Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another Resource for Kids...

This week I have found a resource for children and young adults who are affected by illness - their own or that of a loved one:

It can be difficult to help frightened young people to understand medical conditions and procedures. Medikidz Comics is a resource that can help.

Medikidz comics are a series of 25 comics (plus 300 more waiting to be written) about five super-heros, the Medikidz, who live on Mediland, a living, moving planet shaped like the human body. Chi, Skinderella, Pump, Axon and Gastro take children on trips through Mediland to explain different conditions and how they are treated.

Written in age appropriate language by professional medical writers and physicians, these comics help to demystify the diagnosis, investigation, treatment and prevention of various medical conditions. A Youth Advisory Council of kids aged 6-16, who are affected by illness, provide the writers with feedback and help to shape the direction of Medikidz.

Medikidz has produced comics on paediatric conditions like epilepsy, scoliosis, leukaemia, autism and cystic fibrosis and also on conditions that could affect a parent/loved one. Some titles include:

a. What's Up With James? Medikidz Explains Depression
b. What's Up With Mom? Medikidz Explains Breast Cancer
c. What's Up With Dad? Medikidz Explains Melanoma
d. What's Up With Grandpa? Medikidz Explains Alzheimer's Disease

If you are interested in learning more about Medikidz, or in purchasing comics, you can go to their website at www.medikidz.com.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Clergy Compassion Fatigue ...

This September 11th, a date which she has contemplated with some wry humour, my youngest sister will be ordained priest in the Anglican cathedral in Whitehorse, Yukon, before taking up a position in her first, two-point parish in Dawson City and Old Crow.

To say that I'm excited for her is a understatement. But, reflecting on the challenges before her, (as well as the possibilities), I can't help but think about the risk of compassion fatigue for her and for all clergy, regardless of faith tradition.

Although unlikely to see themselves in this light, most clergy are trauma workers - and, depending upon their degree of involvement in their partners' ministries or their own professions, so are many clergy spouses.

The clergy work in a wide variety of settings - in parish ministry, as chaplains to the military and to other front line responders, in hospitals, in hospices, in schools, on disaster relief teams, in retreat or counselling centres and in prisons, to name but a few. In these settings, they are likely to be called out at all hours of the day and night to comfort those who are injured, ill, dying, or in spiritual or emotional distress - to say nothing of continuing to support them and their loved ones through often lengthy periods of healing or bereavement. Frequently, the people whose needs they are called upon to tend are folks intimately known to them, thus deepening the emotional impact of the work.

As trauma workers, these clergy are at risk of developing Compassion Fatigue (CF), the posttraumatic stress, "fatigued compassion", diminishing empathy, and increasing disengagement that can arise from secondary exposure to others' suffering and trauma.

Aside from trauma exposure, a number of stressors, some unique to the clergy, can increase clergy vulnerability to CF. Counsellor and United Methodist clergywoman, Sheri Ferguson, pointed out in a 2007 article, Clergy CF, the following factors:

1. Lack of adequate training and experience in pastoral care

2. Isolation
    - expectations of "perfect clergy" that prevent sharing struggles and pain
- frequent moves that prevent maintenance of sustaining relationships
- lack of access to personal mental health support in rural areas
- lack of access to mental health referrals for parishioners in rural areas

3. Personality traits - needs to rescue/caretake, have approval, be "good", be perfect

4. Church culture that reinforces caretaking and perfectionism 

- parishioners' projection of parental issues upon their clergyperson
- parishioners triangulating their conflicts by drawing in the cleric            
    - an expectation that the clergyperson, as God's representative, should be available  

I remember when my husband, also an Anglican priest and spiritual director, became very ill with mononucleosis at the advanced age of 50-something, an unrecognized symptom of his own compassion fatigue. After many weeks away from work, (mono is not an illness you want to get as an older man), and many conversations regarding his true priorities and motivations, he decided to divide each day into 3 parts and to work only 2 of the 3 parts. He also decided to take an unheard of two days off work, consecutively, each week. It took quite a while for some members of the congregation to adjust to that idea, though many saw the sense in good clergy self-care once it was explained and compared with their own lives.

So, what would I suggest to my sister and her classmates as they enter upon their new vocations?

