“You have to remember, we are all experiencing a global trauma right now,” my therapist reminded me after I shared that I was feeling off, disconnected, spacy, and slightly depressed. She assured me that these were not only normal trauma symptoms but that many people are feeling the same way right now.
I had to sit with that information for a few minutes to wrap my head around the fact that worldwide we are ALL affected and experiencing trauma. It helped me understand the reactions I see in the media, the protestors, the fear, anger, and general confusion.
It took me 15 years of therapy to be able to sit with my feelings and process and calm my own anxiety. What about people who don’t know how to do this? People, who bury themselves at work and are home now? Or people who go to church to seek solitude or the bar to escape. They are suddenly immobilized and confronted with their own space, thoughts, and feelings.
And what about the people at the front lines? How are they ever going to recover? I read about the poor NY doctor, Lorna Breen that committed suicide after she treated so many Coronavirus patients in the Manhattan ER. Terribly sad.
According to Psychology Today, when trauma reaches a level where it negatively impacts entire societies or groups of people, it is called collective trauma. Situations that may lead to collective trauma include war, mass violence, genocide, and pandemics (Aydin, 2017). “Our society is definitely in a collective state of trauma,” said Jonathan Porteus, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who oversees the crisis and suicide hotline in Sacramento, CA.
It’s not just the initial emergence of the Pandemic that has affected us. It is the fact that every day things change. The virus mutates. People die. There are protestors and conspiracy theories and disagreements. Every day our foundation is shaken a little more. Say nothing about the people who are stuck with abusers and stressors in their very home. These are just the present facts. “Unlike posttraumatic stress disorder, which surfaces after a trauma has ended, the country is only starting to grapple with the pandemic’s psychological fallout,” Jonathan Porteus, PhD said.It is expected that there will be long term affects and an emerging mental health crisis. In a recent opinion piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, warned of an upcoming wave of mental disorders because of coronavirus.
He noted that “large-scale disasters, whether traumatic (the World Trade Center attacks or mass shootings), natural (hurricanes), or environmental (Deepwater Horizon oil spill), are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse.” “The COVID-19 pandemic would likely produce a similar “overflow of mental illness,” he said. From isolation to anxiety to excess drinking, coronavirus has touched almost every area of life, said Lan Nguyen, a suicide and crisis services program manager for the hotline in Santa Clara County in Northern California.
When I posted Coping with Pandemic Anxiety, it was at the very beginning of this rollercoaster. It was easier to be optimistic. Hours after I posted, my sister called and was very sick. She tested positive for a strain of Coronavirus but finally learned she was negative for COVID-19. Those few video calls watching her struggle to breathe were terrifying. I have a few friends with family members that tested positive for COVID and my heart goes out to all of the families affected. Now, it’s been almost two months since Trump announced the national emergency. And even though some parts are beginning to reopen, people are frightened and there isn’t any real safety or assurance available.
There is also a question about our personal rights. Should/will they force us to take a vaccination? There is the word of an App that records everyone you come in contact with, and news of possible home arrest devices on the ankles of people who test positive. There are conspiracy videos and YouTubers being banned because they say something else is happening. What about freedom of speech? All of this only adds to the current state of anxiety.
Personally, I am staying as safe as possible for the present. Both my daughter and I have asthma and that puts us at higher risk. I understand and even believe some of the conspiracy info out there, but I feel it is irrelevant at this point because the virus is actually real, I’ve seen it, it doesn’t matter where it came from or if it is being blown up. I don’t think I will get it but I don’t want to test my luck. I don’t think I will die in a car accident, but I am not going to go racing around dangerously to test that either! In addition to remaining cautious for myself and my family. I also will continue to wear a mask if it keeps the elderly safe and/or feeling safer.
I am doing a lot of grounding and tuning into my higher power. I try to take in all the info from different sources and integrate it with my own intuition. I am very grateful I have the ability to be aware of the trauma and not let it control me. I feel for people who are struggling and I plan to let my desire to help inspire my posts.
May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. This post’s purpose is to acknowledge that we are experiencing a global trauma. If you are feeling off, give yourself a break. A therapist, Jennifer Yaegar wrote an article for Business Insider,on how to handle stress during a Pandemic. She says, “When experiencing trauma, we are limited in our ability to process many other experiences at the same time, as so much of our energy is going toward surviving our current situation. We should accept we don’t have the energy to do everything we think we should be, and that we have to alter our expectations of our physical, mental, and emotional capacities. Because trauma immobilized our bodies, it is vital to burn off negative energy and calm our bodies and therefore our nervous system. Lastly, she recommends sharing our experience. Connection is so important and even more so during social isolation.”
I hope in sharing I am helping. Blessings to all humans of Earth. You are not alone.
National Sucide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Psychology Today, WebMD, Business Insider, pics healthyconnections.org and campussafetymagazine.com