by Heather Gartside
When the whole world is going to pieces, it’s awfully hard for the human mind, a fragile thing in the best of times, to cope. The world is currently reasonably united in its fight against coronavirus, something that we never imagined possible three months ago. But as this pandemic continues to spread, an emotional pandemic is following fast in its wake. The COVID- 19 crisis has left millions without jobs, sent billions into isolation and forced nearly everyone on earth to grapple with the feeling that they or those they love are suddenly physically vulnerable, and that we are attached to life by a single silken thread. The nature of the disease means that there can be no certainty about when the worst will pass. With the global scale of the current pandemic, it is likely that many will need mental heath care in the aftermath.
Social media is a particularly fertile ground for anxiety-inducing information and disinformation, which encourages stress and causes PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The risks are compounded for people who binge social media before bedtime or during isolation, or with a limited support network.
I have experienced PTSD. It’s a harsh, lonely and frightening place inside the mind that remains to haunt you for years. A desolate place where you remain when the crisis itself has abated, and when on the outside you should be rejoicing. I didn’t receive any help to cope with it, instead I turned to meditation and wrote a ghost story, Middle Distance. In effect, I ceased to function properly for four years while I poured dark imagery from my mind through my fingertips.
But I wish that more people had reached out.
Soon there is a time when those who remain alive after trauma; the heroes, the rescuers, the medical community, the bereaved, and the witnesses who were thrust into change at a rapid rate fall down – fast. It’s so important to stay in contact with friends and family members, and try to take charge of the things that you can still control. Leave food on their doorsteps, enquire about them, send random sweet thoughts their way – do not worry about how you may feel as you cope with their grief, this isn’t about you it’s about rebuilding them.
The gift that trauma can bring you, eventually, is empathy. Empathy is something that cannot be properly taught, it takes experience. Sympathy is a shared feeling, usually of sorrow, pity or compassion for another person. Empathy is stronger than sympathy. It is the ability to put yourself in the place of another and understand someone else’s feelings by identifying with them. While there is still no treatment for coronavirus, there is effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Time and empathy