The Emotional Toll of Long Term Recovery

Early on in my journey helping out with tornado relief a friend mentioned the emotional fatigue that went along with the journey. And I was unclear as to what that meant, because although I had been helping some, I had not yet fully committed myself to be part of the relief process. Physical fatigue? Yes, I got that. Financial fatigue? Well, that was a given. But emotional fatigue? What was that all about.

And now I am tired. Just so very tired. It took me awhile to realize what it was. I thought it was physical fatigue. But when I could not sleep anymore (and I can SLEEP for a few days if I am in a flare), had time off from my paid job to rest, was eating well and exercising, and I could not kick the fatigue it dawned on me. I was emotionally spent.

We are almost 9 months in the recovery process. Many people are now back in their houses, and hope is on the horizon for more to be back in their homes by Thanksgiving. But I find myself waking up some days and

just not caring. At all. About any of it.

I feel sometimes like I am watching myself go through the motions of helping, but there is no life in it. It is just motions. I am just so tired. And sleep is not relieving it because it follows me into my dreams. And I wake up, and there it is again.

Why so tired?

Because the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. And the few are dwindling. The onslaught of help that happened in the first week, month, even 3 months, is long since gone and faded away. Even those who stood with us for 6 months got tired and peeled away. And then there is me, and a small # of other people who are still going as volunteers.

And I see it. They are tired too. Sometimes this comes out as snapping at each other. Sometimes it comes out as pushing other people away, even those few new volunteers we have. Sometimes it makes us seem uncaring, or far away. And more and more, I know a number of us are fighting the urge to just give up and be done. Many already have.

But I don’t give up that easily. Not when there is still a job to do. Not when everyone is not home yet. If there are tornado survivors who are still trying to get back home, who are we to think we have the corner on being weary? They are weary too.

This fatigue, this incidious emotional fatigue. Why? Why does it plague me so?

Because donations are coming with less and less frequency. Because we have to be more reserved with the donations we do have to make sure we continue to meet needs. Because we have to make decisions about things related to helping that are not popular. Because despite my strong desire for unity in service, we are not even coming close. My heart breaks day after day in regard to this. Because on any given day I could easily have 5 different people upset with me because of something related to how I am providing the ongoing service at the tornado relief center. Because on that day I may not even have one thank you. And the sad truth is, over time one thank you stacked up against 5 upset people just becomes a bigger and bigger cloud that hangs over the best of my intentions.

Doing what we do has become expected, and ordinary. It has faded into the background and most everyone has just gone about their business. For almost 9 months I have given all the extra energy I have to this, and the rest of my life has gone on hold. And all of that wouldn’t matter, but for knowing that people really still cared. But do they? Do they still care, or do they just want this whole thing to be over so badly that they forget both those who are still struggling to come home, and those helping them?

It has been my goal to keep helping through the 1 year mark. To keep the tornado recovery center open that long. To be able to provide Christmas in some way to the tornado survivors. But my soul is so weary, I don’t know how I can. Tell me friends, how can I? How can we, the few who are still going?

I am tired. We are tired. The emotional toll of long term recovery is bigger than most people know.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30



2 responses to “The Emotional Toll of Long Term Recovery

  1. Cheryl, Thank You! All of you at the TDC Thank you! Everyone who donated anything and those of you that still are, Thank You! You helped change me and those in my home lives! You are appreciated please please know! God Bless with all the love one man can show and express for many others who may never see this!

  2. Cheryl, I always need to be reminded when things don’t seem to be going right; that “my plan” does not always coincide with “God’s Plan,” even if I think it does. How could that be?
    Well, we are called to discipleship. We can only be true disciples if we have Christ’s help. What we think we need for help is often the wrong thing. With Christ all things are possible.

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