Isn’t it busy at the moment? Wonderful people setting up wonderful projects, everyone zooming and doing yoga, home schooling, street what’s app groups and people launching their own channels and podcasts. So much to help people from feeling dangerously lonely.
Or maybe you’re like me, and countless people I’ve spoken to, who are responding at a different speed?
I spoke to a mum last week who was feeling left behind by all the super hero qualities of the other mothers who were working from home, schooling the kids and volunteering, while she felt overwhelmed and deskilled trying to translate her work into a workable online format using unfamiliar technology.
Five different yoga teachers who are friends, are doing beautiful classes online and I haven’t been to one. I delete 15 inspirational emails every morning without reading them and I haven’t got a new routine as advised to clients by the Well Being Service I am associated with.
Am I not coping? Not at all. I have reflected and tuned in and this is MY timing. This blog is to support those who want to be less social and less productive and take their time adjusting.
- There is no rush, your skills / compassion / product are needed in the world.
- Life is in flux, there’s little point adapting everything you’ve done for years to a new format that is short term when your input will be long term.
- People are just about full now, about to hit overwhelm, and your message could get lost in the huge surge of new information, posters, classes and so on out there.
- In a parallel to the medical situation, this is a period of observation and learning, of seeing what helps and what doesn’t, of letting things take their course and considering where our efforts are best placed.
- Life will never return to normal so there’s no need to make the new life like the old one unless you need to for a temporary respite.
- All new jobs are extra tiring. In your first week, you take on little at work and come home exhausted. Everything you do is new, working out how to use the photocopier, remembering colleagues names, learning the computer system, remembering the change you need for the tea and coffee jar, finding where the toilets are and the easiest route to work. No one expects you to have a full case load or to be productive, it’s induction time.
I can’t think of a more interesting time to study a global crisis in psychological terms. So far I notice grief processes and trauma processes being reactivated. I notice my own tendencies and see them in others. In some cases I’ve observed quite extreme paranoia, I would say everyone I have spoken to one to one has increased anxiety and most have excessive or unusual tiredness.
Each person’s process through this will be unique. I was full of energy and adrenaline for a couple of weeks – many were scared but I knew I was experiencing excitement, a reaction I have to adrenaline which helps me plan and organise and produce. I have had the least anxiety of anyone I know, I moved from the excitement to the overwhelmed phase quite quickly and then had to limit stimulation and engagement. I’m quite content to somewhat anti-social at this point and to hide away and regroup. I can’t impose a structure on myself that will work and I can’t replicate my initial drive and focus. That’s really OK with me.
I spoke to someone working in a hospital who was off work with minor symptoms and desperate to get back to work to help her colleagues. I reminded her that she will be needed in the hospital for weeks and months to come and her co-workers will also need to go off sick or self isolate and that she can then take over from them.
My therapist who works exclusively with cancer patients, said during our phone session last week she was amazed by how well her clients were doing (especially compared with staff or the well). We agreed that cancer patients and the chronically ill have already had their lives exploded, often we have lost our work, our routine, our income, our health and most crucially we have been living with change and uncertainty for some years.
When I was first ill I could endure the change because I knew it was short term and eventually life would return to normal. When treatment ended and life did not return to normal, I hit a wall. It was very hard to come to terms with the fact that normal had gone and this was a new, unimagined future, not the one I had lost. Over a period of time and with much help from therapy and reading I have become adept at living with uncertainty. I have a new normal. When I see the busyness of life in lockdown it reminds me a lot of when I was trying to impose my old life onto my new one.
I KNOW from experience that plans have to be made lightly as they change, that life is fragile, that living in the moment is precious. I have TRIED to impose my old life onto my new life, to be routined and structured, to no avail. Things do not go as planned for me, or very rarely. I manage to do real life things, that others see me joining in with, by having a very quiet, uneventful life for 90% of the time behind closed doors. I’ve been isolated for 3 years and though I do find it sad at times, I also need it. I’m not just recovering physically, I’m recovering from trauma.
So if you’re tired and don’t feel like rushing in there to save the world right now, trust that feeling. Our reactions are a complex mix of our fight / flight programming and trauma responses and personality traits. Your unique timing is the right timing for you. Everyone out there is having a reaction to trauma and they are exhibiting different responses, none are ‘better’ than yours. We work with what we have, we pace ourselves. When others ‘crash’ you may be better placed to step in. In spite of what the adrenaline tells us, there is no rush. Your time to shine will come.
Trauma therapy is best done after the trauma is over. As an experience trauma specialist, I will be available in the coming months and years to work with those affected by this pandemic. Please see my home page for details. Appointments for those who have worked with me in the past are currently available online. More slots will open in a few weeks.