*wakes up* *looks around cautiously not budging from bed yet*
YEP, this is still reality. The smallest part of me has clung onto a hope that this is the longest nightmare I’ve ever had in my entire life, but that at some point I’m totally going to wake up and life is going to be back to what it was. No, just me? Well, a boy can dream. Instead, I wake up, almost always cautiously, and I begin to try and force positive thoughts into my mind. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for breathing. I can start this morning with a breathing exercise and some meditation. Oh, the sun is out today and it isn’t sweltering and sticky outside for once. But soon, the realistic negative thoughts begin creeping in as well. What horrifying or stomach-turning headline am I going to open my phone and see or turn on the news to this morning? Whose racist relative am I going to have to read for filth on the interwebs today? How many people am I going to come across who have decided the pandemic is randomly officially over? I’ve already burned through the vacation money I had saved, will I have any savings by the end of this? All signs are pointing to a big fat NO on that one. How many times am I going to cry today from feeling other people’s pain? Why do I have such a hard time crying for my own? The questions heighten, the anxiety heightens, and by 10 AM I’ll find myself taking a nap just so I can pretend like I’m waking up to another day.
Today, yet again, I’ve tossed to the side two half-written articles and started at 4 AM on something new. I’m a pretty aggressively positive person, in that I usually always remain genuinely hopeful in situations, but also that I’m hyper-aware and won’t let people see me “crack” often due to that hyper-awareness. If you’re always one step ahead of what’s going on, your response is always one step ahead as well. It tends to set oneself up for less failure, a little less disappointment, and the ability to be on top of my feelings and how they are outwardly presented.
Recently however, I’ve found my brain constantly thinking about loss and grief. The past five months have been filled with so much of it, in so many forms, coming from every possible direction, that the longer this whole shabang stretches, the more it’s started to infiltrate my thoughts.
Growing up, I felt like I excelled at putting emotions into boxes. I mean, as a child actor, I kind of had to. I had no qualms about crying in front of people, and I never really hide my emotions, but I definitely was able to look at them from an outside perspective that maybe a kid shouldn’t have been able to do.
I’ve always found I have problems missing people because of it. The combination of being an extreme introvert, and genuinely loving my own company, doesn’t help either. Neither did the number of different schools I went to, and that I was constantly out of school and tutored on sets for a good amount of my childhood. So many people came and went, that it would have been far too exhausting and unhealthy for a kid to be missing people 24/7. That lack of missing people has very much carried on into my adult life in ways I’ve been revisiting and questioning as of late. On the other extreme, I’ve found that when I truly lose someone, the depths to which I miss them knows no bounds.
Everyone grieves differently, but I can wholeheartedly say that I grieve HARD. It’s ugly, it’s moody, it’s messy, and it almost always requires me to be completely alone to fully ride. I think my lack of missing many people in the way the average human does, has led me to always take loss at a monstrous level. I’m the functional griever, where in front of people the smile maintains, but alone I look straight up out of the worst Lars Von Trier Extended Director’s Cut that no one ever wanted to see.
Needless to say, when this pandemic first hit and lockdown began, I found many of my friends and loved ones going through it, while I was very much together. Did I share that then? Of course not. Can we talk about it now? I suppose so. I’ve been a workhorse since birth so the rest was welcomed and much needed. Every career I’ve had has relied so much on my personality pleasing others, that the ability to turn my On switch Off for the first time that I could remember, felt therapeutic. I was able to take time to read more books and explore art, to catch up on television for the first time in five years, to rest, and to put some steady work into myself. The eerie silence, the staggering numbers, and the overwhelming fear that completely took over my beautiful city kept me aware yet contained and focused so that I could re-emerge the best me when this ended… But then it still hasn’t ended.
As our administration continues to fall apart, and our country continues to implode, I’ve finally felt like I was cracking. I openly share this cause like I said, i was way too fine in the beginning, so basically THIS IS MY TIME TO FALL APART AND I HAD IT COMING Y’ALL. From day one of the shutdown, I’ve made sure to remind people that this pandemic and our entire country basically, is a trauma and that it is ok to grieve as we lose people and things. Again, everyone grieves differently. I’m now in my ugly stages and that’s fine too, I will rise out of it because I have no other choice. People rely on me, and I rely on me.
It’s important for all of us to take the time to reflect on loss of any kind that we have experienced through this. I can not stress enough, the importance of dealing with any and all trauma, and beginning the process of healing. Otherwise, these things follow you for the rest of your life, infecting your day to day activities, until that trauma poisons your entire life like yes, a virus.
In the past five months, I’ve lost numerous friends to COVID and to suicide. I’ve lost my job, my income, and subsequently, a good amount of my self-validation. I’ve felt like I’ve lost myself and re-found myself more times than I can count. As well, over my lifetime, I’ve had two men I’ve been involved with pass away. It’s a very intimate and weird experience, and because of that, I can not even imagine what widows, widowers, or those who have lost long term significant others possibly deal with. However, as someone who has put a lot of work into dealing with my past traumas, it literally took this pandemic for me to realize that I had not dealt with those two events at all, in the slightest. They were always the ones immediately brushed under the rug, they were the ones I didn’t realize the magnitude to which those two events still affected me, until I was trapped in my apartment with nowhere else to hide, unsuccessfully fighting to fall asleep before I fell apart. I realized that I’d fully explored childhood traumas while excusing ones from my adulthood.
I implore you to not be afraid of tapping into those feelings. If you need to, make a list of the events that have hurt you and that you need to tackle head on. Make a list of the loss you’ve experienced this pandemic and beyond, so that you have something tangible that you can hold and be angry or sad at. Cry. Yell. Scream. Rip shit up. Learn your triggers. Do what you can to clear the mental fog. Or just sit with it, break it down, process it and begin the healing process. It is so important and you are so deserving of it. One of the most exhaustive things about loss and grief is feeling like we have nothing to give, at a time when we feel like we need to give everything we’ve got.
For anyone dealing with grief, anxiety, depression, or loss (of a friend, a loved one, a pet, or even an event that’s made you feel loss of self), I very heavily recommend following @say_goodbye_and_cry on Instagram. It was created by one of my favorite humans on earth as a way to deal with their personal grief through a current devastating loss. It is a simple and beautiful page that is providing a safe space and building a community of those who know it’s ok to be broken, and just because you are broken does not mean that you are not strong. Heal. You are not alone until you want to be. And that’s ok too.
Always remember there is eventually light and hope. Michelle Obama reminded me of that last night with her truly phenomenal and in my eyes, historical, closing speech of the DNC. It also made me want to leave you all with another quote of hers that I love: “You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
You are stronger than you think. And guess what? It’s ok if sometimes the only thing you did today was wake up, look around cautiously, breathe, and get through the day.
*looks in mirror*
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth ❤