Welcome to our world.

Existing here in the era of Covid19 is surreal. The entire world has practically shut down. Many people are out of work, may not have a workplace to return to once this is over; others are finding ways to struggle through but each and every day they are waking up to anxiety and uncertainty; they’re experiencing relationship difficulties; they’re having difficulty regulating their moods; they’re quick to anger, feel helpless and trapped.

To this, I say, welcome to our world.

We all know this. We know how PTSD just barged into our lives and changed everything we ever knew. We know what it’s like living in uncertainty; many of us struggled and fought valiantly before losing our jobs. We know financial uncertainty. We know the constant anxiety that steals sleep, steals confidence and sows seeds of mistrust. Right now the rest of the world is getting a peak at what we live(d) in for so long. The fear of being in public spaces, of being near other people. The difficulty sleeping. The strange dreams, perhaps even nightmares.

Think about it. This is what we’ve wished the entire world could understand. Uncertainty. Perhaps even permanent changes going forward in the way they have to live their lives – just like us.

Some will bounce back and some won’t. Just like us. Those that do, we hope, will learn from their experience and approach their new normal with a different mindset, far more carefully, just as we do.

We can hope that this pause in their life helps them to understand that for us, there is no return to normal; the way we approach the world has changed fundamentally. In fact, many PTSDers out there are admitting that this pandemic has had little impact on the way they live their lives.

You see, many of us are already public shy, wary of strangers, and prefer small gatherings over large groups. We already know how to occupy ourselves without the need to involve others. We know social media and virtual connectedness. We appreciate silence and understand the value of it. We are friends with sunshine and have a genuine understanding of the value of a soft breeze or a warm mug. We have come to appreciate the little things and we understand how to harness the comfort inherent in a simple existence.

So, take pride in that right now because all around you are homes in chaos – you remember the chaos, right? You remember how long it took us to adjust? Take a deep breath, harness some patience and see, they are where you once were. Their worlds are upside down.

Be proud of all you’ve learned that has carried you thus far, my fellow PTSDers, we got this. We’ve already seen far worse than this. We will come out the other side, together.

In Solidarity.

PS. My deepest condolences to our brothers and sisters in Nova Scotia; to our RCMP brethren on the loss of Cst Heidi Stevenson, to our CSC members on the loss of Alana Jenkins & Scott Mcleod & to our Fire families on the loss of Tom Bagley. In the aftermath of such a tragedy, you will be numb for some time, then raw and in pain. We are here for you if you need a shoulder. Please don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Know we all support you, feel for you and wish we could ease your pain. The healing will take time. Strength and love to you all.

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PTSD in the Era of COVID19

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.

In Solidarity.

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