Hello and welcome to the final blog in season 2 of our 2021 #SeeMeHearMe campaign.
As we draw to a close, it seems fitting to pass the virtual pen over to our friend and colleague, Felicity Dougie, who kicked off the very first blog back in 2020, and has helped create a safe space for so many to step into. We regularly received emails and messages to thank ‘Epione’ for the connections and relationships that have grown through this space, although, we have always been assured that it is the voices of people and survivors with lived expertise that have made this campaign so powerful. For us, it has been a place to speak the unspeakable and hear the unimaginable, in our shared commitment to raise awareness, break silence, and honour each survivors human experience of trauma and healing. It is not lost, that there is an emotional exhaustion and toil that comes with sharing so deeply and extend love and special thanks to all Epione bloggers, past and yet to arrive.
In the meantime, we want to thank everyone for the support and wish all our readers a peaceful and relaxing festive break. Over to you, Felicity, the floor is all yours!
Co-Regulation In Times of Covid
So what now? I’m all recovered. Right?
When I wrapped up two years of therapy, I thought I was somehow all neatly back together. Permanently. I had a toolkit full of healthy coping strategies. I had a much better awareness of what I needed to do to best help myself, and I had hope. Hope was the biggie. However, I’d been so focused on the actual hard slog of recovering, I hadn’t given much thought to what my life would look like moving forward.
I had 4 yellow box files full of notes from therapy. My relationship to those boxes has changed numerous times. At one point I recall being intensely irritated by their presence. I didn’t want to have reams and reams of written reflections, thoughts and painful experiences, road maps, recovery plans, sketches of the brain, schematics of the autonomic nervous system, and lots of pages filled with just black and red ink.
I was confused. Who exactly am I now? Exactly which version of ‘me’ is the real, authentic me? Am I recovered once and for all or not? Initially, I quite honestly thought I’d never have to give my difficult childhood history a second thought again. It was after all, history. I was looking to the future. Surely I would never have to look back again? I was fixed, right?
Wrong. Or not entirely accurate. I still have to remind myself, I was never broken, I was hurt. Therefore, it wasn’t a matter of being fixed, but healed. At the start of 2020 I was healed enough to begin to actually live a life. To live my life. And I was responsible for deciding how that life would unfold. What I didn’t appreciate though, was the work that still lay ahead in order to stay ‘healed enough’, and of course, what no-one could foresee, a global pandemic.
Around the end of April 2021, everything started to feel heavy again. The hauntingly familiar echo of dread became louder as I woke each morning, as did the urge to hide away, or disappear up into the mountains forever. The previously mute inner voices started to chatter occasionally, nothing too overtly harmful, but not overly helpful either. Skip a meal they would say, that’ll make you feel better. Then the nightmares returned, and I very gradually began to lose connection to my core inner self once again. The self I‘d fought so hard to find and nurture over the previous two years. I couldn’t cry. I became numb and detached. I lost my newly developed ability to emphasise. I couldn’t write. Or more accurately, I couldn’t write from my heart space. In the bleak mist that descended, I lost directions back to my ventral vagal home of safety, and to my core inner self.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I have a warm and dry living environment. However, what I hadn’t factored into my staying-well plan were the needs of my nervous system. Co-regulation was not something I could buy at the supermarket. I didn’t have access to the environment I needed to enable me to experience an embodied sense of safety. That took its toll on my emotional wellbeing.
But, for once, I didn’t try to manage things on my own. I tentatively reached out to a close contact who I knew would understand. Reaching out was incredibly hard. I’m still convinced, for the most part, I’m being a nuisance, to everyone.
Crucially though, I recognised I needed help. I recognised the pitter-patter of depression combined with the nightmares, were in fact my brains way of nudging me to seek support once again. And whilst in previous years, I might have been tempted to see that as a failure, I chose to reframe it as a positive. It didn’t negate any of the previous work, it was a matter of building on the solid foundations laid previously.
I’ve acknowledged I still have significant elements from my childhood that need to be addressed. Fresh things pop up in my consciousness, and like tiny little grenades, they explode in my brain; the resulting emotional shrapnel embeds itself, deeply, painfully, repeatedly. Yet once again, I know the only way is forward.
I’d recently heard the following: “trauma is something you carry forever”. That sentence resonated with me. It also took the pressure off my drive to somehow be recovered once and for all. I’ve come to appreciate I will only ever be as recovered enough as I happen to be in any given moment. And that’s okay. I’ve also accepted that staying recovered enough is a lifelong project. And that’s equally okay too.
Onwards to 2022!
Author: Felicity Dougie