Surviving through leaning into the discomfort: 5 tips on dealing with social distancing and stress of the Coronavirus from a survivor. By Liz Kimbel, Director of Programs, Karana Rising

Surviving the Distance

Liz Kimbel, Program Director, Karana Rising

For the past week, I have been checking in with my self constantly. I keep asking myself why I’m not completely hysterical right now given that we may soon be in a state of complete shelter. I think it’s partly that I have been dealing with complex post traumatic stress disorder and then also that I actually know my family is in overall good health. So, if one of us does contract the coronavirus, we will all manage and recover. That is not something I would have been able to say about my family as I was growing up. So, I feel extremely fortunate to live with that privilege now.

Yet, I have had my moments of mini panic attacks and then I know it’s time to bring myself back to me. It’s those moments where I start to “melt” and become so numb that my brain just checks out for a moment while life is happening all around me. Yet, over the years of coping with my past, I have learned that running away from those feelings never works. They are faster than me. So, I lean in to them.

I used to drink away those fears. That did not work, either. Sure, it did for a while but then when I became sober 21 months ago, I had to find a new way to bond to coping skills that healed me rather than hurt me.

Two years ago if this were happening, I would have been drinking and Instagramming the hell out of it. Now, I paint like crazy (see photo of painted headboard for evidence).

To be honest, I’m almost amazed I’m still managing my triggers and NOT drinking, because this is possibly the scariest thing I’ve faced since sobering up. If I’m not disassociating, I’m having internal panic attacks, thinking of all the worst possible scenarios, and thinking of all the escape routes, recipes for primitive cooking, what to pack and where to hide the suitcase so that my family doesn’t notice and start panicking too.

Healing never is done. Those moments of panic or pain don’t feel good but after all I have survived, I know that suffering is a part of living, too. That doesn’t mean it does not hurt like hell sometimes.

Maybe this is all normal, or maybe it’s surviving hell and trying to hone the “skills” you learned whilst surviving literal Hell, because if you’re going to suffer, you may as well do so productively, right??

As a survivor, I kind of find this whole idea of “isolation” or “sheltering in place” kind of bizarre. Being a child stuck in hotels and assaulted by men constantly who were buying me for sex, my mind was completely isolated from my body. That is how I learned to survive. I was 15 and emotionally alone. If COVID19 had happened, it would have been my death sentence. I would have been forced to “come into contact” with no less than 10 men a day and they would have been sure to break ALL the CDC recommendations! But the real isolation taught me valuable lessons, and I can share five of those now with you.

  1. Journaling. Let’s all begin journaling ferociously! This is something, something radical, that is going to shape our collective near future, and it will be written about in every history book, because for the very first time, we’ve had a mass shut down. Social media is nice but the real you will come out on paper and you’ll feel it and learn a lot.
  2. Check in with the people you care about now. My CPSTD is just one spoke in my wheel of mental health issues, and while I’m managing all my issues well, as well as regular therapy and a daily list od meds, none of that prepared me, or anyone, for what is happening right now. The fears in my head are not alone, and I imagine perfectly nuero-typical folks are feeling it too, so check ins are absolutely vital! We need to be checking in with each other, our therapists, family, doctors, etc. We need to be talking about everything, so that we’re all as prepared as possible for the day to day future, as well as our long term futures. We can only begin to recover and heal with one another being accessible. Honestly, make a list of your concerns and talk to others about how they are coping. You are not alone.
  3. Coping Skills. Coping skills are great in theory, and in practice! My son’s therapist, THE BEST DAMN THERAPIST EVER, gave my husband and I a list of 99 Coping Skills. You can reach out to get a copy but seriously make your own list and share on our private Facebook group or directly at @wearekaranarising.
  4. Parenting. Are you home alone with your school aged children? I am. Are you terrified? I sure as hell am! But I know this will all be ok, and I need you to believe that too. Right now they’re off for two weeks, but I’ve read the CDC is recommending 8 weeks. My friends are predicting that this may be the entire rest of the school year. This is going heavily effect so many people, from their grades being altered and their education path becoming distorted and unmanageable, to so many kiddos starving for lack of school breakfasts and lunches. Only a percentage of those kiddos will be fed, and my heart hurts so much for them. And know this: our children will remember this as a life-altering, defining moment in their lives, and they’ll remember how we handled it, because they’re looking to us to know how to react, so react in a way that is honest and transparent, brave, but forgiving, because it’s ok that we’re all scared, and our babies deserve to know that. Look for some recipes and ways to engage your kids while not going crazy in the coming days. In the meantime, check out this: www.projectexplorer.org. They have educational videos that kids actually like and you might like them, too!
  5. Financial Hysteria. People lost their damn minds these last couple of weeks, and that will also be remembered. Are you worried about how you’re going to make money? Me too. My husband is working his normal day to day, and I’m able to work from home, but eventually, if things go exactly the wrong way, money could become an issue. Let’s all make a safety plan. Again, you are not alone. We will get through this!

Thank you reading! I want to hear from you. So reach out to me or Karana Rising. We are all in this together as survivors. We have been through a lot but we sure have a lot we can share about surviving now!

Liz Kimbel

Artist, Mom, Survivor, Program Director and Co-founder at Karana Rising

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My headboard — finally painted!

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Karana Rising is by survivors, for survivors. Our team leads innovative labs in wellness, design, advocacy & education to support survivors of human trafficking

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