After everything, I never once expected
when I sat down for a few drinks,
comversing with a dear friend-
a children’s counsellor by profession
bartending on the side-
that in taking me through
the course of her week, she would
so easily name my disease.

Compassion fatigue:
the loss of one’s empathetic ability
from the world’s asking too much.
Also called secondhand trauma
for its prevalency in professions
of taking on the pain of others.
But for me, a neon sign
saying Enter Here,

for this is my ace of swords,
a focal point for healing
because a problem is so much harder to solve
when you can’t even say what it is.
Don’t I find myself with tanks running empty
or text messages left unread
or not wanting to go out
or not wanting to expend any energy at all?

It’s because I get tapped out so easily
(taking all of me just to write a poem some days)
and I don’t want to give love
to anyone who won’t give it back,
to the point where I
don’t want to give at all
despite all the guilt that carves me up
even as I consciously choose to withhold myself.

And I feel like society would do well 
to learn how to recognize this condition
in those that slip under its shadow
for I don’t believe this to be limited to
teachers, therapists, and first responders.
Prolonged suffering breeds dread,
desperation, and destruction,
no matter who you are.

For me, just having a name I can point to
is the first step toward a real solution
which lends meaning to my trials.
If there is a truth here that I can uncover
and later use to lift up another victim,
then there will have been a purpose to it all.
This sense of mission is what sustains me.
It’s what will always keep me fighting for tomorrow.