- Right now, with COVID, we are all in trauma. Everyone. Not just the people crying or feeling additional anxiety. Everyone is in trauma. I’ve been taking classes and getting additional certifications since April 2020 and those programs have been all individuals gathering together stating that they too, are in trauma and we are all, as therapists, doing the best we can to help our clients, but also families and ourselves.
In March, I told clients I was going to give them a free three months, knowing that COVID wasn’t going anywhere, any time soon. I knew that there was going to be so much change and I knew offering them a suspension in their payment, that would help keep them in the very place that could help them. That turned into three more months. From March through September, I offered 99% free services. (And no, I was not coasting on stimulus, I was unable to receive any stimulus due to a computer glitch and I was unable to reach the state.)
Crisis and Vulnerability
When you are in crisis, even if you don’t “feel” like you are, you have to first pay attention to what already was happening in your life. Many people were already struggling. Mentally check off how many of these you might have already been struggling with.
- having any history of trauma (regardless of if you were getting therapy for it or had therapy for it)
- history of mental illness
- relationship distress
- financial difficulties
- life transitions in the past year (weddings, deaths, adoptions, births, a parent in a nursing home, etc)
- life transitions in the past five years (same as above but a different level of experience and/or intensity)
- social struggles (including social networking “drama” you were observing or involved in)
- health struggles
COVID-19 BRINGS SO MUCH MORE
In addition to the personal experiences that you may have had in the past six months (writing this in October 2020), such as:
- having COVID-19
- a relative contracting COVID-19
- being concerned about COVID-19
- workplace challenges from layoffs and closures to wearing masks in the workplace, or working from home
- school or childcare challenges for yourself or a family member
- interpersonal differences and politicizing and polarization of masks, COVID-19
- political differences exasperated
- different coping styles for friends and family
- the inability of others to appreciate or show compassion toward your different coping styles from friends and family
- inability of you to appreciate or show compassion toward others different coping styles of friends and family
- impatience at others in the day to day for having different styles of coping if those styles have no connection to your health. (ie, being mad at people who wear masks or companies that insist you wear one; that doesn’t hurt you it only inconveniences you or is against a moral belief, but isn’t hurting you per se)
This is everything you experience, observe, hear, read, converse over philosophically, etc. These struggles may include:
- Behaviors that you notice such as sleep disturbances, negative coping such as increased smoking or alcohol intake, eating more sugary sweets (remember when everyone was baking banana bread?), losing keys and phone numbers, boundary struggles such as too much reaching out or inquiring or too little, startle response, hyperfocus on weight or looks, avoiding people, feeling grudges towards anyone who isn’t in alignment with your feelings or “morals”.
- Spiritual struggles such as loss of hope, a feeling of not being loved or valued, struggle to find the bright side of science, politics or even people in general (considering this is, in the USA a science struggle but also a political conflict as well), feeling useless, exhausted, stuck. Some struggles are anger at a 3rd innocent party, for areas of your life that are curtailed or stopped temporarily, such as attending weddings, church services, and other rituals that might have given spiritual meaning in the past to your life.
- Physical struggles such as headaches, sore muscles, increased rashes or gastrointestinal issues. You might have started exercising quite a bit, perhaps overdoing it, and may have developed an obsession with how you look, or you might have given up and stopped working out. You might feel weak or have a lower immune system, with allergies being worse and you might be developing old symptoms that you thought were resolved, such as anxiety from years ago resurfacing with rapid heartbeat and sweating.
- Some Cognitive struggles might be intrusive thoughts, being cynical, sarcastic, and having racing thoughts of despair for others or flashbacks of your own, lowered self-esteem, and feeling unable to make positive decisions. You might also be flip-flopping in and out of careers, relationships, and hobbies in an effort to find yourself.
You have every right to feel these symptoms. Regardless of your politics, thousands have died, hundreds of thousands are sick and will get sick, and about that many will have long-term health issues. We have over 8 million people in poverty and growing. Aid is drying up and honestly, it wasn’t there, to begin with. There have been higher rates of open racism which may be fodder for positive conversation and outcome but until the trauma lowers, that is doubtful from my view.
When we are in stress, think of your brain in parts… the frontal lobe is like a little walnut that guides some functions and it is what you “think” you are thinking with most of the time, however, imagine the rest of your brain like a big ol’ watermelon. That is driving most of your behaviors and that is also where a lot of the past and present coping is taking place. Then you have a little toy dinosaur as the center of the watermelon, that’s your reptilian brain and that does it’s own thing as well.. all of these together but in trauma, they do as well, but part of their “cooperation” is to not work.. some areas take over while others rest and reboot. Imagine they each have three different cell carriers and an area is just simply, in a dead zone or a call drops.. that’s what it’s like; the other areas have to take over.
So if you are stressed, scrolling through Facebook, you might start to have physical symptoms or be very reactive.
Believe it or not, you can’t control yourself as much as you think.
You can, however, get help and help yourself.
This list is smaller than the others – thankfully.
1. Step away from what does not serve your purpose. Honestly, if Facebook pisses you off, get off of it. Or unfollow people, but don’t shun anyone. You can protect yourself without being tacky. If you do insult someone, apologize and move forward. In a crisis, people should try to pull together not pull each other down or apart. If going to the post office irritates you, figure out if you can do your mail via a home service or hire someone. It honestly comes down to self-care.
2. Self-Care. Don’t overwork out, diet, or hyper-focus on nuances to boost your self-image. Your self-image should not come from your size or weight, it should come from your character. On the flip side, if you are ignoring yourself, that’s neglect and self-abuse, so take care of your health. Do things that serve you, like take time to read a fiction you’ve been meaning to read or watch that movie under a cozy blanket. Small gratitude gestures toward yourself like enjoying essential oils (I love them, my link is here as I highly encourage any aromatherapy as a part of self-care) or healthy salads.
3. Get help! It is not a weakness to get help but a strength. If you have had a past trauma or are observing the world through work, social networking, or otherwise, you are in trauma. Because there are so many people struggling (and some are not) I have a donation-based focus for the next few weeks. Grab it now, because I’m slowly integrating back into a traditional practice.
Donation Link Below (if you don’t see the link, it’s past it’s expiration date; just contact me if you are struggling as I take cases on a one to one basis.)
What to expect:
- You will be sent a code to use to schedule your session so that you do not get charged twice.
- You will then be sent a survey to complete so that I can get more background and you will have confidentiality forms, etc to agree to before our session.
- Once we have our session, I will have some background and we can dive into what you are feeling. I will then give you a short plan that is optional, that you can use in the weeks to come.
If you so choose, you can have future sessions, extended at a discount, for a few weeks. Most people do best with several sessions, as weeks and months of stress, or even a lifetime of it, is rarely magically addressed in one session.
Regardless of if you sign up to sessions, I am thankful that you’ve taken the time to read this meaningful blog and for taking time for yourself in doing so.