definitely be included in your self-care plans. Self-care is making sure you are addressing your basic needs. That includes your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. What are you doing to practice self-care? Are you eating real food and drinking clean water? Are you supporting your digestion and adrenals? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you experiencing joy and playing? Are you mindful of any toxic and negative thoughts and doing something to process and change them? How are you showing up in the world?
Are you an animal advocate that needs help with creating a self-care plan? Do you need help with knowing how to eat to support your body while working in a chaotic and stressful environment? Feel free to reach out to me and we can chat about your needs. firstname.lastname@example.org
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!! There is help, all you have to do is reach out! And here are some great resource for help and support.
My dear and brilliant friend Jessica Dolce, offers amazing webinars, online classes, and resource on dealing with compassion fatigue. You can find her HERE