Surviving in Times of COVID
On Tuesday, March 11, I was sitting in a beautiful restaurant with a fellow soul sister. While we were waiting for our food, we began talking about COVID. At the time, I was blissfully unaware and blindly ignorant at the brutal reality that was about to alter the lives of everyone on the globe. I even said to her, "this is just a cold....why is everyone freaking out!?" I could smack my forehead for making that comment now, for two days later I was one of those people at Target with a massive load of food and staples (not including toilet paper because they were out) in my cart that would allow us to get through a whole month in case everything shut down. The panic in the air that day were palpable. As I stood in line for 45 minutes, the first wave of pure fear hit me. I was tearing up at the cash register and shaking as I scanned my card. Not only was I terrified of what was happening, but I was also connecting to all the crises that happen around the world everyday. I felt huge guilt for being spared 33 years without a a crises that crashed my world and I suddenly, and simultaneously, felt like I should both hoard more than what I was buying, as well as giving it all away to others that needed it. The anxiety of how uncertain the future seemed, the terror of not knowing if we were going to be okay, the endless questions of how I would take care of my kids and myself should everything I depended on for safety and reassurance come crashing down, or at the very least, to a screeching halt. People were everywhere. Panicked. Scared. Angry. Crying. I emulated their feelings. I quickly gathered my bags and thanked the sweet Lord my kiddos were home safe with their dad.
In the days that followed, my eyes and ears were glued to the news, searching for answers or for anything that would give me some peace of mind. It wasn't there. My heart ached and I felt searing chest pain like never before. It was like my heart was being stretched too quick, too hard, too painfully. My breath became labored and I had to remind myself to take oxygen into my lungs. I couldn't focus on anything. Then came the news that the virus was now confirmed in my state of Minnesota and got closer and closer to my town. As I felt the illness creeping closer, I felt my body bracing for impact. It was like watching a tsunami begin from afar and slowly, but certainly not slow enough, approach and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried, oh believe me, I tried. I bargained, I pleaded, I begged, and pretended it wasn't happening. Much to my chagrin none of my tactics worked. The tsunami was coming, and everything I knew and loved would be in its wake.
Then came all the shut downs. Schools, daycares, work spaces, clinics, spiritual centers, anything considered luxury and non-essential put a big CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE sign up on their proverbial doors and locked it all down. I told all my dear clients that I would need to suspend face to face sessions and move to telehealth. I knew now more than ever people needed their mental health care and I was not going to be able to serve in the way my heart longs to serve. I would need to be a head behind a screen where the sacred energetic exchange that occurs in session would be altered. On that day I realized I would be shifting the way I connect with people (through hugs, strong handshakes, and loving touch). The body contact that was a regular and necessary part of my day with the people I loved and respected would turn into a contrived, calculated, and fear-ful experience for the foreseeable future.
Never had I heard or seen the streets and parking lots so bare and quiet. I wept so hard. I could feel the loss of everything in one full swoop and my whole body tensed against the grief. I held this tension, turning into contortion as my insides were under stress, for two weeks as everything kept falling. My freedoms and privileges that I had previously taken for granted, were now magnified as tremendous losses. I was in shock. My head was trying to make sense of the un-understandable (yes, I know that is not a word) and my body was trying to protect me from feeling it all. I looked at my kids and remained grateful that they are young and not able to fully comprehend what was happening, as well as felt sorrow and despair for not being able to protect them from something invisible that was wreaking havoc on their world. Would I fail them? How does this change their future? Will things ever be normal again? How the f*** will I parent full time, be a teacher for my Kindergarten daughter, and work full time?
After those two weeks, the pendulum swung in the other direction. As the individuals and communities began to rise and help out those that were in need. I felt so tremendously proud of humanity; people stepped up and took care of one another. The schools and teachers worked tirelessly to bring distance learning to the students. I felt enormous gratitude for the preservation of my job and the ability to still offer psychotherapy to clients. My kids were still alive and smiled more than they cried. I was breathing easier and felt revitalized with the energy of service all around me. I had energy, so much energy I could run a marathon each day. However, this mountain peak was only strong enough to hold me for a few days.
The fatigue and insomnia set in as if a dark cloud descended from above. It hovered over me creating fogginess in my brain, heaviness in my heart, and achyness all over my body. I felt like a 90 year old woman with arthritis and Chrones Disease. The already burnt out hospitals and health care staff, the climbing death toll, and increasing political anger and hostility was starting to take shape. As much as we all tried, we couldn't be certain we had all the information to keep us safe not just from this virus, but also from economic collapse. Nothing felt safe.
The only thing I counted on, and am still counting on, was that I wake up each day. I go through the routines of morning, afternoon, and evening. Despite my feelings of fear and pain, I rise, I love, and I continue on. I know my children are learning from me. They are watching my every move. How I respond to this sets a stage for them on how to cope through adversity. And that is what we are doing right now my friends.
We are coping. We are not processing. We are not healing. We are coping.
When we cope, our goals are much more concrete and reasonable. They look like getting proper rest, proper nutrition, some movement, and safe connections. It means trying to get outside once a day, bake the cookies, and watch the Netflix. It means drinking water instead of wine. It is rising everyday with hope that even though it is hard now, you will get through this. It is crying big salty tears, sometimes several times a day. It is shutting off the news and Facebook when you have had enough. It is giving your kids extra screen time so you can rest. Ordering takeout, cleaning up to a minimum standard, and giving yourself so much grace for what you are going through. No one person copes exactly like the other. It is hard to resist judging others for doing it differently than you, or feeling judged by another. Your job right now is to maintain your health and well being, not manage it for someone else. You will need to let go of some attachments, accept new truth, and be open to the possibility that the world is forever changed.
Friends we are truly in this together. It is a slow and veeery drawn out hyper-marathon. We will cross the finish line one day, but for now, create a sustainable pace for the moment.
About the Writer
Danielle is a mother, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a writer, a woman's empowerment advocate, and dedicated soul seeker. Writing has been a natural form of expression that originates deep within each of her experiences. Her purpose is to provide validation, encouragement, and support for every mom through her blog, the Motherhood Empowered Facebook Group, and in the therapy room.