Stories of Hope and Healing: Celebrating Victories in the Aftermath of Covid-19
Stories of hope and transformation during the Covid-19 lockdown have helped many people stay sane. The long-term affects of the pandemic have taken a toll on all of us. Some are battling the illness. Others are reporting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress due to financial concerns and disconnection from loved ones. All of us are dealing with sudden changes in the lives we knew before Covid hit our country.
I have spoken to many people; patients, friends and colleagues about how we are coping during times of stress and uncertainty. Most people have experienced some type of traumatic life event once they hit adulthood. Some of my patients have survived childhood abuse. Others have lost loved ones suddenly, lost their homes in a fire, survived combat or mass shootings.
Once this deadly virus entered our cities and schools, media outlets began doing extensive coverage on PTSD and the emotional dangers faced by most people. I am no stranger to battling PTSD and severe depression. I was diagnosed with PTSD in my late twenties, but looking back started having symptoms of the disorder as a child. I started therapy within months of leaving my childhood home after surviving sexual abuse. Early in my recovery I found ways to keep myself afloat as I dove into the darkest of moments from my abusive past.
On countless occasions I contemplated ending my life during my childhood and throughout my recovery. Many patients I counsel also threaten to quit therapy or hurt themselves when the shame and despair about what they have survived became conscious. Humans are resilient beings and have proven time and time again that we can survive most events, no matter how horrific.
What keeps us going through these weeks of fear, isolation, death and loss? How do we wake up each morning as the pandemic continues to leave us without the life we knew before? How do all the front line healthcare workers keep going back to work after witnessing suffering and pain as families cannot be with their loved ones in their final moments of life?
As I traveled down the path towards living fully in the present, I have learned that the hope for our lives moving forward is what keeps us fighting. During the last few weeks the media has given more attention to images of hope for today and the weeks to come. We are hearing about college graduates going to their campuses with their caps and gowns in lieu of a formal ceremony. Celebrities are taking to all forms of social media to spread words of encouragement as young adults around the world celebrate the ending of their college career. Pictures of little ones reuniting with their grandparents making physical contact for the first time in months. Images of healthcare workers forming a six feet apart lines of cheers as patients are discharged from the hospital, sometimes after spending weeks in intensive care. Businesses are slowly welcoming back customers.
From the onset of the pandemic people have spoken about what keeps them going. On countless occasions we must tell ourselves, “This will not last forever.” We can look forward to the time when we can reunite with loved ones and get back to the lives we knew before. Kids are finding ways to have fun, even if they cannot play sports or spend time in the classroom. People are talking about new hobbies or talents they have discovered; such as, making masks for the homeless, learning how to ride a bicycle or teaching themselves a new language.
If we just stayed in the moments filled with pain and grief, we would not make it out in one piece. When my life felt like a waste, I would imagine being heard by the world and that kept me going. The best revenge to trauma is finding ways to reclaim what we have lost. And giving ourselves permission to have great things come out of horrific life events. It is okay to celebrate the accomplishments or emotional growth as a result of the lockdown!
Transitioning back into “a new normal” will be difficult. When something happens to us, we cannot just go back to living the way we used to and act like nothing happened. We need to find ways to integrate what happened and acknowledge what we have lost. It is crucial that we keep talking to others and expressing whatever thoughts and feelings we have about life these past few months. When the fear or pain takes over, we need to focus on our goals and dreams for life moving forward. It is possible to live fully, even after surviving the impact of a pandemic. And for the first time many of us can say we have survived something together.