We're a little more than half way through this (fill in your own adjective) year, and one thing is certainly clear: 2020 is making us work.
The truth is, what we're experiencing is more than just a stressful time. It's actually a collective trauma.
Wait, did she say trauma? Yep, I did.
While people often associate trauma with experiences like abuse or assault, war or a natural disaster, trauma can actually be caused by any disturbing event or events that make a person feel unsafe, out of control or helpless.
A pandemic fits that criteria, yes? As does more common (and insidious) experiences like racial violence and discrimination, poverty, misogyny, abuse of government power, homophobia, body-size discrimination and so on.
Symptoms of trauma are often overlooked or mistaken for anxiety because they've become so common in our culture. But unchecked trauma can leave our nervous system in fight-flight-freeze mode, which can have long-term effects on our minds, metaphorical hearts, and physical bodies.
Here are some common reactions to living with or through trauma:
- Feeling like you always have to watch your back
- Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
- Spacing out or feeling like you're outside of your body
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling like you're on an emotional rollercoaster
- All or nothing thinking
As a therapist who specializes in supporting self-identified women and girls through trauma (as well as anxiety and stress), I want to pause to emphasize this: Having symptoms like the ones noted above are - for lack of a better term - a normal response to living through scary and unsafe events.
That said, these defenses also keep us from living our fullest lives. Some examples: Numbing to pain, also numbs us to joy. Riding an emotional roller coaster often impairs relationships. Constantly watching our backs, keeps us from being present and looking toward the future.
You get the picture. And yet, it follows that it doesn't have to be this way.
I truly believe that even in times of chaos, deep healing and growth are possible. Post-traumatic growth is real, just as is the wound it stems from.
Often the first step in the healing process is connecting with a therapist you feel comfortable with. This act alone can help re-create a feeling of emotional safety that had been initially highjacked.
If you're interested in accessing support or learning more about how I help clients move through trauma to a place of ease and increased resiliency, please contact me. At risk of repeating myself, you do not need to go it alone.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,