By Bradd Buckingham, Resident in Counseling
Since the beginning of COVID-19, I have professionally observed as a counseling intern working in a community mental health clinic, currently as a resident in counseling as well as personally with friends and family, a shift or slide backward in the management of their trauma symptomology and the meaningful progress they have made. In almost every single case I observe, the reverse in progress is never directly linked to a change in anything they have done or haven’t done, or someone else is responsible for, but instead a global event that has been suddenly and unexpectedly directly thrust upon them. Similar in ways to other times in their lives where things were also thrust upon them, unwillingly or unwanted, and far too often unfairly. Why were all these people reporting similar manifestations of emotional flashbacks and often reverting to old behaviors?
PTSD and, more specifically to this blog entry, Complex PTSD shares some unique triggers that are also generated by the COVID-19 realities in which we all live.
Emotional triggers common in both are:
- Feelings of powerlessness
- Threatened safety
- Hopelessness with no end in sight.
These realities for many struggling to manage their trauma triggers and C-PTSD symptomology after so much progress are both confusing and frustrating. Too often these emotions and memories have been, or are linked to people, actions, and physical events that can be recalled, not something that can’t be seen, talked to, or even avoided. Confusion over where do these feelings and emotions come from that I was starting to finally get a grip on? Why now? I personally believe COVID-19 makes everything more difficult for just about everyone. Even the simplest things now like going to the grocery store can create stress, anxiety, and fear for many of us, but perhaps more so with trauma survivors.
With my trauma clients, I try to check in during our time together to explore their thoughts and emotions while trying to work through their confusion and resulting frustration regarding the “why?”. It usually goes something like this; “I am wondering if there have been other times in your life when you have felt powerless, fearful of your mortality, uncertain, and it seemed like your experience would never end”?
The response is often a wry smile and sideward glance of an epiphany manifesting real-time and sometimes a comment like “Wow, come to think of it does feel a lot like…”.
Sometimes just providing a moment of clarity for someone trapped in a fog of uncertainty can be really helpful as well as hopeful.
Your story matters! Reach out today if you need support!