By Diana Ibarra AMFT
With the start of the New Year, I, like others, have thought about what my New Year’s resolutions would be. I began scrolling through old pictures of myself to see what I could do to better myself. This only caused me to compare myself to who I was before the pandemic. For most of last year, I kept telling myself that I needed to get back to my pre-pandemic self; I assume I was not the only one. It made me sad to look back at who I used to be and what parts of myself had changed. It was not until one night. I heard someone say, “I need to be who I was before the pandemic.” My therapeutic thought was, “we can’t go back.. we can’t go back to the past because that moment has already passed”. At that moment, I felt as if I had an epiphany. The truth is, we cannot go back to who we were pre-pandemic. The pandemic was distressing, and it changed us as a community and as an individual.
We witnessed schools, stores, and jobs shut down. We have seen the panic and fear of the unknown disease spread through our communities. Some lost their jobs. Some lost loved ones. We experienced lockdowns and mandates, which brought loneliness to some and frustrations to others. The pandemic is considered a collective trauma. Collective trauma is an event witnessed by an entire community that may impact relationships, social norms, and collaborative processes. (Turdman, 2020). Like any traumatic event, our brain chemistry changes in three different ways. First, our breathing, heartbeat, hunger, and sleep change. Second, our emotions and memory change, which affects our attachments and habits.
Lastly, our ability to think and reason changes. (Parks, 2020). So, if the pandemic is considered a traumatic event that changes our brain chemistry, how do we expect to return to who we were? Thinking about the pandemic, I realized that rather than looking to the past and trying to get back to who I used to be, I should look forward and see who I can become. The pandemic brought about many hardships, more for some than others, bringing about new opportunities. Rather than focusing on who we used to be, we should focus on who we can become. So while you are thinking about what your New Year’s resolutions should be, consider what you have gained from these past few years and who you can become as a result. References Jennifer, P. (2020) How do our brains respond to trauma? The Arc. https://arcmonroe.org/how-do-our-brains-respond-to-trauma/ Turdman, D. R. (2020). What is collective trauma? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifting-the-veil-trauma/202005/what-is-collectivetrauma