Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I have been ( more) exhausted since the shelter in place order went into effect. In bed sound asleep by 8:00. Or if not, wanting to be desperately! Who knew that Netflix and couch surfing could wear a body out?
Errr, well me actually. And I’m gonna break it down for you too in case you feel like you are doing something wrong.
COVID-19 and all it’s attendant closures, isolation, quarantines, loss of normalcy and routine and the like, is a trauma. A collective trauma that we are all experiencing together. How we respond may be different for each of us, but that does not change the fact that this pandemic is traumatizing.
Let’s look at ( some of what) what makes an event or events traumatic. First, there is loss of power and control over our lives. We are voiceless, powerless, helpless and without choice. Of course, we all have some say about what happens in our own homes; however we are being told where we can and can’t go, as well as who we can and can’t see. That is being dictated to us right now. We get it, we understand that it’s for the common good, but that does not make our loss of agency in our own life feel good.
Another hallmark of trauma is uncertainty, the now knowing. And right now, there is very little we know. We don’t know when the shelter in place oder will be lifted, we don’t know when our children will be back in school, we don’t know how widespread the virus will be, we don’t know how many people will die, we don’t know if we or our loved ones will contract it, we don’t know if we will have jobs or how our finances will be impacted on a personal and global level, etc. This lack of knowledge creates hypervigilance, fear, anxiety, stress, doubt and confusion.
Trauma also evokes a feeling of overwhelm. There is simply too much happening to process. We also have no frame of reference in which to make sense of this. It’s unprecedented. We have nothing by which to compare it. And that is part of the fatigue- we are trying to understand something that have never seen. Our brains, bodies and spirits are in overload. Trauma shuts down parts of our brain that we use to process information. Right now, we are using all that energy to survive. And that’s ok. Now is the time to lower expectations you have of yourself and others.
Add to that that the fact that we are beings designed to be in relationship and proximity to each other. The isolation runs counter to how we are wired. We need touch, hugs ,and eye contact not via a screen. We need to be in the presence of our loved ones to feel their energy and see their faces light up. Absent this, we suffer and wither. And that is the impact that trauma has on us- our soul dies little by little.
Think of it like this. You know how when you have several tabs open on your computer, they are still running and pulling energy away from the battery even if you are not currently using them? The pandemic is like that. Even if it is not in the forefront of your mind, it looms in the background, taking up emotional space and draining your mental battery. The result is a bone tired fatigue even if you have not left your house in days.
It’s not so much that there is anything to “do” about this. It is the state of the world right now. But I do believe there is relief in just naming what is so. This is traumatic. And deep weariness is a trauma response. Nap often if you need to. Rest. Turn off the TV. Be in the sunshine. Walk barefoot on the grass. Stare out the window. Your entire being is working really hard right now to simply make it through and understand what is happening, even though you may feel like you are not ” doing” anything. Trust me, you are. More than you know.