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Other Wearing a face covering is triggering memories of suffocation and I'm now scared to go to the shops.

Thread starter #1
Hi everyone,

I'm new here and I live in the UK.

I was falsely imprisoned and raped in 2013 during which I was strangled, briefly chocked on my own vomit due to having been drugged and at one point he pinned me against a wall with his hand pressed over my mouth and nose trying to stop me from shouting for help (I couldn't breathe and he just kept pressing harder and harder).

Since then I have had various therapies and medications and have worked really hard to get to the point I am at now. Since I had EMDR in 2018 I have found my symptoms are almost absent with the exception of occasional significant triggers and during the anniversary each year (8-10th February). I have actually been generally happy recently.

That all changed earlier this week when it was announced that 'face coverings' will be made 'mandatory' in all shops in England on 24th July and those not complying will be fined. As I sometimes wear a mask at work (only when stood very close to people) I initially managed my anxiety about this OK but the more people started talking about it and how everyone who struggles with it is 'selfish' and basically saying those who experience breathlessness with them are lying or over dramatic, I have found my symptoms coming back.

It is difficult enough wearing one for short periods at work but I have coped by regularly removing it and generally keeping enough distance that it is not needed. At my work it is not strict and I can remove it whenever I need to (I never wear it when exerting myself e.g. climbing stairs and always remove it when more than 2 meters away from others e.g. in an empty office or if I need to drink as I need to stay hydrated due to kidney problems) and all my colleagues are equally reasonable about it (in fact some barely wear one at all). However, I've started to worry that the general public will not be reasonable and if I am in a shop and feel short of breath and panicky I will not be able to remove it or 'escape' the situation due to the social distancing rules and one way systems. I'm not flat out refusing to wear one, I just need to have control over it and be able to remove it if I start to panic or feel like I'm going to have a flashback.

I have spent the whole week having tactile flashbacks of pain in my neck, nightmares and constant intrusive memories of him pressing his hand over my face. The intrusive thoughts are so bad I can't concentrate on anything and had to go home sick from work. I've found myself getting angry easily and having mood swings. I have spent the best part of 3 days crying and unmotivated to do anything (not even run which I normally find helpful).

I did manage to go to the supermarket earlier this week and I just felt sheer panic the whole time, every little sound around me seemed extremely loud and I couldn't think straight about anything except getting out as soon as possible and that was just with a loose silk scarf on my face.

I've asked my Doctor about a medical exemption and he told me everyone just needs to 'self-certify' which I don't feel comfortable doing as I fear it puts me at risk of abuse from people who see me without a face covering and I really, really do not want to have to explain my past to everyone in public every time I need to buy food.

I've looked at online delivery and all slots are booked for the next month so I will have to go to shops but I am absolutely terrified- of feeling short of breath and not being able to escape and of being abused by interfering people if I remove my covering to catch my breath and calm down.

No one has been understanding at all except the Rape Crisis and Samaritans helplines. I feel really alone in this and everywhere I try to turn for help or advice I'm just deemed as selfish or not taken seriously. It's not at all helpful to know it doesn't change your blood oxygen as that doesn't stop it from reminding me of my trauma at all, it still feels very real to me.

I really don't know what to do. I have ordered a visor as an option to try and I hope this can be a substitute if I can't have a medical exemption card. My biggest fear is of this rule being extended to everywhere in the future, which will essentially render me a prisoner in my own flat.

I just need to talk to someone who actually understands and who might be able to give me some advice.

Thank you so much.
 
Thread starter #2
Just as I expected my own feeling and trauma are of no importance at all and I may as well just end it all because clearly I'm a bad person for going through what I did and having a reaction to it.

Rather cowardly to delete the comment before I can even reply don't you think?

Don't worry, I'm used to nothing I feel or experience ever meaning anything to anyone, just like my lie doesn't.

So I guess I just rot.

I don't have anyone to shop for me. I live alone and know few people in this city.

Whether it is how you wanted it to sound or not, it did sound disgustingly judgemental and dismissive of my experience.

I came here to get support and all you can do is berate me even more. I expected some understanding at least.

I wish I had never come here and I don't know why I should even bother with life anymore because no body cares and no one ever will.
 
