Trauma Anniversaries & Other Triggering Dates (COVID-19 Focus)

A year? No way…

We feel like we have been on a roller coaster of emotions during this pandemic… sometimes I feel like I got this and other days I want to punch people in the face who aren’t taking this seriously. Then I might want to stuff my face for some emotional eating. Other times I do appreciate the things some people have taken to be good people and to take this seriously.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. This is based on my own experience and not medical advice.

Trigger warning: mental health topics related to anniversaries and triggers plus discussing the pandemic

I’ve heard comments basically saying that people at high risk don’t matter and am watching the vaccine rollout covered with ableism and racism. I recently received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine (I am very grateful) but that doesn’t end the roller coaster. It has however helped my mental health a little at a time- I don’t have panic attacks at just the idea of leaving my studio apartment every time.

Believe it or not, we have hit one year of the pandemic dumping and then shaking our lives upside down all over the street during a windy day– with March being a major focus for many of us. (The memes saying we are still processing March 2020 feel VERY REAL).

(not my image)

“Anniversaries” and other significant dates like this can be very triggering and the toll COVID-19 has created is no exception.

On the anniversary of a traumatic event, some survivors have an increase in distress. These “anniversary reactions” can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction with more severe mental health or medical symptoms.” – PTSD: National Center for PTSD

You may or may not have trauma anniversaries with varying degrees of impact, various triggers, or on different timelines. Maybe you have certain things that trigger you. This pandemic maybe your first experience with this. (Remember your worst, is your worst!)

Another factor is that we are still living in it- which impacts dates like this- we could very well feel at the end of our rope now or in a few years this time of year will hit harder once we are more back to “normal”. It can all vary!

I’m going to include some tips and resources first, with more information about my experiences and things after (I don’t want this to read like a recipe where you are just scrolling for what you came for!)

I have prepared myself this month with a lot of self-care and awareness it is a triggering time of the year. Which means… there will be a lot of kitty snuggles, walks, pottery time, and watching both “Legally Blonde” movies over and over.

Tips on Getting Through Trauma Anniversaries & Other Triggering Dates

Knowing and preparing is a HUGE factor in all of this. Sometimes my mental health goes into a negative space, and I have no idea why if I haven’t made myself ready and aware.

We cannot simply ignore this pandemic anniversary, it’s another thing that will negatively impact our mental health in the long run- just like gaslighting 2020.

Here are a few things I do (and am currently doing)

  • Let yourself feel- all of your feelings are valid.
  • I try to limit types of activities I don’t love (some cannot be avoided).
    • But before this, I try to make sure my space is organized so that I don’t feel distracted by clutter or worried about chores/my to do list.
  • I make my to do list smaller and often focus on “done lists” at the end of the day.
    • I write what I accomplished that day.
  • I fill the days leading up to, during, and after with self-care and activities I love.
    • I try to focus a lot of efforts on the day right before, the day of, and the day after though. Maybe even take a mental health day if you need and are able to do so.
  • Reach for the uplifting and light type of things- movies, shows, books, podcasts, and the like.
    • Get that feel good movie that fills you with the warm fuzzies.
  • BUT MAYBE- you need to reach out for one that gets your feels out.
    • That piece of media that makes you cry- just for a good cry or what allows you to start and cry for everything you need to cry for. I sometimes struggle to “let” myself get started and need a nudge- some movies and episodes of shows help with that.
  • Talk or write it out.
    • Journal. Talk to your loved ones. Talk to your pets. Talk to your therapist- or start therapy!
  • Dance it out.
    • During a shower, after a shower, when you wake up maybe even in the rain?
  • Stay off the screens, especially social media and news.
  • Set boundaries
    • With people, your job, your activities, and YOURSELF
  • During this whole pandemic and still, I do not want to see reminder posts of “this day on…”.

More to read:

Some Background:

Unfortunately, by the time I was 17 I had had my fill of triggering dates- including diagnoses, family members passing away, abuse, and more. Some things still hurt to this day (maybe not as much as they used to- but the sting is still there and it varies). I also find that when something else like the pandemic comes, it makes things harder (even if I am screaming to myself- I WORKED THROUGH THIS, AND IT HAS BEEN SO LONG). Yes- this happened this year for me during the pandemic.

I don’t really acknowledge the dad my passed away but as I grieved, instead of dreading father’s day and his birthday- I began to celebrate those dates. This was through therapy and over 10 years of work, including not really acknowledging when he passed away. During the pandemic, it felt more fresh- more raw- this fall hurt.

Sometimes these dates can be close together but years apart.

I struggle with my birthday in November- why? My dad was diagnosed with cancer in late summer. He passed away 5 days after my birthday (and we celebrated my birthday in his hospital room while he slipped into a coma. No, 12 year old me didn’t have a choice). Right before my 17th birthday, my grandma passed away and the funeral was after my birthday. So I hated my birthday SO MUCH. I still struggle with my birthday, but I no longer dread it as much- I have done A LOT OF WORK and try my best to hype it (usually brewery and favorite restaurant is the focus). I am soooo appreciative for the people who have also helped me to enjoy my birthday.

My diabirthday?

Well most years, I try to celebrate it- celebrate that I am still here with diabetes, the work I do every damn day to take care of it, and celebrate the people in my life because of it. Some years feel a little more negative than others. But often, I celebrate. Most people call it a diaversary, I don’t… Because that word has more of an association with trauma dates and triggers for negative type things.

My diabirthday is March 8th- a few days before I started self-isolating due to the pandemic last year. I was going to host a huge 20th celebration last year, but… COVID. I was hoping to redo it this year… but… COVID. Eventually I will host a huge celebration. This year, I am taking the day off to be at the pottery studio and get my traditional red velvet cupcake. Will the pandemic anniversary twist this day? Pretty likely- we will see.

But I am going to dive into my self-care and be prepared for this to be a triggering time.

Hey you! Yes, you!

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We’ll both be glad you did! -Mindy

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