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Why Teletherapy Has Made My PTSD Symptoms Worse

March 19, 2020. I was supposed to head in for my weekly counseling appointment. 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays has been my time for years. This week was a bit different. In one week, the world had changed. Schools shut down, businesses closed. At this time, my therapist was still seeing in-person patients if they wanted to but was, of course, offering teletherapy. All week, I had listened to the news as more and more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the hospitals downstate became overwhelmed. I happened to have a cold at the time and so I texted her out of an abundance of caution and asked to do teletherapy that day, just in case. That weekend, she put out the announcement that all sessions would be via telehealth.

I tried to like it. I tried to be the responsible citizen — stay home for others. Stop the spread. I thought, I still have access to my counselor; I can get used to the strangeness of teletherapy. I would put my finger over my face on the video on my phone so that I couldn’t see myself. I would hide in different places of my house, trying to prevent my kids or husband from barging in. Eventually, I would sit in my car in the garage. It still didn’t feel right and I was talking mostly about surface-level issues, instead of the stuff I really needed to work on.

I was still trying, though. I decided I would drive to a parking lot so that there was some distance between my home life and the space that was therapy. However, it was always something — the lack of an actual commute, the oppressive heat in my car, the random people that might walk by and see me crying. I still stayed surface level.

Now, we are in July at the time I’m writing this. I am done with it all. I still want to keep everyone healthy. However, I do not know how to manage my trauma and work on it via teletherapy. I want to be able to do it and I want to be OK with it but for some reason, the therapy I do on the screen of my phone is not the same as the safe space that my therapist’s office has become — the office that was a container for the traumas that were too painful to bear throughout the week. And I don’t know where that leaves me. My post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms have gotten worse, my anxiety is high, and there is no sign of this ending. What do you do when you cannot change something that so desperately needs to change? I know that my situation is far better than many and that I should be thankful, but at the end of the day this is hard and if it’s hard for me, it’s hard for others, and I don’t know what the answer is.

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Getty Images photo via Tero Vesalainen

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