During this extended time of “Shelter in Place,” the COVID-19 quarantine processes, social distancing, closed borders, limited travel, worldwide lock-downs, millions of people, including dissociative trauma survivors, are required to stay home, unable to get out to their normal places of support and interaction. Right now, we are separated from and unable to meet with the people with whom we usually meet. This social isolation can be rather difficult and emotionally painful. Are you without your therapeutic support? Are you alone? Are you scared?
Being home, unable to leave, and not feeling safe to go out into the community isn’t as easy as it sounds. It can bring a lot of frustration, tension, and anxiety into your life. Does this sound like how you feel?
- Are you feeling alone and isolated?
- Are you separated from your team of people who offer support?
- Are you able to get to your therapist’s office?
- Is being by yourself becoming a struggle?
- Are your insiders needing someone to talk to?
- Are you feeling triggered and upset?
- Are you scared to be by yourself?
First of all — don’t forget — the Discussing Dissociation Community Forum is completely virus-free, protected from the public, and available 24/7. You can interact with other dissociative survivors all day long, without having to leave your home. You can be safe from all COVID-19 transmission fears, and yet, not be alone without support or understanding for what you are feeling or experiencing. A solid, good dose of safe, compassionate peer support can get you through some very difficult times, that’s for sure.
Being alone can be truly stressful. It can be fantastic in the right circumstances, of course, but forced social isolation can be triggering, upsetting, and emotionally complicated as well. However… you have other options. You don’t have to stay as alone as it feels in the outside world. DDCF relationships can be immensely helpful at this point in time.
Oh – please note. If you are looking for some extra learning information about DID, we have the Educational Forum open as well. Right now, you can join DDEF via the Community Forum, but with so many folks being stranded within their homes, we are checking into additional options. In the Educational Forum, Laura and I participate in the discussions and offer additional questions, perspectives, or ideas to the topics. More info upcoming about DDEF.
What could be triggering for Dissociative Systems in these world circumstances?
1. Feelings of isolation and abandonment
Thousands of people in the world are now struggling to survive isolation via home quarantine, or “Shelter in Place,” forced quarantine, or medical ICU quarantine. However, many DID trauma survivors already know and recognize the feeling of being left alone during a difficult or traumatic situation. Living with separateness, not fitting in, feelings of abandonment, being isolated, and being socially deprived may have felt like life-long issues for you.
The feelings of being alone and separated might be triggering up some old painful memories. How many different ways have you already experienced social isolation in your lifetime? Is this an old wound and are those isolated parts of your system feeling triggered?
You might have internal parts who have memories of being purposefully separated other people, or purposefully removed from family or loved ones. These are tender spots and the world’s current state could be triggering up those parts of your system. And with them, their memories and emotional pain could be surfacing for you as well.
2. Fear of not being able to be with your therapeutic support team
With many therapists and mental health facilities no longer able to do face-to-face visits, the fear of having your therapist removed from you could be intensified by any old memories where you were hurt and unable to reach anyone for help. The fear of losing your emotional support person this year can layer onto many years of family trauma where you weren’t helped when you needed to be.
Is this an old wound for anyone in your system? Was your mother or grandmother or loving parent taken from you? Was any protective family member removed from you? Have you already lost a treasured therapist or support person before? The heartbreak of losing someone who genuinely matters in the emotional support area can feel truly devastating.
Many dissociative survivors have chronic PTSD remaining from trauma or abuse memories where these circumstances applied:
- Fear of your help being removed from you.
- Fear of nobody knowing what’s happening for you.
- Fear of no one hearing your pain.
- Fear of internal conflicts and not knowing how to resolve issues without the help of your therapeutic support team.
If you’ve lost your support person, the question of how to process the rising internal pain becomes a big issue as well. Where do you go for help and support with all the pain that you are feeling? How do you “shut it all down” and hold all that pain inside again? How will your little ones handle it if they cannot see the therapist person on a regular basis? Will they understand what is happening?
