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Undiagnosed Ongoing Pandemic Trauma and Moving Forward

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New Here
Hello Everyone,

I recently have been looking into PTSD and other trauma related experiences and came upon a recommendation for this forum. I'm not entirely sure what is impacting me and have no official diagnosis but have been looking into PTSD and CPTSD and have found some relevance to my own experiences. I am hoping to find any resources or experiences that might help me moving forward. I have a feeling this might be pretty long so I apologize in advance!

The pandemic has been a major event in many peoples' lives and I am certainly no exception to that. Near the beginning of the pandemic we had family traveling and it was a nightmare getting them home due to all of the sudden border closures and flight cancellations. We were fortunate enough to find them a way home after days of phone calls. However, these family members contracted COVID during their travels. Because this was near the beginning of the pandemic there was little information on the virus, or at least less than there is now. This was also before vaccines had been developed. We were advised by a friend and healthcare worker that it might be wise for myself and my partner (living with these recently infected family members returning home) to find accommodations elsewhere until they had recovered so that we could avoid infection. This seemed to be a reasonable thing to do as we were in the early learning stages of understanding the impacts of the virus so we found elsewhere to stay. However, what we had planned as a 2-week quarantine away from said family members became a 3-month quarantine away from home. What happened was that while one family member went through the infection, the other became quite ill. It was only a couple a days before this family member was struggling to breathe and was taken into the hospital where they would end up spending 3 months; 1 of those being on a ventilator. During this period no family was allowed to visit the hospital so we were on the phone every day with the healthcare team taking care of this family member. Fast-forward to now and they are one of the lucky ones to be home now.

I'm trying to find a way to type this without painting OCD as a problem because it isn't. My partner was diagnosed with contamination OCD at a young age and has been something they deal with on a daily basis. Introduce a very real pandemic and virus into the fray, on top of the above experience with said family member, and this has been difficult for myself to navigate - partially because I don't think I understood it and am learning as I do my best to support them as well. What this has done to our lives is it has meant since the pandemic started we have not entered another physical space without a full facemask respirator (4 times total to receive the vaccines). Groceries are delivered to the house and left on the front step; which are then, one-by-one, brought into the house and bleach-water wiped down or emptied into a safe container that has not been handled by someone outside the house. This is still our ongoing practice. Any meal delivery we get to the house has to be reheated also. This has restricted options somewhat as some produce does not heat very well (we also had a hard time ordering fresh produce as it was more difficult to clean and you don't want to put bleach on fresh produce - fortunately we are able to grow some of our own veggies in the summer). Anytime someone in the house has any doctors appointment (mostly follow up stuff to monitor post-covid family members or other important checkup appointments), my partner and myself mask when going upstairs in case someone brings anything home by accident. I myself haven't had my eyesight checked or teeth cleaned since before the pandemic. I haven't been home (I live with my partner and their family) since before the pandemic to see my own family. Essentially the level of risk-tolerance our household has and is still taking is extremally minimal. This has resulted in many conflicts inside the house, and outside the house, but for the most part we always seem to get to the same page and understanding of things.

Other life stressors - I was accepted into grad school at the start of the pandemic which I was excited about and managed to get through the first year of course-work smoothly. Everything was remote at that point so that was the norm. After the first year all my course-work was complete and I was to begin the thesis writing stage which is still something I am struggling with. Grad school is stressful enough as is and I think navigating everything else with the pandemic has made it even more stressful. I feel like my work has declined since the first year and is not up to a standard that I am happy with.

Current Symptoms:
I guess this all leads to where I am now. I am still very much living through the pandemic every day and the isolation and lack of control is really starting to take a toll on me. I tend to minimize/down-play things generally so I think this really snuck up on me as I have known something was off but wasn't quite sure what exactly until recently. I am finding myself withdrawn from friends, family, everything really (deactivated social media, don't answer phone/texts often). The smallest things that remind me of our situation are very triggering which honestly is everything. I think more recently the state of everything opening back up has also been very hard for me - I am seeing friends, family, colleagues doing things again while we take things very cautiously. I struggle to find motivation to do anything. I play video games or watch TV most of the time to avoid reminding myself of anything. I feel helpless/hopeless/stuck in the situation and unable to see a way forward our out of it. The smallest things seem to trigger discomfort and negative thoughts. I feel major guilt for being stuck and not contributing to things as what I expect myself to.

What I am currently doing:
I started therapy again about a couple months ago which has definitely been helpful. I'm trying to get back into exercising a bit more - I was doing those at-home workouts at the beginning of the pandemic but stopped those about a year in so I am trying to go on a walk once a day. I've talked to my partner about this as well and know they are doing their best to make steps here and there and support me with this. I know things take time and effort but I feel progress is slow and wondering how this will ultimately impact my future.

Thank you very much for listening!
Welcome to the forum!

Is your partner in therapy? Are there any mental health supports in your area for family/friends of people living with a mental illness?

Hope you find your way.
hello tecko. welcome to the forum.

my pandemic experience was vastly different from yours. i'm still not properly germaphobic, but the social impacts of the global shutdown --both lingering and still presenting-- have me paralyzed on frequent occasion. corona crowned over a desperate family situation and i remain afraid to trust the powers that be in rebuilding my life. i worry continually that the next flu season is going to bring out an even meaner side of the masked social distancers. i remain afraid to seek professional help. all of this is still too new for me to trust the "experts."

sigh. . .

but rebuild we must. it's tempting to just join the silent majority in pretending none of that insanity happened and there is no risk of it happening again, but i have a long, traumatic herstory urging me to talk about ^it^ until the memories no longer have the power to control my life.
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