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The other day I went to the grocery store, I consciously chose not to wear my mask and carefully followed updated state and CDC guidelines, given that I have been fully vaccinated for almost a month. I was still anxious the whole time, it felt wrong even though I was doing what I had been instructed to do by every health care authority and official. When I described the situation to someone else I know they said it’s hard to get away from the neuroticism we’ve learned since the pandemic started, everyone in the room agreed that was the exact description of how things feel now. As a mental health care professional the term collective trauma comes to mind. As a nation, and worldwide, we have a shared set of traumatic experiences regarding this pandemic and we are all still very much wading through that fear, anxiety, and hyper-awareness. I still had my mask, carrying it with me like a talisman for what reason I’m sure I don’t know. It never protected me, only the people around me. And so it became a symbol in so many other ways such as a political statement, which it never should have been. I took heart when a woman slightly older than me spoke quietly as we passed in the aisle, “I’m glad someone else is not wearing it.” What does it mean if you are wearing a mask now? Does that mean you are still feeling cautious, or that you are part of the group who refuses to be vaccinated. And so there’s a light, things begin to return to some kind of normalcy, but trauma and it’s after effects do not recede easily, with new and challenging questions continuing to rise.

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