A Letter to Anyone Who Experienced Trauma During the Pandemic
First of all, I want you to know that I see you. I see you, and I see your pain, and I see your struggle. I am so sorry that you went through a traumatic experience. You did not deserve to go through that, and the pain of trauma is more than anyone should have to bear. Going through it during a pandemic, when we’re all encompassed by isolation, only makes it more difficult. Experiencing trauma, then immediately being robbed of your entire support system on top of it, is exceptionally painful in a way that I can only imagine.
What I don’t have to imagine, though, is the aftermath of the experience of trauma. How it is inherently isolating, how it feels like no one can understand, how it feels like it’s the end, how it feels like there’s no way you’ll be anything but shattered. I get it because I’ve lived it too. I’m going to be honest with you — trauma does change things. It changes your perception of the world, how you experience life and everything in it. But it doesn’t mean that you will feel like this forever; it doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel happy, free or safe again.
I remember the days when it all felt fresh and raw, and I didn’t even know how to function because it was all just too much. I was surrounded by triggers, and I didn’t have any idea how to handle any of this. But I learned, I got therapy, and I got medications that helped me begin to feel more human again. I could finally remember how to breathe. And over time it has gotten easier. The pain has not gone away fully, but it also doesn’t prevent me from living my life and doing what I want to do on a regular basis anymore.
I know you aren’t there right now, and that’s OK. The journey toward healing is a long, bumpy road, filled with twists and turns and ups and downs. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is accept where you are, even if it feels hard. The pure fact that you’re here reading this, even when it feels like all of the odds are against you, tells me you have strength in you. You can get through this journey — but right now, it’s OK to stop and feel whatever you need to feel, for as long as you need to.
In the meantime, I would like to offer a grounding strategy that has consistently helped me reestablish my awareness of the space around me, after an intense set of flashbacks. Identify five things that you can see, four things that you can touch, three things that you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing that you can taste. An important aspect of this is actually taking the time to experience each thing — reach out and touch that cabinet, smell that candle, take a sip of that coffee. Not only does this keep me grounded in the present moment, but it also encourages me to begin engaging with my own environment again, which can feel daunting after being so harshly ripped away from reality.
Lastly, I want to share my own personal mantra that I have repeated to myself and shared with others over and over throughout the years: Keep fighting the good fight. This fight that you’re in, although not by choice, is a good fight. As hard as it may be, persisting despite it all is a good thing. Continuing to fight will bring you back to a sense of freedom, safety and comfort again. It will bring you to a place where the world feels a little safer, where that sense of a threat seems a bit more distant. I know this isn’t a journey you chose, but there is a redemption at the end of this tunnel.
Keep fighting the good fight, warrior. You’ve got this.
A Trauma Survivor