On March 27 our governor issued a stay at home order for our state. That is when my counselor started having his appointments over zoom. We did zoom for over a month but I was having a lot of difficulty connecting to him. I couldn’t see his expression all that well over zoom and it felt like too much information was getting in the way of hearing the caring in his voice. So we decided to switch to phone appointments.
Probably just a few weeks before the pandemic hit our part of the world, I was realizing how I couldn’t look someone in the face if I suspected they were looking at me in a caring way. I had just begun to actually hear the caring in my counselor’s voice towards me. We’ve been meeting every week for over seven years. But looking at his face while also hearing that caring was frightening. We were working on it though….then the pandemic hit.
After just a few weeks of phone appointments he decided to open his office back up. So that would have been maybe the middle of June. We met for two weeks before he had to close it again for 14 days because he found out that a couple he counseled had traveled out of state. When he opened back up he was going to be meeting in his lobby (still private as it is a private practice). For some reason, this time I totally freaked me out. I could not speak when I was in session. It took several weeks before I could actually write answers to his questions. I become very frightful and he seems foreign to me. It’s like he is a stranger asking me personal questions. It feels very invasive and terrifying. This has been going on now for three months!
He says that it would be best to keep meeting and try to figure out what this is all about. We’ve talked (or rather he has talked) about how just changing to the lobby (even though I am accustomed with it) and his sitting further away than he was in his office has made everything unfamiliar. After a month of me still not able to speak or even look up at him, he offered to meet in his office with me if we both wear masks. I was hopeful that the familiarity would give me the freedom to speak but it did not. Again, things are still different (he’s wearing a mask, we leave the side door open….and even though it is completely private it doesn’t feel private.)
This week he let me read something that he had found in one of his counseling books. It was about Axis IV traumas. Essentially there are four types of traumas. Brief childhood traumas are one (a single car accident where there is a death would be an example), then prolonged childhood traumas would be another axis. (I can’t remember all of the axis’s and can’t find it on internet right now). But the last one was a world changing/environmental trauma.
“Type IV stressor events produce high levels of uncertainty and profound adaptational dilemmas as to how to cope with the stressor once it has become recognized and acknowledged by the person. An example of a Type IV stressor is a technological disaster that exposes individuals or entire communities to toxic chemicals known to be carcinogenic. In this stressor event, in many cases, the victim does not know what the dose or exposure effects may be and thus confronts a dilemma of coping and adaptation. Victims may react with chronic uncertainty, hypervigilance, and somatoform concerns as well as exhibit heightened states of depression, anxiety, and brooding. It is as if they can find no way to terminate the threat of exposure and, among other changes in functioning, ow experience a serious violation of their sense of safety with the biosphere (Mother Earth). This violation is often reported in terms of attachment loss, states of disconnectedness, and increased mistrust about themselves and loved ones. Further their chronic uncertainty extends to fears about the future in terms of their health and emotional well-being.” –John P. Wilson in Handbook of Post-Traumatic Therapy
What stuck out to me was that this type of trauma can cause attachment and relationship disturbances. I think that is what is going on here. I now do not feel that attachment that I had before…that feeling of safety and support. My counselor feels like, looks like, sounds like a distant acquaintance and nothing more.
This has caused heavy depression because I cannot detect his support anymore. Whereas before it was a relief to be in a safe space for a couple of hours a week, it is now very difficult to make myself go to counseling.
I’m going to keep going because I guess a part of me trusts him when he says that it will be worth fighting through this and finding out the root of pain. But it is happening at a time when EVERYTHING is so hard to walk through.
I am trying to keep my family safe in a world that has gone insane. So many people don’t want to care about their neighbors and just want to show political support and not wear a mask. One of my children is attending a school that doesn’t enforce the mask mandate so NO teachers or students are wearing masks and we have two people at home that we are trying to protect. Every time I have to leave my house I feel like I am taking not only my own life in my hands but also my family’s. I am now homeschooling my youngest, who has an underlining condition, trying to budget due to my job loss and my husband’s cut in salary (all due to COVID), ordering groceries, which sounds lovely but has been a headache not knowing when the order will be canceled or products not available. Add to that how racism has become accepted in so many circles and at the minimum many not caring enough to look to even acknowledge systemic racism. Running out of cleaning supplies, lack of social contact, no alone time at all anymore, I feel like I’m going crazy. And now I don’t have the support of my counselor. Well, actually I have it but I cannot rest in that fact because it doesn’t seem true at the moment.
It just all seems never ending at the moment.