I probably don’t need to tell you this, but life is really fucked up right now.
When grounding myself in my own reality doesn’t work for me, I sometimes try to cope with difficult situations by imagining how my dog understands them. It allows my mind to simplify complicated problems and practice unlikely gratitude in the face of challenging circumstances. It is the most efficient method of stripping away that complex trauma lens when viewing myself and the world around me.
So now… enter COVID-19.
I have been home for 15 days. I have been increasingly depressed for 15 days. People are dying. My friends and family are suffering. My neighbors in the healthcare industry are burning out. I don’t particularly like leaving my house, but I do like the option of leaving my house. I feel trapped. I feel uncertain. I’m scared I don’t have enough. I’m scared that I’m not enough. I feel so much body anxiety. I’ve been deep in various levels and scenarios of flashback every single waking day of this, and nightmares have haunted me through the night.
My dog, however, has been doing great. He knows nothing of a “pandemic.” He knows his humans are home with him all the time. He knows he gets to take an extra long walk with both of us every single day. He is learning new words and new commands, and he is excited to show off. He can curl up and nap in the window or in our laps all day rather than in his crate, because separation anxiety doesn’t matter when we’re all safe right here with him. He gets extra snacks and treats. He gets so many playtime breaks. He gets so much more attention than he was even getting before. He knows his mom is stressed, but he gets to be a protective little watchdog and try to make it better. He watches neighbors walk their dogs and kids. He watches the birds and squirrels play in the yard and takes in their scents in the breeze through the window screen. He lays out on the deck and sunbathes on the nicest days. He hears my coworkers tell him how cute he is during our “meetings,” and he shows off how much he loves his mom. He’s so happy, and he sleeps even better at night knowing there will be time for extra cuddles in the morning. In this tiny bubble of a perspective, things are safe and okay - maybe even safer than before. My dog is a rescue with a difficult past, but where this crisis has activated my trauma, it has alleviated some of his.
I don’t know when life will get “back to normal,” or what a new normal will look like when this is over. I do not know what it will take to get through to the other side of the worst of this. I do know I can stay present in my current surroundings, no matter how claustrophobic they may get, and try to grasp onto mindfulness whenever possible. My dog reminds me that there are silver linings, and I am still so privileged and blessed in the midst of this catastrophe.