I’ve completed a half-dozen comprehensive questionnaires in the past two months, as I desperately sought the cause, then the cessation of my private earthquakes, 0-9 n a Richter Scale… the jitters and shivers of my joints that fought against my peace of mind. My self-diagnosis – and the laughter of my loyal husband helped to keep me sane. It was clear I had PTSD.

Pandemic Tension & Stress Disorder

One of the questionnaires brought forth a childhood experience from age 5. The onset was sudden – and occurred in a summer of polio amongst the children of the Midwest – I couldn’t walk.

I was whisked, via ambulance, in the middle of the night to a Children’s Hospital fifty miles away. My parents likely followed in their car. A vivid image of the lower level entry of the ambulance entry remains, though other details are obscured. My thoughts – this is an odd circumstance past my bedtime.

My next shimmery memory is of my parents, smothered in white (mask, hospital coat, and gloves) hovering at the door of my isolated room. They were disallowed entry. The anxiety and fear showed in the worry lines of the eyes and foreheads. Their words were muffled. Worst, they couldn’t give me a hug, the event that I needed most.

My crib seemed like an animal’s cage, centered in the room. I felt punished for something I didn’t do. Even my toys, sent to me by caring family members, perhaps delivered via my parents’ single visit. As I recall, if I dropped any of those toys from my crib, they were whisked away, never to be seen again.

For example, I only have a tiny Alice in Wonderland, a stuffed animal – quilted and stuffed by my grandmother, and a manila folder booklet, tied into a book by plain ribbons, in which a trio of cousins cut-and-pasted pictures of kid-oriented pictures. These items are cherished.

Before the single room – ringed with waist-height glass windows that disallowed any privacy – I’d remained in a long wooden gurney, at least three places in the wide hallways (I can see those spots in my mind’s eye, too), because the hospital was overcrowded with children exhibiting symptoms. I can also recall that I experienced many lengthy spinal taps, screaming “You’re gonna hurt me” repeatedly as the long needle came near.

I’d never make a good victim of terrorism – I’d capitulate quickly.

Much of this parallels the current situation of American citizens as we endure the ill aura of COVID-19. We all have PTSD… and we wear masks to keep us safe, as my parents did sixty years ago.