A therapist coping with coronavirus in Austin, Texas

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This is a very strange season.

Outside, the world is bursting with blooms and spring is here.  And yet.

And yet we have traded the usual springtime festivities for hunkering down and social distancing.

Austin is a ghost town, as well it should be.

The few times I have had reason to leave my house lately have been ordinary and jarring both at the same time.

Grief catches me by the heel in small, unexpected ways.

I cried at the lack of Austin traffic as I sped down I-35.

It felt like I was making the commute I would have made back in 2000.

I felt like I was outside of time, outside of the chronology of my own life.

We are all in the soup together

We all feel untethered at this time.

Most of our obligations have unknit themselves in a rapid unspooling, while others have climbed onto our plates without permission.

We’re working remotely or not at all.

We’re filing for unemployment.

We’re alone in apartments and longing for human contact.

We’re homeschooling and working at the same time.

Everyone is working hard right now.

Even denial takes effort.

We’re coming into contact with what is happening and then departing it again.  Things feel surreal.  Time feels wonky.

Of course it does.

We’re reeling and reckoning with a large scale trauma.

The coming into contact with pain and then departing from it, or the stuffing it down and then it breaking through at unexpected moments.  It’s grief and it’s normal.

Little bites: what coping with trauma looks like

Therapists call this process titration or pendulation.

We do this in trauma work all the time.

We come into contact with pain and then we shift away and regulate.

Then go back to the pain.  And back again to safety.

This is how we digest difficult things.

So my message to you is this—if you feel wobbly or bendy right now,

if you feel out of sorts or alternating between of ‘business as usual’ and disintegrating,

I see you.

I’m with you.

You aren’t alone.

Your response is normal.

You are working things through in this way.

We will get through, a bit and a piece at a time

We will get through this.  And it won’t be a grand sort of victorious gesture like in the movies.

We’ll survive this with TV,

with junk food,

with walks,

with friends,

with cigarettes,

with small kind gestures from neighbors.

We’ll weather it a bit and a piece at a time.

We’ll be mourning as we move through our days, and still get surprised at the sudden glimpse through the window of Austin in bright, beautiful spring.

Both are true all at once.  It hurts.  And in this moment, I am here.

I am doing okay.  It’s Tuesday.  It’s trash day.

Both are true.

Trauma and resilience are twins

Remember this, too: just as trauma runs through nervous systems and within families, and along generational lines, so too does resilience.

Trauma and resilience are twins.

Resilience comes from facing hardship together.

Let’s sit down at this table together to digest this meal and heal.

Therapist and client, we are in this together in a way we don’t often see.

We talk about ‘parallel process’ in the room, but it is happening at a whole new level right now.

I’ll close with a piece of an anthem from the beloved Mary Oliver, which feels just about perfect for right now.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

–Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

If you need more support right now, reach out.  I’m here.


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