It’s no secret anymore that I live with PTSD (so glad I came out of that closet a couple of years ago). Millions of people do. And within the context of living with PTSD that struck me when my daughter died in 2005, this world pandemic has taught me something really strange, but also wonderful. It’s given me a new start. And what I’ve learned may apply to other people who were already struggling with PTSD, heightened anxiety or unrelenting stress in our earlier “normal” times.
Acknowledging those who are being severely challenged from what is being asked of all of us in this turn of global events, I’d suggest that quiet reflection, prayer, meditation, asking for help and guidance from whatever source feels the most natural and healing, helps us see the possibilities and opportunities that will provide the solution that is right for the moment.
I also know that everything is temporary, even when it feels like we have been imprisoned by a situation. There are lessons in every hardship that help us grow and move on. Often these lessons are centered around learning to trust ourselves, trust in the help we are about to receive and believing that we can and will get through whatever feels painful or terrifying.
But, getting back to PTSD and the pandemic. I’ve found as the world has slowly come to what seems like a complete standstill in many ways and amidst all the weirdness (it’s weird seeing the skies empty of planes and where they are flying, crews wearing PPE, countries closing their borders, having to line up to get into stores, only going out for essential shopping, parks and trails shut down and even in some countries, the hours and who can venture outside being severely curtailed), I’ve been experiencing a wonderful feeling of relief.
Now, you might think relief as strange, but living with PTSD symptoms makes it challenging to navigate through life the way many people can. Any amount of relief feels like finding a little pot of gold. One of the major symptoms I experience is not being as productive as I once was. Mentally I’m good to go. Physically, my body cannot catch up. My frustration reminds me of when I was a kid and would ask my mom for seconds at the dinner table. She would usually say no and remind me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach (she was always right).
Similarly, working against PTSD, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve envisioned life being a certain way, only to have to continually resign myself to the fact that there’s no way I could ever compete at the frantic pace of the pre-pandemic world. Which always left me questioning my value. It was sort of like standing on the sidelines of the scarier rides at an amusement park, listening to all the laughter and screams of the riders and wondering what I was missing out on.
Of some consolation was I’d long felt everyone not already vulnerable to the online craziness that had become so much a part of our lives, was certainly vulnerable to it. Where to feel successful was the result of one’s ratings and likes. Where achieving success was dependent on the hours one could commit to being a player and the better tricks they could employ to win followers. Where competing was at a frenzied pace against those willing to commit bolder acts within the confines of an increasingly degenerative social media. That same social media that in the hands of one’s tribe and the ratings they fleetingly assigned determined an individual’s worth (good or bad) and virtual popularity. All of which in my view was a recipe for disaster and non-starter for me to even try to get in the game.
The pandemic has in many ways forced everyone back to “start”. To have an opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important in life. Our priorities. What we can live without. How we want to do business. How we want to use social media. How we want to make our virtual connections more meaningful.
With everyone in the same boat, I have nothing and no one to compete against. I have all the time in the world to do life my way and in my own time. There’s no rush to be anywhere. My mind is relaxed. No one has an advantage because they are more capable. I’ve found people are kinder. More considerate. We all know we have to wait the same amount of time to get into the store. We all lack access to the same services and travel. We’ve all lost some freedom. We’re all spending more time in comfy clothes and letting our hair grow. What was cool isn’t anymore.
My relief is palpable. Maybe it is for anyone who was feeling pressure to be and do more in a world that seemed like it was spinning out of control. In this time of pandemic, we all get to start over from wherever we were.
I don’t think the world will ever be the same. I believe that the choices we make in how we want to conduct ourselves going forward together and individually will play a huge part in how we experience life in the future.
Whether we are personally suffering or not during this time of global change, there are lessons to be learned through our sensitivities that have been heightened. In our willingness to work together to find our way forward. In how we have reconnected with a desire to comfort and help each other more readily.
Sometimes change comes to us in ways that couldn’t affect us the same way from any other circumstance. This pandemic may be one of them.
Stay well and safe.