If you’ve noticed increased anxiety, maybe even some depression trying to sabotage your coping, you are not alone. My anxiety is at an all time high. If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would’ve told you I was fine, that this is a problem of the rest of the world and that I don’t participate in that world anymore. Things have really changed since then and I’m sure they’ve changed for you as well.
The first way my world began to change? Everyone got sent home from work! Suddenly my days were filled with noise, kids running through the streets screaming, parents out on front porches visiting with neighbors, people out walking the sidewalks. I took a deep breath and began a new mantra – they’re still not interfering in my routine. Each day my dog and I disappear into the forest to decompress among the evergreens and revel in the beauty and peace of nature. While people were being restricted to groups of no more than 50 people, I was out where I always am, wandering the natural wonders.
And then “they” found my forest trails and invaded my recovery space. No longer were my jaunts into the woods quiet, in fact, it was quite loud, the same high pitched children’s screams that set my nerves on edge, that remind me so much of my trauma. I was no longer refreshed after my hikes, I was incensed. I was anxious every time I set out wondering how many people I would meet up with. The parking lots were low on space. Large groups of friends were meeting up to exercise together.
Suddenly, groups were restricted to no more than 5 people. This made the forests even more appealing, no one could see them back there.
Okay, let me interrupt there because by this point, I was already suffering from increased anxiety, but I was managing it. I was being careful, giving way to oncoming hikers and pleasure seekers, staying the requisite distance away, ensuring no one decided to pet my dog, basically looking out for me and protecting number one. I’d go straight home from the trails. I’d wear my gloves (it was still cold last month here) and wash my hands and sanitize my door knobs as soon as I got home. The hypervigilance was back and slowly, I began to shift back to survival mode. Each person I would see coming at me in the distance, I would immediately leave the trail and distance myself from them, if there was a side trail, I took it. Funny thing is, I didn’t notice I was doing it.
Then, someone caught onto “their” antics and made the harsh decision to close down ALL green spaces, parks and public areas. You’re now forbidden to even sit on a park bench. Suddenly, my forest trails were off limits. Suddenly, my anxiety went through the roof.
The outside world had just invaded my simple existence. It had taken away all that I found solace in and all that kept me sane.
I won’t lie to you. I’ve shed many tears in the last few days. I feel so trapped. “They” assure us that we can still take our dogs out for a walk around the neighborhood or go explore another neighborhoods sidewalks…but “they” don’t have PTSD. I’ve never felt safe walking the sidewalks – and that was when no one was home during the day! Now everyone is out, there is NOT the requisite 6 feet of distance to pass anyone. It is not paranoia to think that I could become infected simply by taking a walk around my neighborhood.
It’s such an oxymoron that I can get suicidal, yet when my life is threatened in this way, I am terrified. My anxiety is pretty high. I can be fined for going into the forest to walk my dog, even if I’m alone because the land the forest is on is officially closed. That reinstates a limitation in my life that I’d spent so many years working to eliminate. I can no longer expand my “bubble”. In fact, I have to close my bubble again and it feels so confining, like my life was just ripped from me again.
The emotional flashbacks are daily and at points hourly. I’m agitated. I’m short. I’m swearing a lot and easily frustrated. I’m having difficulty sleeping. I’m crying at the drop of a hat. I’m afraid a lot and when I’m not, I’m never very far from it. I’m trying to limit my viewing of daily news sources. I’m stretching. I’m lifting some weights. I’m working on hobbies and trying to keep my mind occupied on a domestic routine.
I’m feeling worthless and wanting to run back into the chaos to help in some small way. Once a medic, always a medic, right? But I know this too is an emotional flashback to the helplessness I felt during the course of my trauma and it’s aftermath. I do not like feeling helpless or feeling trapped. No one does.
If this is what I’m going through right now in this topsy turvy world we now find ourselves in, then I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I know you’re all out there. I know you’re all scared and are experiencing increased symptoms right now. I know you’re all doing whatever you can just to hold on right now. I’m there with you. I get it. Let’s get through this together.
We didn’t walk through hell and come out the other side to let this beat us. Let me know how you’re doing and what you’re doing to hold on.