COVID – Trauma – Depression

For a month now I have been reconnecting with my traumas - in the plural. A previously unknown trauma has arisen, a trauma from my last affective sexual relationship 13/14 years ago, which has connected me with the trauma of a possible sexual abuse in my childhood, and also in general with my complex trauma. All these traumas are interrelated. I think I am becoming aware of these traumas, of the relationship between my traumas, and, I think, I am taking steps to manage especially the still unmanaged parts: the trauma of my last relationship and the issue of possible sexual abuse.

But beyond that, I am realising that there is another issue: a depression that I have been carrying with me since the COVID-19 pandemic, since the spring of last year.

At the beginning the pandemic connected me with my complex trauma, and allowed me, to some extent, to first identify my trauma as complex trauma, and to start working on many aspects of this trauma. I think by the end of last year I had worked on many aspects of this complex trauma, as summarised in this text, and I was beginning to feel better. But the issue of the loss of meaning in my life had been put aside, the issue of the lack of opportunities for a radical and powerful militancy had been put aside, and I was thinking about resuming militancy "after" the pandemic.

In the spring of this year I felt quite good about my private life, and in the summer and early autumn I was apparently completely happy. In the background there was always the lack of something that gave my life meaning. Private life alone doesn't fulfil me, private life alone doesn't really make me happy. And, this lack started to cause me problems in my private life. As I had nothing to look forward to, as I had nothing that interested me, to occupy me when I was alone at home, I needed to meet friends almost every evening, which was impossible. But alone at home not only did I have nothing to do and I was bored, I also connected with the feeling of loneliness and abandonment of my childhood, of the complex trauma. My strategy of expanding my social network only worked to a certain extent - it was impossible to be with someone every day.

In the background there was always the depression (I call it that now, and it also helps to name clearly what is happening to me), and when other things, both private and trauma, added to it, I quickly went very downhill. Now I feel I am stabilising at a low level. I have gone through some healthy grieving over some private stuff - for the first time in my life. And I am starting to manage my traumas. But, there remains the depression, the loss of something that gives meaning to my life.

It's good to talk about things I could do for the simple pleasure of doing them: a glass of good wine, a long bath, a walk... But this doesn't work for me, it doesn't give me what I feel I need: something that gives meaning to my life, something that gives me illusion. I understand all this advice to try to see the beautiful things in my life, and, in reality, I have made myself a list. But, it doesn't work for me either.

A few weeks ago I found an article How to be sad, and I felt very identified with the text:

There’s a plethora of information about happiness.

My literature search on this subject yielded over 13,000 scholarly research articles and over one thousand books. Advice about how to be happy floods the internet daily with simplistic listicles and click-bait articles that make it all seem so easy.

But their advice, like telling a sad person to think about all the reasons they shouldn’t be sad, or a depressed person to just get up and exercise, doesn’t work. Thinking about the good things in life can sometimes ameliorate sad feelings, but usually, trying to grasp at happiness when in the grip of a depressed mood leads to failure. And while the research on exercise’s positive effect on depression is robust and persuasive, depressed people lack the drive to work out: that’s what depression means.

These suggestions, though well-meant, amount to telling depressed persons to snap out of it—or it’s their fault. This shames the sufferer, making things worse.


When sadness becomes major depression, positive thinking (and related approaches, such as life coaching) are like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. Facing our pain, learning to bear our suffering, and then doing the deep inner work of understanding our role in our troubles is a way out.

I would add something else: it is also important to identify the parts that are beyond our control, such as the COVID pandemic, but also more generally a colonial and cishalosexualheteropatriarchal capitalism that is waging a permanent war against life and is about to bring about the ultimate destruction of the basis of human life on this planet. We live in a world that makes us sick, we live in a world that traumatizes us, and, unfortunately, we have to learn to live with this. We can work for revolution when we feel strong (very necessary), but there are also times when our political battle is self-care, in the words of Audre Lorde. And I, now, am in these times. I, now, am in a depression, and I'm sick of advice to think positive. I can't.