A colleague from the UU Trauma Response Ministry team said, “Oh, you’ve hit the wall.” “The wall? What wall?” I asked. “The six month wall,” she explained. It seems that in long term trauma situations, when the stress is ongoing, people find themselves hitting an emotional wall right around six months. At that point, they have adapted to the “new normal”. They’ve managed the ongoing elements of the trauma. But now they are just tired of it. They want it to be over. And then they don’t see the end in the near future and that realization just takes the wind out of their sails, empties their tank, they hit the wall. Exhaustion, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, ambivalence, sleep issues, lack of focus– all the standard signs of depression and/or trauma response are symptoms people experience at that six month mark.
And that’s where we all are or were in the last month. The pandemic has been going on for over six months. We’ve been socially distanced and we’ve been on high-alert for risks of infection. And we’ve adapted. We’ve found new ways to live, socialize, worship, go to school, work– and generally stay safe. But, it’s exhausting and it’s demoralizing– and we just want it to be over. We want things to go back to the way they were. And it looks like we have a lot longer to go before we get to the other side of this. This is why we have surges in the pandemic models. People decide to throw in the towel, to give up the safe practices, to just take the risk. It rarely goes well.
The good news is, we’ve been through this before. We know about “The Wall” and we know how to deal with it. First, the more severe effects of “the wall” are temporary. After a week or two, we tend to adapt again and buckle down for the next part of this struggle. Second, knowing about “the wall” and realizing we are all dealing with it can be helpful. And third, it helps if you can schedule yourself some kind of break or sanctuary or sabbatical– a brief escape from the daily reality of dealing with the pandemic. Perhaps a day off? A hike in a local park? I took a vacation and spent time with friends (safely) for the first time in six months. It helped.
I apologize to those of you who I may have let down or been less than cordial with last month. I didn’t realize I was suffering as soon as I would have liked and I didn’t ask for help as soon as I usually do. If you are suffering in a similar way, please know you are not alone. Please hear me when I tell you there is relief on the other side in time. And please know, I’m here for you if you need to vent or a helping hand. We are in this together. We can do what needs to be done to stay safe and get to the other side of this.