I think I’ve had a reasonable head through the pandemic. I’m mindful, socially distanced, and I keep an eye on the news. I remember when the pandemic first started and everyone around me was freaking out and all I could think is the panic you people are experiencing right now is how I live my everyday life – thank you anxiety disorder.
So I managed to never get too terribly anxious about the illness itself. But the changes I saw in people broke my heart. Over the summer I found myself wishing for the rapture – I saw no hope in society and wondered why the hell we were still on earth.
Eventually that did pass but winter arrived and the warm sun faded into the chilly air and my senses returned to a dullish state and dysthymia crept in, as it always does. Yet I trudged on.
I realized yesterday I had been carrying some kind of hope that January 1st would wave its magic wand and the pandemic would be but a memory. As the evening wore on, my childlike hope faded and today I’m full on Eeyore. I have clients who have lost loved ones recently to COVID. My heart cries when I see the death numbers tick.
Remember in the beginning when we were all there for each other? When people were donating salaries? When it was the world fighting together to stop COVID? People are still dying but now we’re fighting each other. I fear for the early months of 2021 as my country transitions presidential administrations when so much is already bubbling.
The pandemic is a trauma. We are going through a collective traumatic experience to varying degrees. Take care of each other.
For some reason it’s been easier to write poetry here than anything else. Which is quite odd because before this blog, I hadn’t written poetry in 20+ years. Amateur hour right here.
Writing painful and complex experiences through poetry is a way to distance myself from the raw vulnerability to an audience. Oh the vulnerability is there – plain to see. But the vulnerability exists as a work of art rather than I am standing naked in front of you, sharing my heart. Although both are true. Maybe it’s an illusion.
I return to work tomorrow as the therapist. What started as a vacation ended in bereavement so I don’t feel refreshed going back. Indeed, I feel weary. It can be quite helpful, however, to “get out of your own head.” Many people use this as their number one coping skill. That friend who never talks about her life, but is always by your side while you cry – she might be avoiding her own feelings. I’m not that person. I avoid my feelings in other ways 😏 but when I am faced with the raw emotion of another, it does trigger my own particularly if my self care game is not on point. (Which was the reason for the vacation in the first place).
I am confident I will be present for my clients as the warm therapist they are used to. My confidence wanes, however when I imagine how I will feel emotionally at the end of the day. I worry I will feel depleted. It is already a rough time of year for me, now compounded by fresh grief.
Mindfulness is a good tool here and the old adage of not getting ahead of oneself. We’re going to put one foot in front of the other, moment by moment, holding steadfast to years of experience telling me everything is always eventually ok. The world will not collapse. I will be successful as a clinician and I will take extra care of me in the moments I’m not actively a therapist.
Psst. You don’t have to be a therapist to use the above tools to cope during your workday. Or your family gathering. Or your doctor’s appointment. Or your long commute. Take good care of yourself, one moment at a time. Don’t know how? Ask a friend, a mentor, or ya know.. find a therapist. ☺️
Today I’m keenly aware of the conversations bringing awareness of mental health to social media. I see my fellow therapists on Tik Tok noting their ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, eating disorder recovery. Many of them doing an amazing job talking about management of said conditions.
I’ve only seen one other therapist talk about Bipolar Disorder. And none talking about addiction. Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and she was so brave to write her book An Unquiet Mind about her journey. I have reread it many times – she inspires me.
I don’t know if it’s that I haven’t seen therapists with more chronic mental illness or if they’re just not talking about it. And if they’re not talking about it, is it because they have fear of transparency as well?
Last night I got my partner to join snapchat as it’s just an easier way to communicate for me. Upon creating his user name, the suggestion included “2020” and I said, you better not; we want to forget this year ever happened.” Cue laughter.
That’s the funny side of social media. Where we all make jokes about the ridiculousness that is 2020 to cover up the pain and anxiety of the uncertainty and sheer disbelief of the continued onslaught.
Then there’s masks and Black Lives Matter. Suddenly, social media became the theater for division and hate. I have been on Facebook for a very long time (OG right here) and I had to leave. People I had long respected broke my heart. My view of the world became distorted and I was like “if this is how it’s gon’ be, I want out. Jesus come take me home.” Then I found Tik Tok and it was a breath of fresh air. We laugh, we are real, we build each other up, we are genuine. I recognize the Tik Tok algorithm puts me with my people based on how I interact with Tik Tok, but it is the first social media I’ve ever intentionally NOT searched for people I know in real life. I don’t want people in my community simply because we’ve passed on the street, share blood, or had a class together. I want you in my life because you choose to be and we vibe together. No room for hate.
That is the beautiful side of social media. Connecting with people you would never meet as a passerby. I have friends from Australia and Canada who are more supportive than most of the people I’ve been friends with on Facebook for 10 years.
I’m not sure where I was attempting to go with this, other than the few people in my real life I’ve invited to my Tik Tok or even have shared this blog with have literally no response. “Left me on read” the kids would say. I have to brush it off and move on, keep moving forward. I’m still human.