The Mighty Logo

If It Feels Like the Coronavirus Pandemic Took Away Your 'Why'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Almost three weeks into self-quarantine for COVID-19 — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — I’m seeing a lot of folks struggling profoundly with fear, isolation, helplessness and loss of control. Several friends with trauma histories are saying the same thing. While the details are different, the feelings coming up for us right now are similar to those we felt in conjunction with our trauma histories, and it’s overwhelming. 

I don’t know about others, but in the five years I’ve been in therapy, one of the most important things that I’ve done to heal from my trauma has been to define who I am outside of my trauma and to find my purpose in life as a self. A big part of who I am revolves around my job. I’m the chef and owner of an award-winning bed and breakfast. I turned my hobby into a profession and I’ve loved it for the last 15 years. We are now shut down indefinitely, awaiting for it to be safe to re-open and hoping we can remain financially solvent until then. That’s a big loss.

But an even bigger loss has been the disruption in my advocacy. I’ve found a great deal of peace and empowerment in writing, drawing and otherwise supporting other survivors to not only seek out help, but to know they are not alone in their journey. April was going to be my proverbial “coming out” as an advocate. I was scheduled to have my first solo art show at a local gallery. I titled the show “Healing Trauma Through Art Therapy” and I intended to use the opportunity to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month by providing information, resources and inspiration to other survivors and parents. 

I’ve been working toward this show for over a year. Creating the art, writing my articles, promoting, collecting educational materials. And then… the whole world changed.

Suddenly everything came to a halt. At first it was social distancing, which became a shelter in place order, which has become a pandemic of epic proportions with no end in sight. I tried to convince myself that everything was fine. After all, I’ve been preparing for this kind of thing my whole life. I was born prepared. Trauma does that to you. I excel in persevering through uncertainty, not relying on anyone to help me, being self-sufficient and existing in a state of high alert. 

But as the days passed, I got more and more irritable, angry and sad. I felt guilty for it, but I couldn’t seem to manage it. And then it dawned on me… I felt lost. I felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to do anymore. What was I supposed to focus on? I mean, who cares about my advocacy message when people are dying?

Well… I care. I have been gearing up for this rebirth of sorts for a long time. I had a fire burning inside of me that felt like it got extinguished and has been replaced by a vacuum. I lost my sense of purpose — my why. 

I discussed this with my husband and therapist and I realized that while I need to grieve the loss of what could have been, maybe I can still move forward with my mission in a different format. I needed to think outside the box, get creative and remind myself that despite what’s happening right now, my message is still important and relevant… maybe even more so with so many people stranded at home and anxieties on high alert.

My solution? To fulfill the chef in me, I recommitted to doing regular cooking videos on YouTube. That will help distract folks and help keep me engaged with our guests. As for my advocacy, I decided to start a new website/blog/creative community online where I could have a virtual art show displaying my work as well as the educational materials I’ve accumulated to help other survivors feel less stigmatized and to help parents feel more empowered to teach their children about body safety and consent. 

It’s a big shift and will require a ton of work to create, but maybe in the long run I’ll be able to reach an even greater audience and create a more impactful legacy. And when this is all over? I’m gonna have that art show, because no matter what gets thrown my way, I know how to survive and thrive.

Here’s to rediscovering our purpose. We are nothing if not masters at being adaptable. It’s our superpower, and right now is our moment to take those coping mechanisms and apply them like the amazing survivors we are.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Originally published: April 2, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home