“Today I have woken up feeling foggy, my brain feels full and I’m somehow feeling mentally spent. It’s today that I’m realising this feeling is a familiar one, one that has crept up on me, found a home and become a regular occurrence. I’m not sure how or when this started, all I do know is that I’m not 100% myself and I don’t like it. I’m easily stressed and irritable most of the time. I keep reminding myself it’s in my blood to be built resilient, strong and unaffected. Normally something like this I can just shake off, but this time it’s proving to be difficult.”
Does this sound familiar? Sometimes it can be tricky to identify a feeling and put a name to it – that feeling might be vicarious trauma.
This refers to the experience of being exposed to other people’s stress, experiences, or even their trauma, which can have a profound impact on one’s own well-being. It can be as simple as having your family members’ stress constantly in the back of your mind, taking up space and affecting your ability to go about your daily business. You might take on others’ worries, and this inadvertently becomes yours, making you feel overwhelmed. This phenomenon is called vicarious trauma. It is not widely known, and many experiencing it may not realise what is going on or seek help.
Understanding the signs becomes crucial. Lingering feelings of anger, rage, and sadness about others trauma. Becoming overly involved emotionally, feeling bystander guilt, shame, and self-doubt. The loss of hope, pessimism, and cynicism can be overwhelming. There’s a constant worry, and the temptation to numb or cut off emotionally is ever-present.
It’s so important to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to feel them. It’s okay to be angry, sad, or scared. These emotions are a natural response to a difficult situation. Remember that these emotions don’t define who you are as a person, and it’s okay to show vulnerability. You are in control of your thoughts and actions. You can choose to be proactive and take steps towards being yourself again. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your struggles. Seeking professional support is not a sign of weakness but a step towards healing. Whether through therapy, counselling, or talking to a trusted friend, there are ways to navigate through the storm of vicarious trauma. Recognise that you too, deserve care and support as you “weather” the challenges that come your way?
RFCS Gippsland offer free and confidential assistance to help you get back on track with both personal and financial wellbeing. Similar to how a seed relies on good soil, a farm is dependent on the hard work of its community. RFCS Gippsland are deeply proud to be part of the Gippsland farming community and have been for over 35 years.
Our team is passionate about wellbeing and promotes the ‘Detect & Protect’ campaign: engaging farm service providers and communities on how to identify rural mental health concerns and what to do to help improve their situation.
If you are struggling emotionally and financially (or know someone who is), protect them and yourself by referring to the free confidential services of RFCS Gippsland.
Call 1300 045 747 or visit rfcsgippsland.org.au/wellbeing to find out more.