Mining During A Pandemic

For the past few years, I’ve focused on healing my relationship to money and of course the initial reason is never the reason. Money is a symptom of a self-love/care/esteem issues. It’s meant to flow – currency after all – and we experience problems individually and as a society when it doesn’t.

In the drill down, I expose what Julia Cameron might call a vein of gold. The rock formations of my protective mechanisms give way. The miner is a bit of wisdom that arrives from a friend: why other people do what they do is none of my business. At first I want to reject it, but these days I’m letting these things have a seat next to me. Quarantining will provide space for this if you let it.

Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

With childhood trauma, one of the things I did to try to keep myself safe was to figure out why the adults around me were doing or saying the awful things they were doing or saying. If I could figure that out, then I might have a strategy to keep myself safe. It worked for a long time as a coping strategy. It’s great for writing and preparing as an actor. It’s also perfect training for codependency. A Frenchman once called me “Madame Psychologie.” It wasn’t a compliment.

It hit me in the shower yesterday as I was fighting the habit of deciding why a friend hasn’t been responding to calls, texts, or emails. The old scripts of combing through what I might have done to offend, what was going on in their life, what could they be thinking, etc. were running in full force. What if I stopped? What if the miner was right and the thoughts and actions of my friend were none of my business? What if I spent no time at all in this old familiar storytelling?

What the hell am I do going with all of this new free time?!

While this was going on, the answer to a question I hadn’t asked in years regarding a former friend’s behavior hit me: I’d triggered her in a massive way. I was so hurt by her rage, I couldn’t identify it for a long time after the friendship ended.

When I stopped asking, the answer was given to me. God has a funny sense of humor.

This kind of mining is one gift of the pause, of the time we all have now as we shelter in place. Time moves differently. There were at least a hundred days in March and there will be at least that in April. Or maybe April will feel like seconds. We don’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know. Such as what others’ are thinking or why they do the things they do. I don’t know yet how this factors in my relationship with money, other than it’s time to listen in silence instead of spinning stories about the whys.

It feels like an antivirus has cleaned out a lot of my mental hard drive. Irony alert. As Richard Rohr says, “When we are willing to be transformed, we stop wasting time theorizing, projecting, denying, or avoiding our own ego resistance.”  

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Tragedy, trauma, turning

I’ve been thinking about 9/11 and Covid-19 and the difference between the deaths of each of my parents. My father was gone within 24 hours from a heart attack and my mother had a long slow farewell until she died of congestive heart failure and stroke at 90 (my grandmother’s was even longer one at 101). My father was in another state and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I made the drive from L.A. to San Diego every month to see my mother, largely unaware of the lifelong effects of her abuse on me.

Photo by Jesse Mills on Unsplash

9/11 was traumatic and horrifying but there was no warning for the general public. Bam. A plane into a skyscraper, and another, and the Pentagon, and one down in a field. Shocking, horrible, then the eerie silence as all the planes were grounded. Cities full of stunned people. Now we have cities of quarantined people with a sense of dread: how bad will it get, where’s the next hot spot, will I get it, will a loved one, and will we survive. It’s already touched the families and friends of friends. As I write this I get a text that my son may have it.

Dread. That’s one of the controlling methods in an abusive household. Someone (and I’m sorry I didn’t make a note of who) on Twitter noted, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be in a relationship with an abusive man, you are with this president. Mixed messages, denying reality, telling you something then denying it later. I grew up with that. It’s familiar. It’s going on in individual households, but it’s also playing out on the national stage. It’s alcoholic behavior and that of a “dry drunk” who exhibits the behavior without the actual booze.

When they start pulling up semi trailers to haul away the bodies, those tactics fail. There’s nothing like the human body to bring us back to reality. Dead or alive.

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

For your own well-being, listen to your body. Everything is stored there and it is the source of much wisdom and all your intuition. I know I’ve taken a dark turn, but these are dark times. We don’t need sugarcoating. We’ve had way too much of that. So take care of yourselves. Stay healthy. Raise hell with your reps for Covid testing and mail ballots and tell damned Jeff Bezos to accept EBT from all states for Amazon and wave the Prime fees for low-income users. Let’s come out of this a more compassionate society that cares for more than the bottom line.

Love – and don’t sideline – one another: CPTSD in the time of SARS-CoV-2

All over the world, we are seeing what it’s like when people withdraw into their homes. Some are homeschooling and parenting, some working full or part time, some having to do both. Many have lost their jobs. Some are alone, some with roommates they may or may not know well, others with family. An unknown percentage are with abusers of one form or another. Globally, there’s a big step back and it’s affecting our mental health with many complaining about cabin fever and going stir-crazy. The good news is there are lots of resources online to help, from therapy to exercise. Obviously, it’s also affecting economies. I’m in the U.S. and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