1. That they acknowledge and heal their own personal trauma (past and current) to reduce their CF risk
2. That they engage in exquisite physical, psychological and spiritual self-care - including appropriate respite time
3. That they develop personal and professional support networks who are charged with gently, but firmly, providing feedback regarding CF symptoms and self care - sometimes, whether the clergyperson wants to hear it or not.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Self Care Ideas ...

Now that summer is here, the pace of life may slow enough that you can take time to assess and re-jig your self care plans. Here are some self care ideas assembled by the nursing and support staff from Alberta Children's Hospital - plus a few extras for good measure. See if there's anything here you might like to try or to share with your friends and family:

1. Meditate every day / do yoga

2. Meet a friend for coffee

3. Play frisbee with a pet / walk your dog

4. Spend some time in the mountains

5. Have a bonfire at the beach

6. Buy new lip gloss

7. Retail therapy

8. Have a hot bath with bubbles

9. Visit with someone you love by phone or on Skype/iChat

10. Snuggle under a quilt

11. Go to the airport early so you don't have to rush

12. Listen to loud music (or soft music)

13. Walk early in the quiet morning air

14. Get a haircut

15. Eat the samples at Costco

16. Work in a flower or vegetable garden

17. Go to Starbucks with a good book

18. Go for a long drive

19. Turn the TV off

20. Drumming

21. Have a clean house

22. Make popcorn

23. Mow grass or shovel snow

24. Plan a nice dinner

25. Hike or snowshoe

26. Have a family gathering (the functional ones)

27. Start a book club

28. Engage in a hobby - quilting, playing music, singing, knitting, reading, sports, painting, travel, writing, woodwork, car repair, digital photography, dancing, biking

29. Take a nap

30. Go away with friends

31. Clean the junk out of your pantry and buy fresh, healthy food

32. Laugh out loud - be willing to laugh at yourself

33. Notice and be grateful for the little things - your child's laughter, the colour of the sunset, the way your body moves

34. Plan your next vacation

35. Take yourself on a picnic

36. Be willing to receive

37. Make a list of 50 things that make you smile and post it where you can see it every day

38. Create a self care network of people who will encourage you as you improve your self care - your family, a self care buddy, members of a group to which you already belong

39. Spend an evening outside looking up at the stars

40. Explore ways to relax and become an expert

41. Create a special sanctuary at home - a room or a corner - where you can spend quiet time alone

42. Learn something new

43. De-clutter a closet or a drawer

44. Remember to breathe and breathe deeply

45. Make a gratitude journal and write down 5 things for which you're grateful every night before you go to sleep

46. Fly a kite

47. Roll all the way down a big grassy hill

48. Lie in tall grass and look at the sky

49. Pick flowers to make your surroundings look beautiful

50. Do some baking

51. Take a lovely bone china cup to work and have a quiet cup of tea and listen to soothing music for a few minutes every afternoon

52. Spend a day at the spa

53. Ask for a hug

54. Spend quality time with your partner

55. Tell someone you love them

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Home Again...

It's always good to come home. Particularly in the early summer when the whole of Vancouver is lush and green and everyone is looking forward to a long stretch of summer days.

The Compassion Fatigue Conference in Kingston, Ontario went extremely well. It was great to network and to hear the perspectives of other CF specialists as we continue to refine our ideas about how CF should be defined and about what works in the areas of prevention, recovery and resilience.

We heard wonderful speakers - Laura Lipsky, Jack Truten, Pat Fisher, Gabor Mate and others - and Francoise Mathieu did an amazing job organizing and hosting the whole event. The atmosphere was one of excitement and affirmation and we all left looking forward to another conference next year. Over the summer and fall, I'll share with you some of the ideas and information gleaned from the talks and maybe some of you will decide to join us next year...

One of the really nice parts of the conference, for me, was hearing from three people that they regularly read and enjoy this blog. Helpers, for whatever reason, seem to be uncomfortable leaving blog comments so I was grateful to hear that someone was actually reading the posts!

On my return home, I had a few days to unpack and do the laundry and then it was time to prepare for the last workshop of the season, an evening with the Lions Gate Hospice Society. They are a great group and seemed to find the notion of CF both familiar and helpful.

Tomorrow, I will post the self care ideas from the Alberta Children's Hospital workshop, as promised, and then will be back to regular posts until I go on holiday later in the summer.

A very happy, healthy and refreshing summer to you all!