Everyone at some point will have experienced fear. Fear of failing to achieve something you have dreamt of doing. Fear of not speaking out about something you are passionate about. Fear of not asking your manager for a pay increase or that long awaited promotion you have been working hard towards. Fear of the unknown, and for many of us change is a big fear factor. Fear can enter our lives briefly or it can stay with us throughout our entire life.
At present the fear is the pandemic-it doesn’t know any boundaries, it devastates many lives, it takes away our loved ones and no one is exempt from it nor does it care about your social background. Your chances of surviving this relies on you social distancing yourself from your friends and family and further isolating yourself from the outside world. It limits you or prevents you from working, adding more emotional pressure knowing you might not have enough money to buy food, medicine, pay the rent or the utility bills.
We cannot see it. We can’t always identify where it is coming from -it could be a neighbour, colleague at work or a family member. We are made aware through the newspapers, television, social media and the radio. There is a certain disbelief it will not happen in this area/neighbourhood and people go about their lives believing it won’t happen to them or any of their immediate family members or friends. It is only when the impact of this can be physically seen or if it has directly affected their daughter, son, mother, brother a friend or a work colleague then this becomes more real- Covid-19 can happen to anyone.
Reading the guidelines on how we can survive this pandemic triggered echoes from my past, and in many ways it closely resembles a life I had lived for 18 years and managed to escape- domestic abuse.
“Isolation isn’t just isolation for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, it is the associated layers that are attached to it”Stella Eden
For years I was isolated from everyone and life outdoors was absolutely restricted to the point I had to ask permission to go outside to hang clothes on the washing line-I wasn’t allowed do this because of the fear of what would happen as result:
- Gas lighting.
- Constant shouting.
- Reducing my food or preventing me from sleeping.
- Humiliation and physically preventing me from going to the toilet.
- Rage of anger would sweep inside the house like a tornado destroying furniture, attacking doors punching walls leaving wreckage behind them.
- Physical assault and being spat at in my hair and face.
- Instilling further fear by using their work as a tool to assist them-reminding me all victims of assault and murder occurs outside the home and they all looked like me.
Reclaiming my freedom hasn’t been an easy journey- it is one I have fought hard to achieve. Embracing the outside world, to be honest, it scared me- I wanted to walk close to walls to be able to hold onto something. Instead I forced myself to walk in the centre when I was outside, even though it was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt exposed and vulnerable, all I wanted to do was crawl on the floor, get into a hole, hide and never get out. I knew if I didn’t encourage myself I would further isolate myself. Reintroducing myself back into society was challenging:
- Picking up a box of cereal in a supermarket I broke down in tears.
- Crippled with anxiety I would freeze when anyone spoke to me, fearful of saying the wrong thing.
- Anxiety fuelled my OCD making it hard to leave the house.
- People speaking loud and doors being slammed too close.
- The constant battle within has been relentless and still it tries to rear it’s ugly head.
These are all triggers as a result from the impact of trauma. It is learning to cope and manage them when you are being triggered. Recognising them is important- isolation and social distancing triggered me. My anxiety went into overload and it resulted in OCD. It started to gradually make an appearance (I clean excessively) with a feeling of a rabbit in the headlights. Along with an increasing urge to escape and run, where to I don’t know? It was all connected to being in solation and losing my freedom.
I cannot change the situation, but I can change my response to this, asking myself what do I need at this moment to feel less isolated? This has brought me to an unexpected place- hosting Virtual afternoon tea at the Sofa-being able to connect with other women who have faced a similiar situation like I have faced. We are connecting far and wide from various parts of the country to countries abroad. Together we are making isolation less isolating and it is by staying connected we become stronger and our fears become less.
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