#3
. I have ordered a visor as an option to try
I think there's a few folks around here struggling with the face masks for similar reasons.

The face shields are an excellent alternative. It should feel more like wearing a hat.

If you can, when you get it, maybe try starting with just wearing it round the house, where you do feel safe, for small periods of time. That may (hopefully) reduce the impact of having to put it on when you go out.

We were wearing face masks earlier this year, but at the moment, there's no covid in our community, so we're getting a pass. But, I'm anticipating having to go back to wearing it as the year goes on, and I'm not looking forward to it.

For me? One of the things that goes first when I start to get anxious is my breathing. And I panic easily if there's anything (especially tactile stuff) that feels like it's getting in the way of that. Like, suddenly the collar of my top feels like it's choking me.

I had similar issues with wearing a mask. Taking my own advice? I'll need to do reintroduce gradually when covid returns to where I'm living, around the house, and doing the self talk, reminding myself that this is totally safe, I can breathe. But also, going outside and taking it off and doing long deep breaths of fresh air when I realise it's getting too hard, and I need to bring my anxiety levels down.

Sorry you have reason to be here at this forum, but welcome.
 
Thread starter #4
I think there's a few folks around here struggling with the face masks for similar reasons.

The face shields are an excellent alternative. It should feel more like wearing a hat.

If you can, when you get it, maybe try starting with just wearing it round the house, where you do feel safe, for small periods of time. That may (hopefully) reduce the impact of having to put it on when you go out.
Thankyou so much for treating me like a person who's trauma is equally valid to other people's not less so and also for understanding.

I'm going to try the visor because I really can't face the masks and all the judgement, even on here is making it so much worse I'm considering hurting myself. I'm starting to regret making this account because all people do is treat me as a bad person and have no respect or understanding for what I've been through and how difficult this is for me to face.

Sorry you have reason to be here at this forum, but welcome.
Thank you for being the only person so far who has tried to understand it means a lot <3

I was honestly starting to think about killing myself because the last person (who deleted their comment) felt it appropriate to tell me I should be forced to stay at home in order to not trigger other people. I was starting to think that my trauma means nothing and I should just have to suffer but other people's trauma is more important and what I went through was nothing.
 
#6
Hey,

I'm in the UK too. And *hate* things over my face or touching my neck (cos of where I work it's not optional but that's a side story). Can you practice wearing it at home or if you have a T practice wearing it speaking to them?

But I also think emotional regulation skills might be helpful to look into as a general tip. Because an hour isn't a long time for a post to go unanswered. Lots of time differences here, lots of people dealing with their own things. Threatening to kill yourself over someone someone who doesn't even know you on the internet and their lack of reply isn't helpful.
 
Thread starter #7
Thank you for understanding and I'm sorry to ear about your situation also.

It wasn't anything to do with a reply. They deleted their comment after basically accusing me of being selfish because other people are anxious about the virus which is exactly that attitude I came here to avoid, that's why it distressed me so much as I was already feeling almost that low anyway and it almost 'broke the camel's' back so to speak. But I'm OK, I've calmed down a bit now. xx
 
#9
Also in the ‘not a fan of masks’ camp here. Similar reasons to you, and also the recent experience of being fairly ok to put one on in certain circumstances but be able to step away and take it off if social distance is available.

A mandatory order with fines? I absolutely understand your feelings about that. It makes so much sense that it’s causing distress.

Something that’s such a huge feature for the trauma landscape is the sense of a complete lack of control over the situation. That trapped feeling. I don’t even want to talk about it, ya know?! So, with many of my own triggers I’ve tried to manufacture control over them. Like @Sideways suggested with the mask and face shield - getting used to it in a safe environment first. I agree that’s important.

Trouble is....if you need food, you need a quick fix to this. I found that some masks that are made of different material that doesn’t suck onto my face but sticks out so there’s room between the mask and my face, work better. Almost like those painters masks that are like a clamshell.

The other thing I find for me is thinking about it like a way to be more incognito. This might not work for you. It’s almost like you can be part ninja and sneak around easier - get all your items and vanish again. Turns it into a bit of a game so the brain isn’t focused so much on ‘crap crap crap, can’t breathe, can’t breathe, dying’ or the like.

