The Many Gifts of Crisis⌇A narrative piece dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak by LR
At first, I struggled to finalize this piece. I felt the it did not encompass all I can offer as a veteran to crisis. In reflecting on this, what I continue to realize, is the many gifts this crisis has given me. The gifts of realization and recognition.
The realization that I can be many versions of myself, and still be true and authentic.
For the first time, I recognize, I don’t have to rise to any occasion, step into a fixed, predetermined role or deliver. I don’t have to be the strategic planner, the resource mobilizer, the analyst, the dynamic problem solver or the one with all the insight and answers.
I can, for the first time in mass uncertainty and chaos, be the version of me that is soft, slow, non-reactionary, observing, creative, healing. Noticing how and embracing who naturally arises in this moment, in this context, with this energy. I get to witness all of my growth and still make an impact through subtleties, calm and truth.
While many are experiencing varying version of a twilight zone-esk existence, chocked with “unchartered territory” and “unprecedented times, I’m faced with familiarity. A flashback to a past life lived in this lifetime. Same scenario, different scenery, and a familiar me but from a different vantage point.
A humanitarian in recovery, I am no stranger to war, natural disaster, closed borders, restricted movements, empty grocery store shelves, failing governments, widespread illness and complete lack of control over my safety, security, and health. After living in unstable contexts for several years, I moved to a quiet town, to learn what a life void of chaos is like. To allow my body to recover from its’ addiction to its’ own fight or flight stress hormones. To experience safety, security and accessibility to any tangible thing I could possibly every want. The come down and rebalancing, has literally been, one of the hardest feats of my existence.
In mid-March, I thought for certain an enforced stay at home order, in response to Covid-19 containment, would be devastating for my “mental health”. My anticipation anxiety had me asking “what would this mean for me?” I was worried about being in “quarantine” and being triggered by my previous experiences of isolation. Anxious about what it would be like to be in yet another crisis. Wary of reactivating unhealthy and damaging coping mechanisms and patterns.
“I, do not do well in isolation.” Many illnesses, breakdowns and suicidal ideations have been born from too much time alone, without control over my freedom of movement or access to basic resources- like food, medical care or healthy human contact. I now know, my triggers were the perception of begin stuck, suffocated, unable to escape- the perception, for even in the absence of actual isolation and restriction, I seemly projected this programing on EVERYTHING from signing an apartment lease, to being in line at airport security. A byproduct of a brain unable to rewire to a new safe reality. This looked like weekly PTSD flashbacks and immense panic 5 months ago and a nervous system trapped in upregulation 9 months ago.
Clinically speaking, mandatory isolation and a pandemic are less of a recipe for a smooth recovery and more like a bee line to “relapse”.
And yet, this pandemic, this crisis, this lockdown has been incredibly healing for me. After the first 4 days of not leaving my apartment due to the statewide shelter in place order, I was fine. Despite being totally physically alone, not having access to outdoor space and being cut off from my staple coping mechanisms, I was fine. Not fine in the numb, disassociated sense, but actually fine. Now over a month later, reflecting back to those first 4 days, fine would be an understatement. My nervous system has never truly been that regulated, for such a prolonged period of time, and never in the midst of a crisis.
The week before the lockdown began, I went to the beach every day to show myself it was still available to me, to assure myself I was not trapped. I went to multiple grocery stores each day, just to walk around and see that things were still available. I went to yoga when my body did not crave movement- to “soak up” being outside of my home and around others as much as possible. I set boundaries when others came to me with fear and panic. I thought this would soothe me, but instead it reminded me…. I started remembering, I've seen this before, empty shelves at stores. I've felt this before, the choke of being confined. I’ve lived this before, overconsuming in an effort to counterbalance scarcity. I've experienced the anticipation, the not knowing. And…. I survived. I began to realize that I’ve survived this before. I adapted, I was resourceful, I was innovative. I experienced connection despite separation, I experienced deep grief and immense joy, I came out on the other side.
In revisiting previous crises and isolation through this current, similar experience, I’ve been reminded of who I really am, of how I’ve grown, and healed. I’ve recognized, not only do I know how to navigate these situations, but I am more equipped than ever because of the healing I’ve done, the coping mechanisms I now have and my evolved perspective. It’s been incredibly healing to go through this experience, and to notice that it is not triggering but actually a soft, smooth growth, and witnessing of my evolution.
Before this I really hadn’t had the opportunity to fully recognize the shifts within me. I felt “fragile” and “hesitant “. Teetering between frozen fawn and regulated. It has been really nice to have not fallen into panic or fear or any other reactions I assumed would be natural during a global crisis. And as each new layer of regulation is put in place, as life and accessibility become more and more restricted, I observe, embrace and evolve.
Unlike similar incidents in the past, this experience has stripped away all of the unnecessary static and distractions. Seemingly deactivating triggers and bringing me right back to what is, to who I am at my core. I have come to fully realize there is such an immense opportunity in this slow down. Without the static I can differentiate between what is true, and what is programming, embrace the unknown with less fear, relish in the sweet simplicities of life and tap into my true essence. In the face of so much change and destruction, I have been gifted with the relief of settling fully into myself, and my growth.