3. Fear of death, or threats of death
So many dissociative trauma survivors have had near-death experiences in their trauma history. All too many DID survivors have had their lives threatened, multiple times, in various ways. Hearing about death rates and death threats can be scary, no matter what. However, if you have a history of death threats and life-threatening trauma, these phrases could be triggering your insiders who hold these memories. Are these parts being pulled up, or triggered out, and what memories and body pain are they bringing with them? These could be very difficult to deal with at this time.
On top of that, the Coronavirus is most dangerous to people with other underlying health issues. If you have any of these additional health issues, you may be truly fearful for your safety right now. Living with a real and genuine threat to your life can be highly stressful and traumatic. It might mean that you have to be even more socially isolated, and even more withdrawn from the world. While it is critical to protect yourself from harm, it could also be extremely difficult to be so isolated and alone with your fears.
And of course, if any of your loved ones are highly susceptible, or even ill with the Coronavirus, you could be struggling with genuine life or death issues right at this moment of time. And with so many people expected to die over the next few months of time, the fears, grief, and loss experienced will no doubt, impact many of the readers of this blog directly. I am sorry for your pain and for your loss.
4. Increased depression, and threats to self-injury
All of this world chaos and fear can most certainly lead to increased depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and PTSD. Hopefully, you have already learned some good coping skills during your therapy and healing process. Do your very best to practice good self-care during this time of world crisis.
However, I am very sure that many dissociative survivors will still look towards self-blame, self-hatred, self-injury, and self-destruction during this time. Dig deeper than that, and find your healthiest thoughts and resources. Don’t fall back into listening to old negative messages from perpetrators or abusers. The COVID-19 pandemic is not your fault, and you are not to blame for it. You didn’t cause it, and you don’t have to be used to do anything negative at this time. Yes, please do your part in keeping your own local community safe, but don’t absorb these world issues as your own fault.
Have any of your insiders been triggered in ways that they are struggling with suicidal feelings or self-injury? If this is the case, be sure to work with those parts as quickly as you can. Help them separate their past traumas and old programmed messages from what is going on in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Freeing your insiders from any old programmed messages or old programmed jobs, especially self-destruction-related tasks, could be essential for your own health and well-being. Let your insiders know that you can protect yourselves now, and that there are helpful resources for them today.
5. Fear of being deprived and neglected
There are plenty of worries and panic stories on the news where people are fearing they will not have enough food, not have enough medical supplies, not have enough TP, not have enough necessities. And it is true, that many people are losing their jobs, or their businesses are failing. The economic hardships right now are going to the extreme. One of the more stressful issues is that in so many ways, we don’t know how long this storm will last. We don’t know when our stores will be open again. We don’t know when we will be able to get back to work. We don’t know how long we will be living on the edge of crashing. We just don’t know how long this period will last.
Deprivation, neglect, hunger, or starvation, and memories of not being properly tended to layers deep into nearly all dissociative systems. Even if some needs were met, there will always be a whole list of insiders who’s normal health and welfare needs were NOT met.
Is this worldwide fear of deprivation, starvation, and economic disaster triggering some of your insiders who already know hunger, deprivation and similar fears?
6. Fear of contamination and germs
Oh, so so many dissociative survivors have issues with germs, and touching something yucky, and feeling dirty, or feeling contaminated. These trigger-filled issues have clear and extensive trauma histories and loads of bad memories that come attached to them, but nowadays, out in the outside world, the fear of germs and touch being scary and unhealthy is probably stirring up all kinds of turmoil with some of your parts. We hear and see this message on every public channel we listen to — whether it’s television, radio, internet — or anywhere in everyday life, from people-watching through the windows or going to the grocery store.
People everywhere are afraid of contamination.
The whole world is afraid of germs now.
And rightly so, but how is this affecting your insiders? What impact is this worldwide message having on your people?
Is the wearing of respiratory facial masks triggering to you? That sure could be — I know plenty of DID folks who have a strong fear of masks and facial coverings. There are also many dissociative folks who have phobias and traumas related to any restrictions with breathing.
