Trigger warning – COVID, dealing with emotions

Picture Credit- Jeremy Ricketts, Unsplash

Having grown up by the sea, I really like seeing a new clean beach early every morning. One that has been visited by the tide as we have slept. One that stretches perfectly like a freshly swiped Etch-a-sketch; no footprints, no horse shoe prints (or other things horses leave behind…!), no sandcastles or long-left fires. Quiet. Peace. The first thing in the morning wonder. It’s a fantastic metaphor that extends, of course, into a lovely “new day – new opportunity” narrative.

Growing up, we had a nearby beach called Rhosilli Bay. A vast beach. It was a day out viewed as a treat; in spite of the trek to get down (and back up again of course!). However, Rhosilli did not have a fresh unobstructed beach every time the tide went out. Why? Because there was a small shipwreck that never got washed away and never seemed to erode, at least not in the years I spent living nearby. It was there in the mornings as it was in the evenings. It was well and truly part of the beach.

I’ve recently been wondering what to do with some of my own beach clutter. Not all quite so dramatic as a shipwreck of course. Some are more just the debris washed up by the tide. Stones, broken pottery, bits of glass. Things maybe I’ve half processed but they are still hanging around stuck deep in the sand on the metaphorical beach that is essentially, me. Covid. Moral injury. That which can’t easily be processed. Failure. Disappointment. The debris remains. Perhaps it always will do.

Nature is powerful. The sea washes away a lot. But not everything. The saying goes “Sunlight is the best form of disinfectant”; but as Toby Ziegler (The West Wing) said “For germs, maybe. Not the plague.”

When we grew up we went to a local Baptist Church and they had these ancient hymn books. They hymns often had names next to them which would correspond to a “tune” that would be used (some tunes had several hymns attributed to them). I no longer remember the words of the hymn that went with it but one stuck in my head “Ebenezer”, perhaps because of the association it had with Ebenezer Scrooge. Of course, years later, I discovered that it had absolutely nothing to do with Ebenezer Scrooge at all. The word was Hebrew and had been used in a story from the Old Testament just after Samuel had been through a bloody battle. He laid down a stone, naming it Ebenezer (which means “Stone of Help” according to the quick google search I just did) but the point that stuck with me was that he laid it down and the words he said were “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV). He put the stone down to mark a point in time. He paused, marked the point and moved ahead. And the thing is, according to the passage in the Bible, he went back. Year after year. And that seemed to have been OK.

ACT therapy is something that I came across about 5 years ago. It was taught to me, in order to help some one else, the details of whom’s situation are not important here. Personally, I find it helpful. You can find more information about it here. The initials stand for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; and I have started to use it to help me process the last couple of years and, most importantly to me, to move forward in a way that doesn’t try to erase what has happened but to accept it as part of my experience. I don’t know how it will pan out, but it is something that makes sense to me to do and as I am already familiar with the key concepts is something that I find intuitive. Please see your own GP or health care professional if you feel you need help yourself.

I feel I am definitely moving forward but have decided to share some of my thoughts in the hope it might make others feel less alone. The main things I have found difficult were in particular the first few months of COVID when the trauma of the situations I was in was particularly acute. But I count myself lucky I had been battle trained or I really think I would be in a very different position now. I knew what could be, I just hadn’t actually had the experience myself and that’s the difference i think for me.

But, I guess the point is we can still move forward; despite the clutter on the beach. Over time the sea smoothes the rough edges and who knows; maybe I’ll pick up some of those little bits of sea glass one day and put them in a necklace!

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