Nobody will have remained unaffected by the current coronavirus pandemic. It has changed all of our lives in multiple ways. Not just for now, but perhaps for ever. What we thought of as our safe, stable, secure, knowable predictable existence, is no longer any of those things. Everything has been turned on its head and ourselves with it. The rug has been pulled from beneath our feet and many of us are flailing, arms akimbo wondering how and where we will land.
Some people with mental health problems live in an unsafe, insecure, unstable unknowable and unpredictable world all of the time. They do not have the security inside of themselves to be able to predict what is going to happen and trust that it will be ok. Now we all get a touch of that experience. Some people with chronic mental health problems are unable to trust themselves and do not trust others. Now we all have a taste of that. Has the man at my door got coronavirus? Has this gate which I need to open been touched by someone who is carrying the germs? How many times do I need to wash my hands to make sure that I am safe? If you are someone with OCD who needs to wash their hands frequently anyway, you know about all this anxiety and it is probably a million times worse at the moment.
On top of that, we are deprived of the very thing that will make things feel a bit better – a close comforting hug from someone we love. Close contact with anyone risks transmitting the illness. We are encouraged to keep away from each other, even loved ones. People with mental health problems often do not have anyone they can turn to for close comfort, but if they do, and if this is taken away from them, it can feel deeply catastrophic.
Maintaining social distance and self isolating is difficult enough at the best of times, but if you are someone with ongoing mental health problems it can be a nightmare. Getting out, being busy, seeing people, can take us away from internal worries, anxieties and concerns. Not being able to get away from our own internal world can feel disastrous. How do we cope without the daily stimulus of work and people to take us away from our own minds?
On top of that we are all faced with massive existential anxiety. Could we be one of those people who catch the virus and die?
Or, might our aging parents catch the virus and die? And will they go into a hospital where we are unable to visit and die without us being able to say good bye to them.
Everyone will have their own reactions to what is going on at the moment. But grief, loss, helplessness, isolation, anxiety and depression, are likely to be part of that reaction. For many.
Psychological trauma is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds our ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. Whilst it feels as if our world has been turned upside down, most of us will have enough resilience to cope. My concern is for those people who are already traumatised by previous stressful or abusive events in their lives, who have ongoing mental health problems, who will find it really hard to deal with this additional stress.
At Phoenix Therapy Practice we offer psychotherapy and counselling to people who have ongoing emotional difficulties. Right now, we are unable to see people face to face. The good news is that we can still provide therapy via online services including video, phone and email. It is not the same as meeting face to face but it can be good enough. We also continue to offer free initial consultations, and in these uncertain times, they will be needed. Anyone can contact us and make an appointment to talk to one of our experienced practitioners. The appointment will be via video, or phone.