I was speaking on a panel recently and was asked the question, how I cope with all the darkness in my job. Right now, I’m doing pretty well. I feel like more days than not, I am not suffering from any vicarious trauma symptoms and I can leave my job at 5:00 and focus on my baby. It isn’t always the case, but I’m better now that I have been in some periods of life. I’ve been blessed to have learned a bit about how trauma effects those who hear about traumatic events over and over in a similar way to those who experience traumatic events. Law enforcement, social workers and prosecutors are especially vulnerable to systems of vicarious trauma.
I was asked to answer, so I gave my normal answer, You have to guard yourself and know when God gives you grace to be in a position and when it is time to leave. For some, that grace lasts a lifetime and for others it is merely a season. Breaks are very good. I once took two years and got my LLM in Amsterdam. It took at least four months for me to realize I could now see a grandfather with a child in a park and not assume he was molesting that child. My maternity leave, with my decision to not watch the news, seemed to have a similar affect, although I was in a better mental state when it started than when I took my two years to live a clean academic life.
I also recommended working out, because I know from experience that nothing clears my head and helps separate my work from my home as a run or boxing. After I said that, another girl on the panel commented that some people hate working out and suggested something else. Her idea was good, I’m sure, but I could tell in her answer that she assumed that I was one of “those” people. “Those” people, like my sister-in-law, who love working out and do so daily. I wanted to roll my eyes and laugh, thinking, if you only knew. I probably had not done anything even remotely like a workout in months. I have a tight hip that is sometimes so uncomfortable, I cannot sleep, and yet I can’t even seem to take more than about 20 seconds to ever stretch it.
So if you read this and roll your eyes and say working out is not for you, that’s fine, it’s not “my thing” either, but its still amazing effective in altering my brain and my mood.
Saturday, my husband asked if I could take the baby for a while so he could tune his drums, so I took the baby and went for a walk and then a run. We didn’t go far. I never really push myself, but I remembered why I always encourage those who work in difficult fields to exercise. The mood enhancement was like nothing else.
I know why people get addicted to exercise and let it control them.
I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.
But I do know, that even for those who aren’t one of those exercise people, there is something very healthy and mind altering about it, and I will continue to recommend it to anyone who wants to rid their mind of the darkness in this world and think about the good.