How prophetic was the vision for National Personal Space Day that started in November 2019? It was only about a month later when I first caught wind of the respiratory disease that has shut down the world in various waves. I must admit, while I have been concerned for my health, I have used COVID social distancing protocols as an excuse to get more personal space. I just feel like a person should have to earn the right to stand close to me. Standing close is an act of intimacy. If I don’t know you intimately, why are you standing so close? Truthfully, we do not know the hygiene habits of strangers, nor do strangers know the status of our immune systems or mental health trauma.
Let me preface my next statement with what is called a Trigger Warning. I don’t even like the word “trigger,” honestly, but it does convey that what follows can be so stressful as to re-traumatize. So please be mindful before reading ahead because it can get depressing and distressing depending on where you are along your recovery journey. As a survivor of sexual assault, I find it difficult to know how much force to apply when setting boundaries. I find myself either asking too nicely or too harshly. Because of my past trauma, there’s such a strong need to make sure that I never feel violated or powerless again. COVID has helped me to hide behind that mask. No, not the N-95 respirator but the “mask” of social distancing for the purpose of prophylaxis. Perhaps I can write it off as disease prevention. General Anxiety Disorder is a disease that I know too well, and people who cross boundaries cause me to have flare-ups.
I am fully vaccinated, and I wear my mask. Yet, when someone gets right behind me in line at the grocery store, the feeling is so uncomfortable. I am now living in an era where I can confidently turn around and say, “Excuse me, sir, the 6-feet marker is several steps behind you.” The truth is, I feel healthy and fortified against COVID. I just don’t like people inside of my comfort zone. I will be gladly celebrating National Personal Space Day on November 30th. I may not pin a peach broach to my blouse, but during this wild Christmas shopping, I get to turn to my neighbor and say, “Excuse me, ma’am, today is National Personal Space Day.” I hope to get better practice on setting healthy boundaries so that when the pandemic subsides, and it’s a day other than November 30th, I can still have the assertiveness to advocate for myself.
I thank the founders of this celebration of personal space. They responded to their own needs and the observations made of others who could use a little more support and courage with establishing boundaries. Carol Winner, an experienced caregiver, noticed her mother’s vulnerability after having many significant cancer treatments. A simple hug would hurt her, and the closeness of the hug would make her sick due to her compromised immune system. The road to I.C.U. can be paved with good intentions. The same with a panic attack – what calms most people down may exacerbate the anxieties in another. So, Ms. Carol, you are definitely a winner! (See what I did there?) Thank you for leading by example. This November 30th, don’t be afraid to tell someone, “Give space!” Please respect that I show affection differently.
Article Written by: Consuela Allen @speakerconsuela | Consuela is a Certified Life-Purpose Coach, Certified Peer Specialist, Respect Institute Speaker, Mental Health First Aider, Spiritual Midwife, and Songwriter. In other words, she is a lover of words. Consuela enjoys utilizing written, verbal and musical communication to facilitate healing and wholeness.