It’s true, I’m sure that many of your system members are very pleased about the 6-foot / 2-meter social distancing rule, but for others, the fear of germs and contamination can lead to increased anxiety and panic. On another level, the message of being “too dirty to touch” is an enormously painful trigger for all too many survivors who were abused and left alone and uncomforted after severe abuse.
The whole “don’t touch anybody” message can be triggering for those folks who were neglected and not given enough helpful, comforting, positive touch. Touch-deprivation scars in a longterm way, and adding COVID-19 fears doesn’t help these feelings feel less painful. Are those parts of your system being triggered up this month?
7. Being forced to live in close quarters with abusive housemates
Trauma is trauma, and abuse is abuse. Whether it happened now, or then, if you are forced to live in a home with someone else who is abusive towards you, then these days of “Shelter in Place” will not be very safe for you. Incidents of child abuse, domestic violence, and any version of family violence have been on the rise during this phase of lockdown, and if you are living in a violent or dangerous home situation, please get help as quickly as you can. Getting out and away from the abuser will be important for your safety. Your local Family Violence / Child Advocacy resources will have more information to share with you.
The dilemma of where to go will be a complicated issue to solve, but please don’t let yourself or your children continue to live quarantined in an abusive environment.
For dissociative survivors, the triggers related to confinement and trauma are many, and heavy-duty. This topic alone could be disturbing and triggering your internal system people much more than you realize. Your parts may be relating to their own years of entrapment, and their own experiences of not having freedom or safety. For your own healing, be sure to work with your system as much as possible to heal these wounds and give them a genuinely safe place to live in the here and now, both on the outside, and on the inside.
8. Internal System activities — what do you do while you are required to be at home?
There are so many heavy topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic! However, on a lighter side, what on earth are you doing to keep your internal system busy, productive, or entertained?
Those little ones will need entertainment, activities, food, and safety. Are your DIDkids doing fun things? Are they finding ways to enjoy their time? Are you using the “stay-at-home” requirement as an opportunity to do more interaction with your own system? This chunk of time — while you are LESS busy in the outside world — could give you MORE time to address your inside world or your inside parts.
It’s true, your interaction with the outside world will be limited right now, but if we look for a silver lining in this situation, as a dissociative system, you have a whole internal world that needs your time and attention. I know, without a doubt, that you have insiders who have been waiting what feels like forevvvvvvver to have a turn to do their things. I’m sure you could come up with a long list of “stuff” your system wants to do while you are staying put inside your home.
Maybe there are changes to make, projects to do, crafts to create, organizing to happen, etc. Maybe some of your insiders just need time outside in the body so they can be themselves out in the outside living space, and not just in the internal space. Ask your people what they want and need to do. Make a list, and see how many of those things you can actually do this month.
These extra days at home could become something truly valuable for your insiders, and you could benefit from having extra time to work on what you and your system needs.
This topic is probably an entire blog post of its own, so maybe I’ll wait till then to explore this more. But for now, ask your people, what do they want to do during this time of home-quarantine?
How can this time be useful and helpful for them?
What can you accomplish in this month that you just didn’t have time to do before?
Does this look like you?
Do you relate to this picture of isolation and loneliness?
If you are struggling with loneliness, depression, isolation, please consider joining the DDCF forum community for more support and connection. We are all having to find new ways to connect with each other, and with the world, and this is the perfect time to reach out in a way that you’ve never had to before. Let DDCF be a helpful support for you.
The DDCF community is warm, friendly, and will welcome you to be part of the forum group. You do NOT have to be alone in your pain, or alone in your fears. There are more options for dissociative trauma survivors now. You, too, can be part of this healthy, and healing-inspired resource.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Discussing Dissociation Community Forum.
I hope to see you there.
I wish you safety, and healthiness during these difficult times.
Join us, and stay connected!
Copyright © 2008-2020 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation