In 2012, the main thing I wrote about was the Jersey Shore. So when Superstorm Sandy hit and tried to suck our coast out into the ocean, I was right there, writing about it – and everything that happened after.
It was the worst thing I'd ever covered in my life. But I was fine, my property was fine, my family and friends were fine. I didn't suffer the tragedies of those I was writing about. You should be grateful, I told myself. And went onto the next story.
I didn't think of that experience as a trauma, not until I was sent a copy of a book about the one year anniversary of the storm. I looked at it, and vomited.
I thought about this tonight when I read Shannon Palus, writing in Slate: "What the Virus Did to Me." She writes:
The piece is about experiencing a trauma, and what to do about it, but it's also about anger. I live in New Jersey, whose COVID19 outbreak paced closely with that of New York. I wrote about testing failures, early. Friends and family got sick, early. I knew so many people who died that I had to buy sympathy cards in packs.
This time I knew, despite being cocooned in my house with my computer and my dog and my Netflix and my Disney+, that I was living through another trauma (while reliving Sandy since one trauma loosens memories of another). I was able to take steps to protect myself as much as I could and still do my job (therapy, medication, meditation). My friends and family recovered, and New Jersey has decidedly flattened the curve. But like Palus, I am angry and horrified to watch the majority of the country on the edge of a COVID burst, as if they learned nothing from our horrible pain. The trauma is not over.
So please, go read her piece. I'll link to it again. No matter where you are, try as much as you can to take care of yourself, and be honest about what trauma this experience is bringing onto you. I want you to do that even if you you feel, on paper, that you're fine, your friends and family are fine, that you'll be fine. Because this virus isn't over yet. We're in it for the long haul. I want you to take care of your whole self until we really are through to the other side.
Jen A. Miller