You are seeing what a lot of us who have CPTSD, or are otherwise neurodiverse, have known most of our lives. When you have the stigma against mental health along with child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other traumas, some of your brightest and most gifted citizens are sidelined. For some of us, it is through self-isolation from anxiety, a flight/flight/freeze response essentially stuck in the On position, and fear. I’ve been in DBSA rooms and seen people under-treated or unable to get adequate treatment. They are neurodiverse and they are also brilliant. We could use their gifts, their observations, and wisdom. Not to mention what Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday in his briefing: this is not who we are – we need to value every single life, regardless of whether they can contribute to a way deemed economically useful. Every single person has inherent value. Or they should in a compassionate and just society. As Americans, we are a ways off from that. We can talk a good game, but we don’t back it up with real care. Trillions was not a problem to bail out companies, but with regard to making a real difference to the neurodiverse, the damaged, the chronically ill, the disabled, it was seen as too much money. State disability payments are far too difficult to get for the neurodiverse. You have to have the fortitude to fight three, four, five times over. Judges, politicians, and many doctors lack understanding about the aftereffects of trauma, of the debilitating effects of depression, of what happens – including the structural changes in the young developing brain – when you are utterly demoralized as a child.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

We have the opportunity to make real changes in ourselves and our communities. But we must get dark money out of politics and embrace the values of empathy and compassion, to live up to the values we espouse. As Ed Fong writes in How The Pandemic Will End, “One could also envisage a future in which America learns a different lesson. A communal spirit, ironically born through social distancing, causes people to turn outward, to neighbors both foreign and domestic.” We’ve been given a timeout, a pause. We can come back better for it.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Maybe my CPTSD can help you in the time of COVID-19

I’m calm. That might be annoying if you’re not during this pandemic. I’m trying to work out why I am and how that can help others who aren’t.

First, why am I calm? I grew up with a lot of abuse: incest, ridicule, public humiliation and so on, primarily from my mother. As a result, I have Complex PTSD and that means life-long hypervigilance. I’ve always been on high alert for danger around me, scanning the environment, other people, you name it. It’s exhausting, but it’s second nature. It also means I’ve been imagining worst-case scenarios all my life. I’m 63 = sixty years of thinking about what to do if everything goes to hell. Let me put it this way: THE ROAD was my go-to long before the book was written.

In my trauma recovery, I found the videos from NICABM helpful. Here is their latest. There I discovered Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory and more. I’d already read Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score (both excellent and highly recommended).

So what are some keys in addition to what’s already out there about limiting your news and social media exposure, structuring your days, getting fresh air, and building community online?

* Stay in your body. Use grounding exercises – there are thousands on YouTube. Some are more woo woo and some are more concrete ones if chakras and cords aren’t your thing. Watch Donna Eden’s energy work. Try her 5 min routine to start your morning and see if it makes a difference for you. The key to my trauma recovery was to learn to reinhabit my body after decades of dissociating. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is.

* Stay present as much as possible. This is where mindfulness practice shines. When you eat, take your time, take extra time! Use all of your senses when preparing and enjoying your food from the sound of bubbling, maybe the sun through a window shining on your plate or candlelight, the smell, how many different tastes you can identify, the feel of different textures. Suggested reading or viewing: SALT FAT ACID HEAT

* Breath work. This helps with grounding. If you’ve had trauma, especially over time, chances are you hold your breath a lot. Breath is key to so much in the body and polyvagal theory explains the benefit of the long slow exhale.

* Practice limiting negative self-talk and runaway thoughts. You can literally say STOP when you notice it happening or you can go the other direction and set a time for 3 or 5 minutes and let yourself fully indulge, but you must stop when the time goes off.

* Journal. Get out your worst fears, worries, irritations, frustration on paper. Balance it out with an equal or greater amount of gratitude.

* More gratitude. If you are sheltering in place with others, go around the table and say three things you’re grateful for at dinner every evening. You can only use food-clothing-shelter once, maybe the first day, then stretch yourself! If you’re alone, set it up online or by phone with friends. If for some reason that’s not an option, yell it out your window. I’m not kidding! There was a guy singing something at the top of his lungs – at first it sounded like a fight was starting up the street, but he was alone with headphones on. No judgment (cut down on the judge-y stuff while we’re at it) – do what works (at least six feet from the rest of us).

* If you do not love yourself, this is the time to learn how. If you have pain in your body, ask it what it is and why it’s there, then sit quietly and listen. There are lots of self-care lists out there. Pick on and do one a day. Repeat until the self-hatred loosens. Act as if until you can feel it for real. Do your shadow work: read Robert Johnson’s book. Do your Inner Child work. Change the stories you tell yourself about who you are and why you do what you do. If you’ve been blaming others for a long time, it’s going to be difficult. Do it anyway.

* Give to others as much as you can. Money is going to be tight for awhile. If you’re in a good position, donate to your local food bank or favorite charity. Send takeout or a grocery order or Amazon gift baskets to your local hospital for the health care workers. They cannot get out often to get fresh fruits and veggies and when they do (see the teary nurse on Twitter), markets may be sold out. If you cannot give money, give encouragement, give wisdom, give advice. You have an expertise so offer it up! If this continues for a long time, people are going to need advice on how to pivot, how to redo a resume, how to keep going, how to homeschool, how to garden, can fruits and veggies, cut their own hair, trim their pets’ nails, how to dance! and more.

That’s it for now. I’m running around after my 11-month-old grandson full-time during the week and he’s gone back to waking up during the night now and then. Will be back when I can. 😴

photo Diane Sherlock