You may know what PTSD is, but did you know the pandemic may be creating its own version? First, definitions and quotations. Then we'll talk about how you can find some comfort after the trauma and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
Today, we're going to talk about trauma, but I wanted to start off by saying something about being a good neighbour. In Ottawa, the city I live in, we just experienced a significant weather event that caused wide-spread power outages, property damage and loss of life. It was not limited to my town, nor is any city around the globe immune or unaccustomed to these same things. It is times like these that we need to really think about others and help our neighbours when we can. No one should be making light of any location that is suffering, so I really want to emphasize how important empathy is and how it makes the burden of a difficult situation a little lighter to carry. Put away your judgments and be the person that everyone needs when things are difficult. That is all.
Let's start off by defining Trauma. According to Miriam-Webster, "The meaning of TRAUMA is an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent." According to the The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, "Trauma is the lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event." It can further be distilled down to one of several types of trauma, but we're not getting that detailed here. We're going to talk about a much more generalized version of trauma that we're all experiencing, the trauma of living through a pandemic. It gets complicated, but there's ways to get through it. Let's start with some quotations.
Our first quotation is from Alfred Adler, an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His work was so ground-breaking that Sigmund Freud even stole parts of Adler's seminal 1908 paper titled "The aggressive instinct in life and in neurosis", that Freud initially said he didn't like, and used it in his own work without crediting Adler. Asshole. Anyway, He said, "No experience is a cause of success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences, so-called trauma - but we make out of them just what suits our purposes." Although I don't entirely agree with the suffering part, I do think we can make them suit our purposes, and I'm happy to credit him too, Sigmund!
Our next quotation comes from the amazing philosopher, writer and singer Bob Marley. Although considered one of the pioneers of reggae, he was able to blur the boundaries of many musical styles and, even though he died at the early age of 36 due to cancer, he left behind a massive legacy filled with awards and recognition. He said, "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have." Although this comes close to the lies I talked about last time in my resilience episode, he speaks to this from a place of oppression and trauma, so in that regard is fits in perfectly here. I hope. Plus I like Bob Marley, so there's that.
Our last quote domes from Michele Rosenthal, an award-winning PTSD blogger, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, post-trauma coach, and host of Changing Direction radio. She also wrote "Your Life After Trauma" and "Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future" which was nominated for several awards. She said, "Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose." Sounds a little new-agey for a jerk like me, I know, but the idea of controlling your outcomes after trauma is what I'm focusing on, so let's move on.
So, I know there is some resistance to accepting that we're all, collectively, suffering to varying degrees from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to the last several years of the pandemic. But there has been those in the scientific community looking at this, and it's real. In an article in the NewYork-Presbyterian titled "Understanding Pandemic-related PTSD" Dr. JoAnn Difede, attending psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, emphasizes that no matter who you are, this has been a uniquely challenging and traumatic time in many ways “Everyone has the same vulnerability, whether civilian or first responder,” she says. “There’s a dose relationship with trauma, and while health care workers and other front line workers may have had higher doses of trauma, we’re all human and our brains are wired the same way.” Her years of work with patients, including active military, veterans, burn victims, cancer and 9/11 survivors, as well as firefighters, police officers, gave her the perfect perspective to understand the complex nature of pandemic-related PTSD. But it doesn't stop there.
Dr. Itai Danovitch, a psychiatrist at Cedars-Sinai, has spent years studying PTSD and trauma response in people, and he sees the clear evidence that many individuals, especially but but not limited to those who became ill with Covid, may experience some level of PTSD. "While there is a relationship between trauma severity and PTSD, any one of these events be a trigger. What these traumatic experiences share is a sense of terror. We feel helpless and out of control." these are things that we have all felt in the last two years or so. It does not mean that we will all exhibit outward signs of PTSD, but our collective experience with this, absolutely, classifies as trauma. Still, it's not clear, even among researchers, that something as long and slow-moving as a pandemic can be classified as trauma. But there's more to it than just a trauma event, so let's take a closer look at that.
Let's take a look at a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One titled "Why the COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic stressor." In the abstract, they start on the premise that "The COVID-19 pandemic does not fit into prevailing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder models, or diagnostic criteria, yet emerging research shows traumatic stress symptoms as a result of this ongoing global stressor." But they do concluded by stating that their findings "support emerging research that COVID-19 can be understood as a traumatic stressor event capable of eliciting PTSD-like responses and exacerbating other related mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, psychosocial functioning, etc.)". So even though the pandemic, by itself, can not be deemed to be a specific trauma event, many aspects of it can be stressors that present as PTSD symptoms. So whether it's actual PTSD, or it just feels like it, we need to find a way to heal ourselves when this thing is over. So let's look at what that healing journey looks like. Yes, I said healing journey, don't judge me.
So, before I continue, I just want to remind you that I'm a pretend life coach with no formal training in coaching, therapy or psychology. If you feel like you are experiencing significant psychological issues or are thinking of self-harm, please reach out to a real professional for help. I'm good for high-level fun advice and the odd curse word, but I can fix anyone, not even myself. So there. Still, there are things that I know you can do to help you through this, so listen further, and remember the caveat above.
The first thing to remember is that recovery from trauma should take some time: there's no overnight fix for this. So don't be in a rush and give yourself time to adjust as the pandemic slowly fades into a more manageable phase. Anticipate that you will have both good days and bad days as the world becomes more and more post-pandemic. Try to look beyond the day you're having, or even beyond the week or month you're in, and remember that you need to take the steps day-by-day and look forward to the improvements along the way. I know this sounds a little light on procedure and advice and a little heavy on philosophy, but I want you to really be set up for what's coming.
Another thing to do here is to focus on your physical health. There's never been a better time to learn some new cooking skills and fine tune your diet for healthier living. The at-home lifestyle that many of us were forced to live may have created some problems with our eating and exercise, so now is the time to create new and long-lasting habits so that you can move into the post-pandemic life with healthier body to go with your healthier mind. And it's not just cooking and exercise, you can take up new hobbies now too that will help you create healthy and mind-expanding routines that will help you get the most out of the new, less strange days ahead.
Finally, there is a monumental challenge for all of us to normalize that we've all gone through this together and we all came out of this with varying degrees of mental baggage, some more than others. So going forward, we really need to also normalize checking in on each other and helping others in the knowledge that they'll help you too when you need it. Don't be judgmental and don't create some kind of hierarchy where you arbitrarily place people higher who are doing well versus those who aren't. It's not a fucking competition. We can all just create a social framework where it's fine to not be fine, and no one should finger-point at those who are struggling. We'll all be better if we all help everyone get better. I think I may have seen that on a t-shirt or a black light poster or something. Do they still have black light posters or am I just really friggin' old? Don't answer. Also, shut up. Also, oh never mind.
Okay, so that’s it for this episode. As always, I’ll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – working on the w-w-w, please still use it until further notice. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there’s a link on my website – DM me if you want some stickers. Have you heard about my stickers? They're free. Also, if you like what you’ve heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that?
Ground-breaking and historic author Octavia Butler once said "Delusional pain hurts just as much as pain from actual trauma. So what if it's all in your head?" Before that, the great 13th-century poet and philosopher Rumi said, "The wound is the place where the Light enters you." Then historic psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung said "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." So pain from actual trauma leaves a wound for light to enter unless you choose to become something in your head because of what happened, or something, I don't know, whatever ...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...