Take what’s useful of my words and discard the rest.

You’re not alone with this.
 
Thread starter #10
Have you looked at deliveroo or owt in your area? I use them for essentials when I don't wanna deal with shops, they have supermarkets and things on them right now.
I haven't actually, I'll have look at that,thanks :)

Also in the ‘not a fan of masks’ camp here. Similar reasons to you, and also the recent experience of being fairly ok to put one on in certain circumstances but be able to step away and take it off if social distance is available.

A mandatory order with fines? I absolutely understand your feelings about that. It makes so much sense that it’s causing distress.


You’re not alone with this.
Thank you <3 It's really helpful to know others are in the same boat and I'm sorry to hear about your situation also.

I'm going try the visor at home first, it's being delivered tomorrow. I couldn't handle cloth masks though. It seems like the visor could be my best option. :)
 
#11
I am so sorry that you were suffering and not receiving a timely response. When I was new hear, that sort of thing would become a trigger of helplessness and worthlessness that is really hard to deal with. Please know that I care about you. Even if it’s only a brief response to try to help you.

I have experienced this too. I knew the mandatory masks was coming so I’ve been working on this a long time. In one trauma, my nightgown was pulled over my face as he did things to me. I was 9. The rape in college involved the hand over mouth and other things making it hard to breathe. I finally realized that the cloth was a huge contributor to my week of flashbacks that followed wearing a mask for 13 minutes at the dentist. I tried different materials and found that a scratchy pleated mask works best. It is stiff enough to create a dome of air in front of my mouth. I’m lucky to have a family around with Teen/adult children/husband to run the errands. That kind of created a feeling of worthlessness for awhile since it seemed like they were doing all the work and I’m still the one that complicates stuff, but after I told them why, they got really quiet and never questioned my fear of masks again. My therapist reminded me that my child part is too young to be required to wear the mask. My college part doesn’t do grocery shopping. So I remind myself constantly who is actually wearing the mask. The one moment that truly got me over the hump of masks was a visit to my chiropractor. I was in the waiting room feeling so much physical pain that it kind of overrided my fear of masks. I did sit there and feel fuzzy all over and sort of disassociated and watched the entire visit. I know that we aren’t supposed to keep doing this, but it truly helped me wear it and not fear it quite as much. My therapist continues to guide us on the childhood trauma that is still pretty present right now. I wish you the best on this. It’s one of the harder things that I have had to deal with on this healing process so I know how difficult it is for you. The judgement and people not understanding. I even have a signed letter saying that I shouldn’t wear one due to medical reasons, but it’s almost scarier to risk the backlash of other people.
 
#12
I have a lot in common with you. I’m from the US but I ran away to London after having been strangled. One night at a pub I was drugged and kidnapped. I played dead when I came to in a car and was able to flee. I ran and ran and fell because I was drugged. A nice woman wanted to get me a policeman but I begged her to help me get a cab. I had no idea where I was. These two traumas so close to one another unleashed my dive into alcohol. I’m still anxious out in the world. I didnt have any money or my passport. No one would know I was missing. I had told my family that I was going to England and never coming back.

I too have major panic attacks at the dentists. I’ve been told by doctors that I always cover my throat. I have reactive airway disease and breathing is difficult. I’m always protecting my throat. I wear surgical masks because they are the easiest to breathe in. Maybe you can find some at a drug store. Look for the ear loop ones, you won’t feel so trapped and you can pull it down as often as you can. They don’t have any elastic that freak me right out.

The full face shields are intended to keep Covid out of your eyes, not to replace a mask. Do you think a positive affirmation would help? Like”I am saving lives by protecting people from my droplets” picture yourself in the sunshine wearing your mask and picture yourself smiling.

When I developed my lung disease I have to wear masks everywhere and I’ve tried all of the. For me the surgical ones are the least claustrophobic. Sometimes on this site you don’t get the sympathy you need but stick around, it’s mostly great people that have lived through hell.we are a fragile folk.

I’m sorry you are struggling. It’s a batshit crazy world.
 
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