I usually draw and doodle because of the meditative qualities these activities offer that help to lessen my connection with the physical pain I feel every minute of every day.
In recent weeks, I’ve realized that I’m drawing and doodling to escape thinking. There is so much happening in the world around us now and thinking about all of it— or any of it—can be overwhelming. The need to disconnect from streams of information and news for longer periods is becoming greater with each passing day.
Unfortunately, the ability to disconnect is also a luxury that most of us may not have because the information that’s being shared is important to our overall health and safety. We need to know and understand the latest developments with respect to the current Coronavirus pandemic (Link to Mayo Clinic) in order to safeguard our health and the health of everyone around us, especially those who are most vulnerable. Nevertheless, tuning in to hear all of this information daily is becoming dizzying, and at times confusing, but it’s also always frightening.
It’s frightening because the virus at the root of this pandemic keeps presenting new symptoms—or no symptoms at all—once it infects us. It also continues to challenge current medical knowledge about how it’s killing us because of the varied ways it attacks our immune systems. Still, as much as all of this information is overwhelming and continually changing, it’s absolutely necessary for us to engage with it.
It’s also becoming difficult to consume news about the needless and senseless deaths of people within and around our communities in brutal and barbaric situations. Exposure to live-streamed images and graphic reports of murders of people of colour is taking a toll on my mental health. The way I’m feeling makes me certain that everyone being exposed to these same images and reports is also being deeply and negatively affected, even if we all don’t acknowledge it.
The combination of this daily bombardment of necessary but frightening information and unfiltered, brutal news is traumatic.
Trauma that we experience directly, or even vicarious trauma (also called compassion fatigue) from witnessing horrible things that happen to other people
, take a toll on each of us in common yet sometimes surprising ways.
When we experience trauma, direct or indirect, we may feel some or all of the things listed below:
- Isolating yourself
- Loss of pleasure in life
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Bottling up your emotions
- Increased nightmares
- Feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness
- Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
- Poor self-care
Sadly, we are now living in a time of extreme uncertainty. A time where we are already emotionally and psychologically vulnerable, on top of which, too much information and endless streams of violent images are continuously bombarding our already frazzled senses. Then, as if these factors weren’t enough, we must consider that during this already difficult time most of us are also isolated from the supports of our friends and families that we typically rely on for comfort.
This isolation imposed by Public Health Authorities in response to the current pandemic, means each of us is responsible, more than ever, to find ways to ground and soothe ourselves, so that we can effectively cope and continue to fulfill our basic daily needs.
Good or bad, before the start of this pandemic, I already had years of experience living in socially isolated conditions to learn how to cope with traumatic experiences by myself; and to figure out which activities help me cope best with difficult circumstances. In these times, leaning on my creativity, even if what I create isn’t considered beautiful or interesting to others, is what helps to emotionally ground me and soothe the anxiety that may surface.
Just drawing lines is a meditative exercise that helps calm my senses by allowing me to disengage from the things that cause me anxiety and aggravate my chronic pain. Even if it’s just for a short time.
For each of us the healthy, positive coping tools that might bring us comfort may be different. However, finding them and using them to help us through this and other difficult times, will be what prevents us from becoming so overwhelmed that we can’t get out of bed in the morning.
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Note: To learn more about trauma and vicarious trauma and some tools that may help with coping, please visit the links I included in this post.
I am not affiliated in any way with the organizations whose links I share in this post.