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  • Christine Lee

COVID-19 Travel Ban: How It Triggers Me (a Domestic Violence Survivor) and How I'm Coping With It

Less than a week ago, my husband Matty woke me up in the middle of the night. We were in Prague on our vacation. When I checked my phone it was 3 a.m.


My phone also showed an unusually high number of missed calls, emails and texts. Matty told me that his dad called, saying President Trump just announced a European Travel Ban. He said if we didn't leave Czech Republic by Friday at midnight we'd be stuck in Europe for at least 30 days, unable to return home.

I was still half asleep when Matty told me this and wasn't sure what to make of these statements. I wanted to go back to sleep and rolled over to close my eyes. But soon enough, fear started to creep in, and the familiar feeling of anxiety set in. It was very reminiscent of the feeling I got on the night of my physical assault. Without a moment's notice, my life was put in danger, and I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of it.


When I sat up, I noticed that Matty was already on my laptop looking at flights back to L.A. I asked when "midnight Friday" was - at the beginning or at the end of the day? He didn't know. But he knew that there would be chaos at the airport and we most definitely could not be stuck in Europe for 30 days. One-way ticket prices were $1400 each, and Matty remembered that I had credit card points that could be redeemed. Without any debate, we bought our new tickets and I jumped out of bed.


With adrenaline pumping, I mechanically started to pack my bags. Roll the jeans. Fold my tripod. Wrap my souvenir beer mug and put it in my carry-on purse. Don't forget the shampoo in the shower. Brush my teeth. Put all of my charging cables in my carry-on pouch. Don't forget my oregano spirits and Airborne tablets. Within an hour, we had our suitcases zipped up and were out the door to catch a 7:35am flight back to LAX.

My heart continued to race faster during the 22-minute drive from our hotel to the airport. We were dropped off at Terminal 1, and we couldn't find our flight on the board. Panic set in. An airport employee told us to try Terminal 2. It looked far away, and I struggled to keep up with my heavy suitcase. The outside air felt cold, just like that night I ran out the door after being assaulted by my abuser. I remembered my head throbbing in pain from the countless bruises and contusions. I wore flip flops that night which froze my toes. Stop it, I told myself. Now is not the time for these triggers. But I couldn't help it. The flashbacks kept coming, and I couldn't shake them away.


Once we arrived at Terminal 2, we found our flight on the board, but we had to wait to check in. While we waited, I went on Facebook Live, where friends updated us on the travel ban. U.S. citizens aren't affected?? We may not have had to go through this hell?! I was so upset. I seriously considered just canceling our flight and going back to the hotel, but my husband said we should still leave now. Who knows what could happen next? The future became so unpredictable, just like that time a few years ago when.. stop it. My stream of consciousness kept connecting today to that dreaded night.

Survival mode eventually subsided once I got on my final plane in Frankfurt that would take me home safely to Los Angeles. Now, I was primarily dealing with confusion (what the hell happened just over the past few hours??), extreme fatigue (my SleepWatch app logged only 55 minutes of 'restful sleep') and restlessness (my body was still very anxious). I decided to indulge in the white wine and cognac that was offered for free with my lunch and paired it later with Benadryl and Xanax. I do not recommend anyone doing this. In fact, please don't do this. My hands got cold and clammy, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I didn't but came awfully close.


More than 12 hours later, we landed at LAX, walked through the rain to catch a Lyft, weaved through the congested 405 traffic and finally made it through the doors of our house. Our beautiful house in suburban L.A. that I often complained about living in.

That night, nightmares and a nervous bladder kept waking me up. The following three nights were more of the same. It wasn't until last night (with some help from Benadryl and Xanax) that I was able to enjoy a total of almost 11 hours of sleep without waking up once.


I'm still not back to normal. Matty and I've been in self-quarantine mode for five out of 14 days now. One way I cope with current (crazy) conditions is to limit my news intake. Matty stays up to date with current events and only shares what I really need to know.


For most of my days, I'm doing bible study, editing videos or watching fun movies (and maybe some Reality TV). And I experiment with Facebook Lives and Instagram Stories.

In an effort to elevate my mood and maintain my mental sanity starting tomorrow, I'm going to force myself to start doing some form of positive activity every day, especially when I feel another toxic thought coming into my head. Self-care is super important during this time for anyone, so I hope my list can give you some ideas too:


- Go for a walk (even if it's in my backyard or on my elliptical machine at home)

- Pick some oranges from my backyard

- Zumba with Michelle Vo on YouTube (she's an instructor I like)

- Cook something nice for Matty (this will probably not happen, ha!)

- Clean (laundry, unpack travel bags, tidy up rooms)

- Organize clothes I don't wear and either donate or list them

- Do a puzzle (or one of three escape room games Matty apparently ordered)

- Read ('Brutally Honest' by Mel B., Chicken Soup, 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis)

- Take a bath

- Paint my nails

- Draw (or take an online class so I can draw better for future projects)


I've found that when I invest my time and energy into focusing on something positive, I usually feel better. I also try to refrain from social media about an hour or two before I go to bed. I learned a couple of years ago that Ariana Huffington did something similar, and if it works for her, it better work for me too.


So this has been my experience so far since the Coronavirus situation worsened over the past few days. It took me awhile to sit down and really think about why this worldwide pandemic was affecting me as a DV survivor. My heightened emotional experiences due to anxiety, fear, panic, threat plus being physically isolated could play huge factors in my mood swings and triggers. Unfortunately, my therapist is only available via online sessions, and I'd much rather see her in person. But that would have to wait until at least the end of the month, so until then, I'll continue to carry on as is.



-Christine





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