The guilt of the pandemic and natural disasters
By Valerie Rice September 24, 2020
Welcome to 2020, a dystopian nightmare none of us thought we would live to see. Yet, here we are. I’m sure we have all seen the memes about what level of Jumanji we are currently on, but I highly doubt that this is a game that will suddenly end. And I hate to break it to you, but things are NOT going to suddenly go back to normal at midnight on January 11, 2021 if they ever go back to normal at all. Many people have lost family members, homes, careers, and more. We have seen mass graves and been locked down for quarantines. Ur economies have crashed or threatened too, and the world is experiencing a collective trauma of unprecedented proportions. But rest assured, the worst can’t possibly last forever. If all good things come to an end, then so too do all terrible things.
There is something very real you may experience, it is called survivor guilt, and it is a symptom of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This is a sense of remorse you might have after living through 2020 while others close to you did not. It is okay, I understand, and you don’t have to beat yourself up for it. There are a LOT of things that went wrong this year and forced you to make decisions you probably didn’t want to make, or never would have made otherwise. But you survived. And that’s a good thing. The world would be a darker place without you in it. So let’s look at a few things you can do to help with this guilt.
Step 1: Take care of yourself.
You ARE worth it, no matter what your brain may be telling you right now. So eat at least three times a day. Get a full night’s rest. Make sure you get your butt in the shower and clean yourself on a regular basis. Neglecting your physical needs will make you feel worse. It is amazing what a hot shower and a cup of tea will do for a person. If this seems like a daunting task, try to make it seem a little more exciting. Get a new body wash or toothpaste. Add a new recipe to the menu. Anything a little out of the norm and new will help add excitement and feel pampering in your daily routine.
Step 2: Exercise
Ah, yes, the stench of locker rooms and feet, amiright? Well, no. You don’t need to sign up for a new gym and start lifting weights. A nice brisk walk around your neighborhood is enough to go on. The fresh air, if you are lucky enough to live outside a fire zone, and the sunshine are scientifically proven to improve your mood and outlook. Not only do you give your lungs the gift of delicious oxygen, you give your skin some much needed vitamin D. And in return, your brain will release endorphins that make you happy. Live in a fire zone? Try some yoga. It can be done indoors and you still get the oxygen and endorphins.
Step 3: Unplug to recharge
You heard me. Turn off the phone, the internet (wait! Finish reading this first!) , and the television. Even the blasted radio! Unplug every device that could possibly bombard you with what is going on outside. Nobody wants to hear that all the time, you need to break away. Now read a book. Color a picture. Create something, anything, be it art or poetry, or a mess in your kitchen. Heck, I bet lots of people are creating other, much smaller people, and that’s great too. Whatever floats your boat. Just stay offline. For more ideas, you can click here.
Step 4: Cry
I mean it. There is nothing quite as wonderful as a good cry. Crying allows us to release all the pent up emotions we fool ourselves into believing we don’t have. Well, if my BFF died of covid and I never got to see her again, I would cry all day long. And then some. Heck, my favorite feminist icon just died and I cried all weekend in my nightie while eating far too many gummi worms. Yeah, I did, and now I feel better. Because when you cry you experience catharsis, the purging of extreme emotion. Please don’t overindulge on the candy, I totally regret that. Yuck. Nobody wants to carry around guilt and sadness for the rest of their lives, right? That would be pretty miserable, and I think we are all suffering enough.
Step 5: GET HELP
Nobody says you have to do this on your own. If you have PTSD, you really should NOT do this on your own. You should reach out to not only the other members of your support system (family and friends) but to a professional. The thing about a year like 2020 is it sucks for everyone, you and so you can guarantee you are not alone. I bet there are tons of people who know what you are going through. Find a few good people to talk about it with and then a professional counselor. It takes a village to heal from a collective trauma like this, when the whole world has been under stress for so long, we all need a boost. You can find help near you by clicking here.