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How COVID-19 Heightens My PTSD and Anxiety as a Bereaved Mom

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“In these unprecedented times…”

“As we navigate the new normal…”

“We are all in the same boat….” or “We are not in the same boat…”

• What is PTSD?

These are common posts and headlines we see daily now. Fear abounds, faith steps up, communities band together, politicians and business owners are attacked or praised for their responses. This is the world we live in right now. At least on the outside.

On the inside, mental illnesses rage against logic, news stories, even against medications that have kept them in check. I’ve heard people with anxiety joke that we are handling this better than the non-diagnosed majority because we live with a certain level of angst at all times. Maybe we have learned to utilize breathing tactics, thought-stopping techniques and the occasional anti-anxiety pill to keep things in check. So sure, we have a few tools at our disposal. When the virus is distant this might work, but what happens when it hits close to home?

Add to that anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or whatever your “label” is.

Add to that losing a child (or two) in the past to an extremely rare condition.

Add to that almost losing another child when he was born.

Add to that any other traumatic factor.

Add to that your unique fear.

Add to that the knowledge that you know better than to let the spiral start.

When your best friend is a nurse on the pulmonology floor and a mom to twin babies. You know she has her own “diagnosable” battles she is fighting while she fights for the lives of her patients, and then comes home fearing what she brings back to her babes.

When your step dad has a degenerative lung condition that nearly guarantees the coronavirus (COVID-19) would be a fatal diagnosis.

When your husband texts you from his “essential” job and says someone at work has tested positive for the virus and your mind starts to spin.

What about my six-year-old son with asthma who has been hospitalized for difficulty breathing with a common cold?

What about my baby who was on oxygen 24/7 for nearly two months of his little life?

Every sniff means they have it. Every cough takes your mind to a hospital bed. You wonder if they will let you go with him, he’s so little, he shouldn’t be alone… but what about the other one? Who will take care of him? What if something happens to you because you are at the hospital with the one? How will you choose? Who could ask you to?

It continues: what if I lose him like I lost my daughters? Will I even get to hold his little lifeless hand? Will they let me see him? You can see the color draining from their precious faces as you stand by, helpless, frozen, struggling to breathe yourself.

Then from the other room you hear the baby bouncing against his bed as he dances to the praise music playing. You feel your older son stretch his foot on to your lap as he does his Kindergarten work on the iPad. You see your daughter’s urn on the piano. You feel your heart beat slow and the tears kick in, relieved your spiral was not reality, but fully aware it could be.

Let’s be honest, most of the time in therapy we examine how realistic our worst fear truly is. We place it under a microscope and scrutinize it, often for more than just one session. But we can’t ever truly know.

No one has a guarantee right now. We aren’t able to say with certainty we are able to keep our loved ones safe. We are scared. We draw on our faith. We see how helpless we really are. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. Let’s give each other a little credit and help one another find a little hope.

How can you spread it today? What can we do for each other?

Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

Originally published: May 3, 2020
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