Going into lockdown meant confronting my PTSD head on
I was told that it was normal. The sudden panic, the flashbacks, the insomnia. All normal.
My GP explained that this was a common response to trauma and that post-traumatic stress often manifests itself in these ways.
‘You’ve been through a lot’, my GP stated. ‘You lost a baby a few weeks ago’.
Four and a half weeks ago, I thought to myself. New Year’s Day.
In the weeks that followed my PTSD diagnosis, I was scared to sit alone with my grief. It became louder when I was at rest, so I kept myself busy (but not just busy, exhausted).
I survived on pockets of sleep and masked my panic with productivity. Outwardly functioning while inwardly collapsing felt like the only option. Admitting that I was suffering meant admitting that I wasn’t coping. And I was a coper.
Instead of truly acknowledging the loss of my baby at 10 weeks, I learned to separate myself from what happened.
At work, I completed tasks, contributed at meetings, smiled and stayed late. I trained at the gym and remembered to wipe down the machines. In cafes, I finished chapters and counted exact change.
This person was capable. This person had not been wheeled to an operating theatre to have her uterus scraped while her husband and mother sat distant in a waiting room.
In the outside world, it was easier to keep the memories at arm’s length. There was comfort in endless to-do lists.
But that soon came to an abrupt end. With the introduction of lockdown procedures, came the blocking of all my escape routes.
In the first week of lockdown, I cried each time I went to the bathroom
At first, it was unbearable. My home felt unsafe – hooks in every room to pull me back.
The kitchen where I used to wretch at the smell of coffee grounds and washing up liquid. The living room where I sat wide-eyed with my husband discussing what we would look like as parents. The secret place (I asked my husband to hide them) that held our eight week ultrasound photos – the only proof of our little blob of life with their pixel heart beating.
Every room was stuffed with the memories of what should have been. Here, my miscarriage was too close and too loud. The flashbacks became more frequent and less controllable.
In the first week of lockdown, I cried each time I went to the bathroom.
Even though there weren’t any, I could still see red streaks in my underwear, then blood pooling out of me in clumps like wet fruit. Invisible cramps left me doubled over.
I knew it wasn’t real, but time had shifted and I was back once again – calling on my husband, apologising, telling him we needed to get to the hospital.
And when the narrative began, I couldn’t cut it short. I miscarried and I kept miscarrying.
I desperately wanted the noise of my normal routine back. But drowning out my pain hadn’t caused it to disappear, and addressing this fact began a process of healing.
Now, instead of using my daily walks as a distraction, I leave my headphones at home, and listen to myself.
When I feel a stab of panic, I acknowledge it, but remind myself that there is safety in the present moment.
I count people, cars, colours, and take deep, purposeful breaths. Grounding exercises like these have become a way of managing intrusive thoughts. But it isn’t easy. It’s a tugging daily process of learning and unlearning.
When lockdown ends, I refuse to pick up where I left off.
These past weeks have shown me that there is strength in pausing for breath. I’ve stopped seeing my unpregnant body as a failure and I’m beginning to treat it with kindness.
Some days will be better than others – I understand that the passing of time won’t chip away at my grief in a predictable way.
I’ll carry my loss into the future knowing that there will be days when it becomes too heavy to bear. But when that happens, I won’t punish myself by ignoring the hurt.
I’ll focus on my breathing and the life around me. I’ll know that I am safe and in that moment, that’s enough.