Find the words
The overwhelming response to my casual mention on facebook that I was considering using my writing skills and psychiatric nursing training to blog about mental health issues caught me by surprise.
Social media had been next to silent on the crisis since the magnitude of the pandemic became apparent. I assumed most, like me, were glued to news channels, unable to comprehend what was happening.
When one did speak, one used words like 'surreal'. We were numb, felt detached. Had difficulty connecting the world we were hearing about with the one we were experiencing, connecting the past we knew to the future that was looming.
However, the response to my post led me to realize we were emerging from the numbness but had no idea what we should do next, what to feel next or worry about next.
We will all handle this crisis in our own unique way, much as we handle grief. There is no right and wrong way to feel. No right or wrong time to do what we want to do. No correct way to proceed.
And that, in itself, is frightening.
But let's take a tiny first step out of our numbness and see where it leads us. It's not an easy step, but it's manageable.
Step 1: find the words for what you're feeling. Put words to your fears.
In FATAL ERROR, my young heroine is being interrogated by the police about a murder she witnessed. She's never talked to anyone about what she saw. She'd been hoping she could just forget about and thus make it go away. She's not even sure she did see anything, or what exactly she saw or did...because she'd never put words to it.
“Dark secrets are bad things,” [Constable] Debra said. “They can grow into monsters if you don’t put them into words.”
“There are no words,” Katrina protested.
“You’ve never talked about it, have you?” Debra asked. “I can tell by the way you flinch every time someone says ‘murder’.”
“Words will make it worse.”
“I don’t think so. If you have the word ‘murder’ you can have suspects, evidence, motive, opportunity. You can have trials and convictions and jail terms, tangible things to chase down and handle. If you just have a bunch of horrible feelings floating around, how do you do anything with them?”
“Words will make it real.”
“It’s not words that make it real.” [Cst.]Chad zeroed his eyes in on hers. “With or without your words, the murder was real. I can show you the crime scene photos. You can see how ‘real’ it was.” ~Fatal ErrorIt's vital we find the words to express what we are going through. Only by being able to communicate will we be able to connect with others. With words, we can climb out of our solitude and share our fears and feelings.
Yes, words will definitely 'make it real'. Words will knock us upside the head with the harshness of the reality, the 'new normal'.
However, with words we can proceed, start making plans, research solutions, create solutions. Words will enable us to analyze. Words will empower us to take control of our emotions.
In a scientific study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), survivors of a near-crash involving a passenger flight were interviewed by researchers. Some interesting data emerged. (see my previous blog about this)
Researchers simply asked survivors to describe what had happened. Those who had words for the terror they experienced, those who could focus on and share the event and the feelings they had during that event were less likely to suffer PTSD. Whereas those passengers with evasive or convoluted narratives, focusing on extraneous things had more trouble dealing with the terror of the experience down the road.
While researchers suggested this was useful data for those training first responders, soldiers, or others who are likely to encounter trauma during their work, it is also information we can use to face the Covid19 crisis.
Don't pretend it's not happening. Don't think that putting words to it will make it real, make it worse. Don't think not talking about it will make it go away.
Putting words to that undefined 'it' is a vital first step.
Feel free to share your feelings, fears, hopes in the comment section below or on my facebook page, where I'm hosting a running commentary on mental health issues. And if you're still at that 'surreal' stage and can't find the words, share that to. Reading others' words may help you find your own.
For reliable, accurate and timely health and safety information on dealing with the Covid19 pandemic visit this Canadian Government website.
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