I have secondary trauma. A clear-cut full-blown THIS IS DESTROYING MY LIFE RIGHT NOW case of it. I have had compassion fatigue before, and I have had things bother me before, but the journey into job-related PTSD has achieved fruition. I didn't seek it out, nor did I think it would ever happen. I felt that I was virtually unshakable. I have situations every now and then where I go away into a supply room and cry a little, and then I get over it and move on with my life. Now, I am exhausted. I slept almost all week. I worked, slept, and took care of my puppy. But most of the time I was sleeping I had nightmares about the situation, so when I woke up I was in a shaking cold sweat. When I am awake, it plays behind my eyelids. By all counts I've entered the realm of true-blue secondary trauma, and I'm not liking it at all. To the point that I am not sure I want to put myself in its path again. I can weather this, I think, with some time, but from now on I'll look at the trauma doors with dread instead of a tingle of excitement. Something vital has gone missing. I feel shaken. My confidence in myself to be an iron-clad badass is nearly gone. Everything seems surreal.
And I can't explain it rationally. I've seen objectively worse things, or things as bad as this thing, so I don't know. I've been thinking about it relentlessly for a while now, and I still don't know. All I have to fall back on is, I did my job competently and professionally even until the end of my shift. At least I have that.
I seem to have come to a crossroads. Can I live with the risk of feeling this way again, knowing that I am being of service and making a true contribution to the world? Or go away from this career I used to love and stop making a difference to anyone? I don't know yet. Time will tell, I suppose.