Part 4: Stop Scrolling
What day is it?
Seriously. Without looking at a calendar, or the lock screen on a phone, do you know, with 100% certainty, what day it is?
A few friends and I have been doing a weekly “vibe check” (staying connected!): a text-based exchange to check-in about how we’re feeling. That typically happens on Wednesdays, but Wednesdays now feel like Thursdays, which sometimes feel like Sundays so who even knows anymore.
In the pre-COVID world, schedules were set and adhered to with great care. I relied heavily (I mean really heavily) on my weekly Google calendar. Recently, though, time has become distorted. Minutes, hours, days, and entire weeks are either fleeting or everlasting; looking ahead feels impossible. A distorted sense of time is associated with a dissociative response to stress and trauma, especially prolonged stress or trauma that feels inescapable (so, yes, COVID-19). It is the ‘Freeze” component of the Fight/Flight/Freeze response. Dissociation is not an inherently bad thing, it is normal and can be an adaptive way to manage — until it’s not. In small amounts, it looks like avoidance, numbing, or tuning out. I mention that here because if your dysregulation looks like dissociation, you may not be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, or on high alert. It may just be the opposite. You may be fluctuating between both types of responses. That is normal, too.
I’ve been in a more dissociative place as of late. I am struggling to make plans and to think ahead in both the short and long-term. I am getting my days mixed up. Hence not knowing when the “vibe check” is happening, nor how I should respond about how, exactly, I am feeling.
I’ve noticed within that text exchange, I’ve become unintentionally yet increasingly reliant on emojis. At first, I typed full paragraphs depicting my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in great detail, and my friends did the same. Now, there are a lot of laugh-cry faces, some exploding yellow heads, and without fail, the poop one.
Given my current leaning toward dissociation, this makes sense. In teaching developing social workers, I often use the metaphor of a sponge. As helpers, as carers, and just generally…