Tips from the Traumatized

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to write about today, it’s the anniversary of my grandmothers death, but now we have our own ways of mourning that don’t need to be shared at the moment. The one thing that does consistently come up in conversations I’ve been having lately are with friends that are starting to feel this lockdown in a way that they’ve never felt anything before. I’ve had other friends who, like me, have had significant trauma in their lives, and this time is triggering for them, but they have more tools.

I am in no way a professional but I can give you some quick tips that I’ve learned over time. There’s not enough therapists and psychiatrists as is, when this is over, it’s going to be a very bumpy ride. Right now we’re all going through a collective trauma, one that is going to affect every one of us differently, especially since there’s no end date, and then no end date for the fall out. We all know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right now we’re all hovering between the first and second level. Not a great place to be constantly.

Trauma also causes fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses, which is why we are feeling so on edge and so out of control, because there is literally nothing to control this. It might be good to figure out how your body is starting to react, because there’s definitely trauma responses coming out of even ordinary non-essential workers. For me I either freeze or fly, since I cant fly away from a virus, my MO has been freeze. Which essentially just means I’m moderately less productive than I usually am. However, because of being used to having trauma responses, I’m able to make my days where I’m feeling whole more productive.

This has been said a million times, if you’re not being productive during this it’s really really okay. If someone tells you you need to be productive during this, they can fuck right off the plane from which I wish I was flying away from this virus.

So some tips and tricks from your hospital jumping, very nervous, sometimes very depressed friends. Get used to using your senses a lot.

Feeling, temperature, often numbness comes with freeze responses. Sometimes the only thing that will stop a panic attack (or disassociation, which we probably wont get to today) is my jumping in a freezing cold shower and staying in until I can’t anymore. Other cold tricks is go down to a lake, stick your feet in and it’ll be cold for you. Same goes with heat, but be careful about burning yourself.

Get yourself a consistent physical thing to do. As soon as this started I started walking a lot. Adjust as needed.

I’m just going to give you the situation I was in today or else this would come as a small book.

I am sitting on a dock with my feet in the water, the air smells sweet, my feet are cold, the sun is warm on my back, I can hear my friend Craig talking to me, I’m watching the clouds float by. There’s a woman in the gazebo doing jumping jacks. I have a smooth rock in my hand I’m turning over and over. A couple walked by, they were talking about where they wished they could go for lunch.

Use all your senses, if that doesn’t work name five things for each sense, keep breathing until you can get yourself safe.

The best way to bring yourself back is to be present. Look out for the warning signs, withdrawal, anger, mood swings, fear, agoraphobia, anything out of the ordinary in you and your friends. Put your oxygen mask on first and get help as soon as you can. I’m going to guess that a pretty large portion of the population is going to walk out of this with some form of PTSD.

When all the hospitals are back to normal, when the economy eventually comes back, when we’re not hovering in between the two lowest rungs on the survival ladder, there’s going to be a lot of other cleaning up to do, and a lot of people who haven’t suffered trauma might not know what do to with how overwhelming it is.

I’m not even close to a professional, maybe a professional patient, a patient who is finally learning how to deal with all of my own trauma, so I figured I’d pass a lot a little bit of the things that help. It’s possible to get through the emotional part.

Stick together, Reach out, Use your whole circle, communicate when something is getting too much for you (put your own mask on first), love each other, Be kind.

-river

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