Being a survivor in isolation can be a lot of overwhelming things. For me, with abuse in the past, this time is not dangerous and my heart and stomach aches when I think of how privileged I am to write that and then again at the fact that I associate not being in immediate danger with privilege.
Feeling safe should be a right and nothing exceptional but for so many people right now, it sadly isn’t.
For me, isolation is both confronting and strengthening.
The last time I spent this much time at home it was because I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave it. I had just left a relationship where I was abused and raped. I had a brain that had shut down all logic and motivation, I had a body that I didn’t really know what to do with.
Prior to the abusive relationship, I had been a keen runner. After the abuse, on my good days, I would put my running clothes on, get to the door and suddenly not be able to breath, the enormity and anonymity of outside being too overwhelming to process. Many afternoons would find me slumped just under the front door handle crying and others would see me running up and down my stairs in my trainers for hours because my anxiety had spiked a strange pulse of nervous energy that was too uncomfortable to not use up. Sometimes I only stopped when I realised it got dark outside.
Over time, my stairs were upgraded to a gym. I found I could run on a machine in a corner of the room if there was no one exercising behind me. It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress enough to stop me paying much thought to how I felt about the spaces I was exercising in and why I felt it.
Now that exercising outside is the only option and the outside world laced with potential danger, it felt like the challenge of that time in my life was repeating itself in a fresh way.
I made an appointment with a therapist online. It’s strange to speak to her through a screen propped up by cushions on my bed but at the same time it’s a very comforting set-up to talk openly from. The appointments are helpful. I tell her that all this time spent alone with my body is making me realise the disconnect and lack of ownership over it I have felt since I was attacked. I tell her that I have been avoiding these feeling and traumatic thoughts for a long time and that I can’t anymore. I tell her all the ways that the abuse in my past still lingers in my present, all the ways that I’ve never said out loud. She tells me that this is a very normal response to trauma, she gives me things to read, tactics to explore, she emphasises the importance of time and self-kindness- one which I now have a lot of, the other which I need to get better at.
Since lockdown began, I have run outside for the first time in years. I was surprised at how good spring air and movement through and towards things instead of a slog on a stationary exercise machine felt. I was also a little surprised that nothing bad had happened to me- I got home safely and that has given me the strength to do it again.
Recovery and healing are of course not linear processes. Some days are tough as they are for us all right now. It’s hard to be in a world where I can’t access the things I have built into my routine to give me stability and the things that make me feel good; no dinners at friends, pub, parties, dates or Mam’s Sunday roasts to distract me. I feel there is a long way to go still but, on some level, I am grateful for the pause in time to consider the strength that has carried me to this point and continues to do so into the new normal.