Emotional Care During the Pandemic

I want to check in on you and see how you’re doing.

Here in California, like so much of the country and world, we’re under a State of Emergency, and San Francisco just announced Shelter in Place for three weeks starting at midnight. Schools, bars, restaurants, all events are closed or canceled. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is canceled, Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan Town, huge events people love and look forward to. Places like the Castro and Balboa theaters, much loved, providing entertainment for decades, are closed. There are businesses that will not survive.

It’s scary, and people are on edge. I was on the bus last week, and my throat was dry from the dust billowing up during packing and sorting. I coughed once, and the 15 or so people on the bus all turned to look at me. So I very quickly took some gum, immediately swallowed wrong, and coughed three times, which got to my nose and I had to pull out a tissue. The stares turned fearful; I was hoping I wouldn’t get kicked off the bus. These people aren’t mean or ignorant, they’re scared. I am too.

So what are you doing to take care of yourself? I assume you’re washing your hands, not touching your face, avoiding crowds, all of those physical things. These are all important, vital actually. But what are you doing to take care of your mental health? If you are scared, or stressed with children under your feet who can’t go to school, or worried about elderly parents, other family, whatever is going on for you, however it is affecting you, it can be overwhelming, especially for those of us with a mental illness. We have to take an inventory of it, sit with it, own it, and accept that it is not irrational to feel like we do, it is perfectly reasonable. It is a scary time, it’s ok to be scared.

So how are you?

My therapist’s office closed, all therapy must be done via teleconference. I had my first meeting today. It was odd, a little awkward at first, but I settled in quickly, and it went well. I have that luxury, I’m grateful for it, but not everyone does. So how can we take care of ourselves?

First, don’t minimize it. I said it already, but it’s important. You are not being irrational, you are human. It is scary.

However, try to not dwell on this and spin yourself into a bad place. I like to stay informed, but hitting refresh on your browser and reading updates all day is not healthy. Be aware, sure, but do a search for kitten videos or elephant babies playing with ducks, whatever you like.

Remind yourself, this will pass. Depending on how old you are, you’ve been through SARS, H1N1, AIDS, maybe even smallpox or polio. It will be ok.

If you have coping mechanisms you use, by all means, do that. If you don’t, now is a fine time to find them. For me, I love art, writing, playing little match-3 phone games, marathoning spooky shows, and trading verbal jabs with Chris, who is also here of course. Crazy Legs is thrilled to have his humans home. But time to sit quietly and breathe, close your eyes and just “be” is time well spent for anyone, but for us, it can be incredibly important. It can be the difference between coping during a difficult time and falling into a major depression.

Which brings me to my last point. If you are by yourself in your home, please find a way to reach out to a friend, on the phone, through social media, whatever works for you, but please don’t let yourself fall into a pit, which is so easy if you are isolated. Eat, sleep, keep clean, and do something fun to take your mind off things.

I’ve included a resource here for you in case you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. You’re important, and we need you here.

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

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