It is 2020, and my son just graduated from college. We all gathered around our television, a reminder of days gone by when families gathered around the TV knowing that this was the only time they would get to see a specific episode of a show.
A time before VCRs, DVRs, Netflix, and streaming, and way, way before COVID-19. We all gathered, drinks in hand, and watched his virtual ceremony. The speaker, who stated that we would probably forget his name, began to talk. He was right; I have completely forgotten who he was and what he had accomplished to lead him to this honor, but I do remember the part he asked us to hold onto. He told us we would probably forget most of what he had to say, so if there was one thing we should remember, it is to remember to be kind. I thought, at the time, that this was a nice message, but I wondered about it’s depth. Lately, it seems that being kind is consistently on my mind.
Working as a psychotherapist during this time has been challenging. I sit with my clients, sometimes in a collective space as we talk about the pandemic, antisemitism, and sexism, and sometimes in a place of allyship where we speak openly about systemic and gendered racism.
We collectively address their increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, recent emotional flashbacks, transmitted trauma from generation to generation, parenting issues, disordered eating, and any other distress they are experiencing.
During this time there are common cries that I hear, asked despairingly:
When will my trauma be over? What is wrong with me? I thought I worked this out, why is it back? My brain knows it is over, so why am I responding this way?
Ultimately I find myself responding: “start by being kind.” The first step to healing is to be kind; be kind to yourself. Validate your experiences, your thoughts, your feelings, and your sensations.
It’s okay to feel like crap.
It’s okay to be pessimistic.
It’s okay to be optimistic.
It’s okay to be triggered.
It’s okay to want to be alone.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to be angry.
It’s okay to have a good day.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to be filled with energy.
It’s okay to feel frozen.
It’s okay to want to fight.
It’s okay to feel despair and
It’s okay to feel joy.
Be kind, and listen. Listen to yourself; listen to your symptoms; listen to your body. When your thoughts, feelings and sensations need some care, I encourage you to find someone who will also listen with kindness. Someone who believes you and trusts you. Someone who will honor your experiences as true and support you in making choices that can help you along your pathway towards continued wellness.