Being in Quarantine is Traumatic

Kunduz hospital air strike 2015. Not comparing quarantine to war, I just know people feel like this picture. I sure do some days.

I’m a person who’s heavily focused on productivity and growth, and the quarantine is constantly grinding against my willpower. It’s been 27 days since they closed nonessential businesses, so that’s 27 days I’ve had no steady income. We’ve canceled every order and every account that isn’t essential. My amazing wife has spent weeks on calls and online contacting creditors, lenders, and account managers, digging endlessly through city, state, and local guidelines and websites, deciphering baffling legalese to try to find any assistance possible. Like many small business owners, we’re skating on thin ice.

Despite all of that, this isn’t the time to panic. This also isn’t the time to stay positive and reflect on life either. The fact is, the business closures and quarantine is traumatic. We’ve all had our daily routines completely disrupted, with no promise when it will return to normal, if ever. We’re in financial limbo. We’ve been stripped of our livelihoods and I’m basically forbidden from practicing the craft I’ve practiced for 22 years. It’s a 180° shift from what we’re accustomed to.

I don’t say this to pound negativity at you, I say this to outline the reality of the situation. Recognizing it for what it truly is is the only way to be able to learn to cope with it. Any effort that isn’t grounded in the severity of this truth will only be a mask to cover it. You can’t cover up trauma, you have to confront it and reconcile it. And the truth is, a lot of trauma can’t be reconciled until it’s over. This is ongoing.

Look, I’m not trying to say people need to give up hope, or stop trying to find the good amidst the bad, because doing those things is essential at all times. I’m saying we can’t abandon our real time experience in favor of an idealistic concept of the growth we will experience, or the opportunities we will find. We can look toward growth and opportunity as a result of what we’re going through, but we can’t skip the step of experience.

That means you need to let yourself feel this, and process it. Don’t indulge in it, but feel it and process it. Sometimes that could mean you cry, maybe a lot. Or you are angry, maybe all day. You might be irritable, depressed, anxious. You could be feeling abandoned, helpless, frightened. These are normal feelings right now.

Getting through this isn’t about filling your head with catchphrases. It’s about existing within this framework you’ve been forced into, and doing your best through it. Whether you’re feeling highs or lows, experience them and remind yourself that as long as you try and you don’t give up, it will improve at some point.

Look, this is likely far from over. There will be ups and downs as we move forward, and it will probably feel like there’s no going back at times. In a way, there is no going back. Things will fundamentally change. Don’t long for how things were, or spend time wishing, because that’s not reality. Stop thinking about how your plans for the year are messed up. There’s no choice but to roll with the punches and reevaluate our actions as we go.

I had a lot of plans this year. We were finally recouping from a rocky 2019, both personally and professionally. I had finally started revisiting major business plans I’ve had on the back burner for years, and had been getting side projects in order. It’s all been completely derailed, and now I’m just in survival mode. All that while still trying to think of my employees, family, and friends.

But I’ll roll with the punches. We don’t really have a choice, because this is what we have. Damn straight I’m going to have some breakdowns, and lose my temper, and air out my frustration and sense of disappointment. We’re entitled to that, and we don’t have to shove it down to show how hard we grind or hustle, or how the strong don’t do that or some other macho bullshit. Shove it up your ass. These are hard times, and we are allowed to admit it in full, and how it’s affecting us on a personal level.

And then I’ll get up and do what I can. Some days it won’t be much, and I’ll be kind and forgive myself. Because right now, we all need kindness and compassion more than we need motivation.

Sometimes we face challenges not because we’re capable of overcoming, but because we have no choice.