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Re-igniting Trauma: A Global Pandemic

With every crisis there is danger and opportunity. The danger is the fear and panic . But the opportunity is that we  can use this time to be better people on the other side of this. And when I personally started to hear about the pandemic I was seeing this as a transformative and rebalancing opportunity. For self and for the world. I felt relaxed and calm. But as I realised the impact of this virus on our services, I could feel a triggering of fear.

As I watched this global pandemic come closer to our door, I felt myself being pulled into its clutches before it even got here. I tried to limit the information I consumed and maintan my little routines: breathwork, meditation, self-massage, walks, swims…lots of little tools in my kit. But as the situation got worse, and with a worry and concern for friends and family in affected areas, I felt almost magnetically pulled, almost addicted to the bad news.

Meditation has been key to my healing and maybe it was the skills developed through it that allowed me to identify what was happening very quickly. I could almost pull myself out and look down from a higher perspective. And thankfully pull back before it got out of hand.

It has made me really reflect on why I ( and perhaps many others) was so magnetically attracted to the feelings this pandemic was bringing up: fear, restlessness,irritability, tension, neck pain ,cold feeling in my chest.

It dawned on me that actually my body knew this feeling. All my life. Its a very familiar for the Trauma Survivor and the body likes familiar. It feels comfortable. The body and brain are wired for this feeling of fear and traumaunsafety from years of programming from the past. The scale of this pandemic is unprecedented and I suppose is bound to trigger PTSD/cPTSD, exacerbating old symptoms of anxiety, depression and behaviours associated with the past. And what is astonishng is how quickly the healthy habits we develop one by one can be  dropped.

A good article which explained it nicely:

Early trauma alters the normal development of the brain.The fear centre, the amygdala, is larger and more easily activated.This part of the brain is also known as the reptilian brain. It does not THINK it REACTS. It is constantly scanning the enviroment (internal and external) looking for threat and preparing to survive. The pre-frontal cortex, which is the decision-making, considered part of the brain, goes off-line.

Fear is totally natural. It is our protector. Its a natural part of us. Its the most intelligent response when we are under threat. So dont feel guilty or weak that you feel it. But we do need to be mindful that if we allow fear to overtake it can become dangerous and turn into panic.

People respond in different ways depending on how they were programmed in childhood. And in times of crisis, there is a huge risk that we go back to having a full-blown trauma response instead of a considered, informed response. The event occuring is serious, but our response (individually, politically and collectively) will determine the outcome. While all those in charge of making decisions and providing vital services do their job, we must do what we can, and that would be remaining relaxed and compassionate.

When feelings are intense we start to believe we ARE the feeling. But remember you are not that which you feel. Its just a feeling, acknowledge it, feel it without self- judgement and breathe it out. We are facing the reality of death and suffering, not just on a human level, but much greater, but we now must try and focus on what we ARE now, who we choose to be  and what we can do now.

Honour your own reaction,it will swing like a pendulum. Some days, you will be in a postition to hold peace and calm for others, other days it may be best for you to focus on grounding yourself first.  Not one of us is doing anything wrong. Its ok if you have a freak out moment. Its normal. But we can be really mindful about tracking our body. The body will give us clues that we are going off centre. And thats when we can see clearly what we need to do

For those of you feeling this too, I hope you will find your way back to “zen” too. Here are some of the ways I was quickly able to move through it and transcend it:

  • Seek support: talk to a loved one or a friend . If you see a therapist, now may be a good time to link up. If you are part of a community, a club, a faith group seek build a new style of non-physical socialising. Reach out to people you know will help you.
  • Switch off Social Media and reduce the time listening to the news. The media is sensationalist…detach from the drama. Be aware of the information you need to keep up with what we need to do but then turn away and look at the grren grass, the sun, the flowers the trees!
  • Limit time of social group chats. You dont need to hear all prespectives from too many different sources. Listening to everyones opinions, hypothesis and theories will take you into an overload and you will shudown. Chose less, less, less not more, more, more.
  • Create periods of stillness in the day, just quiet time
  • Write feelings in a journal and reflect back.
  • Attend to your feelings. Try not distract yourself from the pain,the fear , the grief, whatever it is. Sit with them, let the feelings move through you. Notice where you feel the pain, where in your body? Then compassionately soothe yourself. “Its Ok , you are ok. I love you ” Just say wht you would say to a child in pain.
  • Self-forgiveness. Ive learnt that only by not judging myself, I will not judge others and will truly be able to forgive others. By being kind to myself, I am more able to be kind to others. So, its ok to feel scared and in that fear say or do things that you wouldnt normally – in this time its normal – its a sign of being human. Just as long as you reflect back and try and change that. This is the time for love, not fear.
  • Getting Busy in DOING something meaningful to help others. Any little thing. Controlling what I can and letting go of what I cannot. Even using the skills developed through the years of healing and passing those on to others now is a gift. Also using time to concentrate on the things that remain…that are in your control..clean and declutter, call and chat to people you haven’t for a long time. We have an oppotunity to be creative, more resourceful, be more adaptable, do things that we thought we couldnt do.  Be aware of ways you could be helpful.
  • Reframing: this time is about letting go of control and allowing surrender and flow. In a world that has set us up to be “in control” this is very hard. Many religions give us the skills we need to trust…use those skills developed now. As we trust and accept, we can see that however hard these changes are, this transformation we are going through is being done FOR us .
  • Every problem comes with its own solution. The lessons that this virus brings have the ability to be transformative , not just individually but systematically. Where we hold our values, how we treat others, how we help prop up the systems that are unjust, how we ignore the people in the world that suffer just that. And in the meantime, it allows us to really LOOK at ourselves, our own shadow side, our relationships and actually work on fixing them. It may be that those lessons will come afterwards and now is not the time. But now is the best chance to look AT OWR OWN VALUES, our own emotions, our own compulsions and address these.

After doing this I was able to get back into my routine and bring back the self-support systems fully

  • meditation
  • prayer
  • breathwork
  • yoga/movement
  • walking
  • being in nature

For those of us who have lived in a place of uncertainty, feeling unsafe and ungrounded for most of our early lives, this is the time to hold tightly to the routines that we have developed, that give us deep comfort, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Whatever they are, don’t neglect them. Be aware of changes in your thought patterns and routines that may lead you to exacerbate old mental health conditions

The next few weeks will be challenging. But its also and opportunity to grow further and deeper in self-love and compassion for others. Its important to hold onto the present moment and not allow the mind to trick us. Being grateful for EVERYTHING that we are meant to receive is hard but its they key to peace. Thats important because we have a risk of squandering this opportunity we are being given …living it in fear instead of love.

As we are forced back into our homes it may help to reframe this “lockdown” or “quarantine” as a time of DEEP REST…DEEP REFLECTION….RESETTING ourselves.

Love and prayers to all