For COVID-19 Survivors

Typical signs of emotional trauma

If you or anyone else you know who is recovering from COVID-19, show any behavior changes such as extreme irritability, heightened anxiety, angry outbursts, negativity, fixated and irrational thoughts, loss of sleep, loss of concentration and/or depression (the most frequently occurring one).– these are typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, you or they need help. Also, people with pre-existing mental or emotional health conditions could find their symptoms becoming further compounded.

The onset of emotional health problems

Three weeks after I and my entire family of 11 people ranging from the age of 4-80 contracted COVID-19, seemingly the worst was over and we had miraculously pulled through without anyone being hospitalized, despite pneumonia patches recurring fever. I personally felt reasonably well (physically that is) like most of my other family members but…. something was amiss.

I woke up on Day 22 feeling fine, but as the day progressed, I became increasingly agitated and angry over trivial matters. My mind sprang from one negative thought to another filling me with resentment and rage. I roamed around my house like the Incredible Hulk. Every issue seemed like a major affront, aimed at intensifying my fury.
My mind started jumping into the past as well and seething with rage and unable to control myself I chose to shut myself away in my office to work on a project.

However, with such conflicting and tumultuous thoughts running through my head there was no possibility of focusing and working. Those three days were the scariest days of my life because I lost complete control of my mind. My mind became a maelstromof invisible, uncontrollable demons, wrecking havoc within my own head. I was sure I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me. If anyone’s family member suddenly turned into the Incredible Hulk I’m sure most people would steer clear of them. After three days of this I felt completely emotionally drained and found myself being sucked into
a dizzying downward spiral – depression had set in!

Understanding what’s happening

In a desperate attempt to shed some light on the matter I began researching the after-effects of COVID-19. I came across several articles which suggested that people who have been severely ill and hospitalized or those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, were at risk of developing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

I turned my attention to my own family members and carefully questioned other people who had contracted Covid-19. I discovered that many of them were undergoing various emotional issues which manifested themselves several days after their supposed recovery. Irrational behaviors such as fixated thoughts, negativity, extreme anxiety, angry outbursts, and depression had loomed up suddenly and unexplainably amongst many of them.

Precipitating factors

In my experience, COVID-19 leaves us physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. From
the moment of realization that someone in our household has COVID-19,the dreaded COVID-19, it’s like a roller coaster ride. Imagine yourself like me, as someone who us petrified of roller coasters and could not even sit in a simulation for more than twenty seconds. You suddenly find yourself plucked off the ground and tossed onto a seat with your family and friends, or with the knowledge that they could be plonked onto a seat at anytime as well. Add to this the fact that there are no seatbelts and you see other people flying out of their cars and vanishing into nothing as the ride continues.
This is exactly what happens, you find yourself in the most feared and dreaded situation, you have very little control and even less knowledge of what to do, anyone can take a turn for the worse anytime and die, you continue to hear stories about other people dying and no place in hospitals, definitely no thrills – So even if everyone survives the roller coaster ride, one would have suffered huge amounts of stress quite apart from the physical symptoms. Remember that even if an individual has experienced mild symptoms, they have been on that roller coaster ride and most likely had other family members on it. I personally felt as if death was standing in the doorway, waiting to grab anyone it could.

I can’t even imagine what people who have lost family members must go through. My heart and prayers go out to them.
The key to overcoming emotional trauma

As I write this article and because I am paying close attention to others, I am encountering people who without having COVID-19, are also feeling immense emotional trauma.

The fear of contracting it, worrying about people who have it and the death of people we know – surrounded by uncertainty and ignorance of the disease, is taking its toll. Students are feeling it, Mothers are struggling with it, it’s not easy for anyone in the world. It’s a battle against an invisible enemy with unlimited and lethal arsenal.

My reason for writing this article is to bring to everyone’s attention, whether you have suffered from COVID-19 or not, is the fact that in the aftermath of this illness when we believe it’s over, it could be far from over for some. We simply assume that if no one was hospitalized, no one died, and several days have gone by, everything is back to normal.

If you are the one who has recovered but find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem and that you haven’t gone insane! (which is what I thought).

Make people around you aware of what’s happening to you, of the inner turmoil and emotional upheaval, and seek the help you need. I explained it to everyone and asked them to help me by being more tolerant and considerate and assured them that I was working hard to calm myself down.

Some steps you can take

⦁ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step… Take the first step of recognizing you or someone else has a problem and needs help.

⦁ Seek professional therapy, if therapy isn’t an option, work on your own mental/emotional well-being and seek family support.

⦁ Know that you can and will get better – it’s a
mind battle.. Will your mind rule you or will you rule your mind! We can control our thoughts – if we choose to. We have little or no control on other factors and people around us, and even less control on our bodies – our heart, kidneys, liver, everything functions independently.

⦁ Speak to a sensible well-meaning friend, who is a good listener.

⦁ Take care of your physical self, sound sleep is possibly the most important healer – your mind and body need rest, shower and dress well – you will feel better I promise you.

⦁ Practice yoga or meditation. Remember, it’s a mind battle, you can only win it by taking your territory back under your control. Yoga helps calm the mind.

⦁ Don’t watch TV programs, news channels or engage in social media content that will cause additional stress. Watching posts of other people having a great time in a fabulous setting can be quite distressing!

⦁ Do not hang out with emotional vampires – the people who thrive on negativity. You need as much positivity as possible.

⦁ Listen to the music you like best and which lightens your mood.

⦁ Watch videos which will help you like The secret of becoming mentally strong by Amy Morin’ TEDx

⦁ Steer clear of problems that are not on the critical path – Don’t give yourself or allow others to heap unnecessary stress on you, pick your battles. Once your mind is under control you can put on your Superman cape and save the world.

⦁ Reach out with a helping hand to those who are suffering.
⦁ Reminisce about the good times holidays, weddings, trips, friends – because your mind will automatically veer towards ANTs.

⦁ You will know best what makes you happy, engage in those activities. Paint, bake, dance, go cycling or learn a new skill – you need to distract your mind from the ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts.

⦁ For employers, I implore you to go easy on giving assignments because COVID-19 also seems to eat away several million brain cells and it’s hard to concentrate.

⦁ Watch out for and be aware of signs of any kind of behavior changes. Your team members will not be at 100% so ease their work-load for a few weeks.

⦁ Focus on your spiritual self and prayers, there is no being higher than the creator, to help us through difficult times.

 

Please, please be aware that physical recovery may be only half the battle a COVID-19 survivor has to fight, if you see or experience any alarming behavior changes there are steps you need to take….

About the author

Rubina Jamal is a Management Consultant with an M.Sc. in Industrial Psychology and a Masters’ degree in Psychology. She is the founder and CEO of Insolito Associates.
She is happiest when she is up in the mountains facilitating community building sessions. She looks forward to retiring there one day and writing travel stories for children.

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