I recently read something profound, on Facebook no less. It was a letter from a trauma specialist.
“I want to acknowledge that living through this pandemic is a trauma.”
That stopped me. I know so many of us are beating ourselves up for not being more productive—I hear it all the time now. “Every morning I wake up with big plans for the day and wind up sitting and staring into space. Then guilt trip myself.” This from an someone who is usually an active and prolific writer. Another writer friend wrote, “Such a strange feeling of being physically confined but mentally . . .adrift.”
Yes, mentally adrift. That’s how I feel.
I have a whiteboard full of to-do’s, things I meant to do if I had the time. Well, now that I have time, that we have the time, I/we can’t. I wander, room to room, outside, inside. I sit on my front porch and stare at my roses and listen to the birds for hours. I get nothing done. I start reading a real book instead of listening to an audiobook. I can’t multitask. I clean out a drawer. Then I get nothing else done.
We can’t go out so I prepare a lovely meal every night around six, and my husband and I sit down to eat together; cloth napkins, candles and all. Sometimes wine, sometimes Campari and soda, most times Pelegríno and bitters on the rocks.
I’m craving deep peace, and I search for moments of it through my day. I resist hurrying, I have an unusually low tolerance for stress, and now I know it’s natural and I am not alone.
With trauma, parts of our brain shut down as a defense mechanism for survival. Our ability to fully process what is going on is limited, and feeling numb and out of touch is normal. Everyone manifests trauma differently: Some get anxious, while others get depressed. I sit on my front porch in my rocking chair, staring at my roses.
In-depth processing of trauma happens years later, long after the trauma-producing event, when we feel emotionally safe to deal with it.
When it’s over.
But not now. Now I refuse to feel guilty about being non productive. When we are experiencing trauma, if we can just get by emotionally, if we can just function, that’s okay.
We need to be kind even to, especially to, ourselves.