On May 7, 2020, Robyn was a guest at the Northern Virginia Family Practice town hall. This meeting took place during the COVID-19 epidemic and Robyn was on the panel with Dr. Jennifer Santoro. Robyn and Dr. Santoro shared their insights on the psychological impact the recent COVID-19 pandemic has had on our community as well as different ways to cope with feelings about COVID-19 and how to think about the future.
If you are feeling inundated and overwhelmed by information about the trauma of the world right now, you are not alone. And if you are someone who experienced childhood trauma or you are in a relationship with them, you already entered this time with a lot on your plate.
In order to help survivors and their loved ones in one post, I asked two trauma-informed experts to weigh in on the topic of support for trauma survivors and their loved ones during Coronavirus. While this post is a bit longer than usual, I hope to give you trauma-informed information and insights you can use now and in the future.
You will also find links throughout the post and a recommended resources list from my guests and myself at the end.
This global pandemic, COVID-19, is happening to everyone! Everyone will have some trauma history after living through this crisis. Every child now has at least one point on the ACE score! (Learn more about the ACEs study and its connection to trauma and health.) Everyone needs support to build up their resilience right now, during COVID-19
During these challenging times, it’s normal to be experiencing increased anxiety. Everyone is! And if your baseline is regularly higher in anxiety or hyperarousal, this will feel like even more to you!
When you witness or experience something terrible, you may try not to think about it. To help you, your brain may call on one of its most creative and ingenious coping strategies to keep you going: dissociation.
Vulnerability can be especially scary when you have experienced trauma. But you are strong enough to work towards healthy vulnerability and health.
Entering a new decade is an important time to look at where we are and where we’d like to go. It’s a chance to leave behind old ways that have not been so helpful and embrace new ways — the kinder, more trauma-informed, more compassionate ways that nurture our best selves. When it comes to mental health, I’d like to move past the things that aren’t serving us as individuals, families, communities, or human beings—and embrace and enhance the ones that are.
What happens when children witness disaster in the news, movies, or real life? It’s only natural for them to feel worried, unsafe, and scared. Adults could feel this way too. Children’s television host Fred Rogers explained how his mother taught him to restore his own sense of safety and stability when witnessing a catastrophe:
“Always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers…. That’s why I think that if news programs could make a conscious effort of showing rescue teams… anybody who is coming into a place where there’s a tragedy, to be sure to include that. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”
I can’t stress enough the importance of even one safe relationship in the life of someone who experiences trauma.
When someone has a mental health issue or illness, therapists look to a diagnosis, so we can better understand it, gather information about it and treat it precisely as mental health professionals.
However, sometimes the terms themselves may add to the challenges in working with the patient. I admit, I’m troubled by the diagnostic term borderline personality disorder (BPD). The negative traits and pathologizing language usually associated with this term make it hard to use the terminology or diagnosis without also being extremely detrimental to the client. These kinds of terms can then worsen the problem of the stigma associated with mental illness, which we all have to confront. When we use certain terms, we may unwillingly subject people to prejudice, judgment and stigma that can prevent them from getting help, receiving compassion, and seeking out a trauma-informed approach to treatment. This is not okay!
*Spoiler warning: This article reveals the general storylines of Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody*
Have you seen the film Rocketman yet? I hope you do! Here’s why I think it’s a beautiful movie that everyone should see. Like the film Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman provides a powerful example of how attachment trauma in childhood can fuel a cycle of shame, pain, and addiction. Even better, it also reveals a pathway to recovery. Rocketman is trauma-informed because it helps us understand how emotional injuries impact a trauma survivor’s behavior and what that person needs for growth and healing. Through compassion, support and reparative relationships, healing is possible.
I love to see that more movie studios are choosing projects based on real life to create a safe space to show pain and healing. When I look at these movies through a trauma-informed lens, I see huge potential to promote greater compassion and understanding for all.