How Quarantine is Triggering Old Wounds


It seems like one minute, I was at work and being told that we would all work from home. Now, over 40 days later, this has become my new normal.

I wake up and log on then I sit in silence with my thoughts as I work. I log off and then I distract myself with television shows and movies until I go to sleep. And, then it starts all over again.

The highlight of my day is when I have to run to the grocery store or pick up something essential. But, I do it very quickly and then run back into the safety of the house. Even if I order food, it’s a quick transaction. The delivery driver looks relieved as I snatch the bag from his hand, both of our arms outstretched trying to keep as much distance between us as possible.

This is my new life.

I really don’t want to complain because I have amenities and a comfortable place to wait out my quarantine. I have the ability to continue working. I’m as safe as I can make myself. So, I really shouldn’t complain because others are going through worse.

However, I am acutely aware that I am being triggered.

I was naïve at first. I didn’t think this was going to bother me. I have worked from home before. I have even lived with someone when both of us had to be home together. He was injured and I was laid off. We spent months together in a house and it wasn’t bad.

But, this is different. After a few weeks, I felt the duress. There is fear involved in preventing illness and the combination brought me back to being a child. When I was a child, I hated being stuck in my house. I numbed myself with movies and snacks. I tried to be as invisible as possible. If my parents were in a bad mood or my Dad was feeling like he wanted to pick on someone, my day was hell. I walked on eggshells never knowing what the emotional climate would be from hour-to-hour. Even if I felt I could breathe free, things could change rapidly.

They monitored the snacks and complained about what I ate. There were certain food and drinks that were off-limits. I spent much of my day trying not to set-off the parent alarm by doing too much, but my goal was to try to enjoy myself. I scurried around the house like a mouse. Going from corner to corner, grabbing what I wanted and disappearing.

My favorite was when they were watching a movie because then the lights would be out so I couldn’t be seen from the living room while I was in the kitchen. I wouldn’t have to face the inquisition. I still do it now when I want something. I question it in my head and try to talk myself out of wanting it rather than to go into the kitchen and get it. If I was caught, an authority figure would tear into all the reasons I was greedy, ungrateful or some other litany of assumed criticism. Now, I realize that I was probably eating my feelings.

As I am stuck in the house, I find myself replaying the deprivation that I used to survive. In my mind as a kid, the problem was not how my wanting things were handled. The problem was that I wanted things. And, if I could sit without needing or wanting anything then the problem was solved. I mastered the temperature check. I knew when I could push it a bit further and get what I want. I learned to be a thief. I learned that if I was in dire need or if I wanted to enjoy myself that I had to work around my parents.

And, now, as I face the decision if I need something from the store whether it is essential or not, I feel the guilt and shame returning. I feel anxiety as if there is some punishment waiting for me at the end of going out for what I really need.

Years of learning not to feel selfish, but practicing self-care seem to be chipping away with each passing day. Breathing helps. And, I have to remind myself that I’m not the little girl in the house anymore.

I am finding healthier ways to occupy my time. I try to read self-help information and do things that make me feel better. The Quarantine isn’t bad. I can handle it.

I just didn’t know that emotional neglect was the old friend waiting in the wings to welcome me back into isolation.

Fortunately, my insurance allows me to introduce myself to a new friend who calls herself a therapist. I think I might lean on her a little bit to get through this.

If you feel in any way triggered by the quarantine, do not be afraid to find someone to talk to.


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Photo courtesy iStock.