Social Distancing is Difficult for Me

I suspected that I was having a very hard time with the social distancing because I was traumatized by being left alone too much when I was an infant.  The problem has to do with regulating the nervous system.  Your nervous system resonates with the systems of bodies near you.  As a baby, your nervous system regulates itself by being in contact with the body of someone calm.  If you are upset, you can be calmed by someone holding you, rocking you, perhaps singing or cooing soft sounds.  If there is no one there, or if the person who is there is upset themselves, you are unable to calm down, or perhaps unable to wake up.  Babies left alone too long can become apathetic.

This is from the website GoodTherapy.org, given by the link above:
“Although infants are born with the capacity for stress response (fussing, crying, etc.), their parasympathetic pathways, which help downregulate the SNS stress response, are not online at birth. This means babies can go up, but they can’t come down on their own. (They will go into a “freeze” state if ignored long enough; this looks calm, but it really isn’t.) The baby’s nervous system develops the ability to calm down through thousands and thousands of supportive, soothing interactions with caregivers. At first, the caregiver is essentially functioning as the child’s parasympathetic nervous system. The development of this “braking system” continues throughout childhood, through continued positive interactions that meet the child’s needs.”

Once you have been traumatized, your system dis-regulates more easily.  You go into hyper-activation — anger, fear, upset — or hypo-activation — depression, numbness, apathy.  Seeing people on Zoom doesn’t work to help your nervous system regulate.  I have noticed, as the social distancing goes on, gets more severe with lockdown, that I have more and more trouble dealing with things.  I’m very tired, but I have difficulty sleeping through the night.

Now that it’s two weeks past the date when the last of us had our second vaccination, Kendal has opened up a tiny bit.  We can reserve a table in the dining room, sit there with friends, be served dinner, and eat and chat with our masks off.  The tables have fewer seats than usual, and they are 6 feet apart, and most of the residents still have to get take-out dinner.  So I sat there with three friends, we chatted about ordinary things, but being with real people, sharing food, helped counteract the difficulty I was having with social distancing.  Being with real bodies, sharing food and conversation, helped my dis-regulated nervous system to regulate itself.  When we left, I felt 3-dimensional instead of cardboard, and my heart was fine, no longer feeling “shocked.”

But of course, I will have to have that every night in order for it to make a long term difference.  I realize that in some ways I’m finding it scary for Kendal to open up, even a little.  I helped a friend recently by driving her to pick up something she needed, but I felt like Hanover was a strange city, it felt weird to be driving around.

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