October 10, 2020

Everyday is a Good Day to Talk Mental Health

 Every.Single.Day is a good day to talk about mental health, but today is World Mental Health Day. It's a day meant to raise awareness about, well, mental health. So, let's do just that.

Talking about mental health can be uncomfortable. It's itchy and private and can make us feel weird when it comes up in conversation. Sometimes we only share it with those who are close enough to us that we feel they won't judge. We will openly talk about our diabetes or high blood pressure, but we clam up when mental health issues start to float into our conversations.  Why is that? 

In reality, there's lots of us walking around who are trying to manage our mental health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 20% of us are impacted by it. Ya'll, that's one out of every five people.  Put yourself in a room with 10 people, and at least one other person is in your shoes. Imagine a room of 100 people: now you have 19 other friends feeling like you.  You are not alone with this. Depending on which population statistic you use, you are actually in the company of about 63,125,500 other Americans. Yeah, very much not alone even though it can feel that way.

I've always been a person full of fears since I was a small child. Maybe I came wired this way or maybe I heard things as a small child that fed my normal, healthy fears until they became fears on steroids.  Maybe it was a combination of both.  Who knows.  On some plane it's important; on another, maybe it's not. Either way, that tendency coupled with some really crappy, traumatic life experiences morphed into a blazing case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  

Generally speaking (see what I did there?!), GAD is random worrying about everything for no damn reason. It's wondering what would happen if you have a heart attack while you're driving.  It's thinking you might be allergic to a new food, so you avoid it. It's not going to concerts because the balcony might fall. It's questioning every word you said in a conversation. Sometimes you don't even know why it creeps up like some damn ear worm singing crappy polka music at 2am.

It's different for all of us because no one has the same wiring or the same life experiences.  It stands to reason that treatment would vary as well.  For some, medication is the key; for others, therapy is bliss.  It might be a combo of both.  Therapy has been a lifesaver for me.  It took some trial and error, and it was hard to push through and keep it up sometimes.  Some days it lifts me and other days it drains me.  I cry some visits and some I just chill. I'm always better when I leave, though, and each visit makes me a little happier. I don't know that I'll ever stop because it's just what helps me.

Taking care of our mental health is more than a spa day or a mani/pedi. Those are great parts, but it's okay to need more. You absolutely are not weak or broken for taking care of this part of your body.  If we don't take care of our mental health, it eventually affects our physical health, so it's just as important (or maybe more important than) our annual physical with the doctor. Take the time to just sit with yourself and think through how you are feeling emotionally and psychologically. Think about if you're okay with how you're feeling and if you like what you "see" there.  Hopefully you're ecstatic with what you come up with, but it's okay to decide you want to make some changes or look for improvement. That's what taking care of our mental health looks like. Sometimes we can do that on our own, but sometimes we need a helper to make those changes.

Above all, be kind to yourself. The world is hard enough as it is right now without us beating ourselves even more. It's okay to reach out. Matter of fact, I think it's a sign of true strength when someone says, "Hey, I need some help right now." We all need a helping hand somewhere along the way.

On this World Mental Health Day 2020, let's start normalizing mental health conversations and care. Let's make it less cringy to reach out for help. Let's shift the stereotype so no one has to suffer alone. Sending each of you love and joy.

For more info: National Alliance on Mental Illness

For more info: Mental Health

For more info: WHO

March 29, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic, Day Five(ish)

Today is Sunday, March 29, and I just finished watching church on YouTube.  That sounds crazy saying that.  I appreciate what churches are doing so, so much, but it doesn't feel the same.  It's like going on vacation and having to wear someone else's bathing suit because you forgot yours.  It'll do, but it's not yours.  That said, I'm certainly not in the pew every Sunday.  I've made excuses...and not very good ones.  When this is over, I will strive to do better because I realize the feeling I get from being with others in worship.  I hope I will remember to not take this opportunity for granted.

To be honest, I don't know what to believe and not believe anymore.  Currently New York is considered the epicenter with 55,000 confirmed cases. Nationally, the cdc.gov website is showing confirmed numbers at slightly over 103,000 and almost 1,700 deaths.  It seems, according to statistics, to be affecting everyone regardless of age.  Several significant world figures, such as Prince Charles, also have confirmed cases.  It does seem to be commonly accepted knowledge that we do not have enough supplies anywhere.

We experienced this locally just recently.  Our two local hospitals, Laughlin Memorial and Takoma, were bought (acquired, whatever.) by Ballad Health.  There were LOTS of hard feelings about this, mainly because their billing consolidation was totally crap and many people got duplicate bills, were sent to collections, and basically treated horribly.  They soon shut down one of the hospitals because they couldn't justify keeping it open.  The beds were empty, which means they aren't generating any money.   When we're healthier as a nation, we don't need as many resources, such as beds, respirators, etc.  In a pandemic?  I bet we wish we could go back in time and stock up for a rainy day.  Healthcare, imo, is not where you live on the edge of "just what we need" and hope for the best.  

Anywho, for some, it's becoming a partisan "he said, she said" where we are creating a deeper divide among political lines in hopes to drive votes in the upcoming Presidential election.  At this point, I just want us to be healthy.  I don't care what your party is as long as you stay home as much as possible.

I got to Zoom with my people on Friday night.  There are six of us, and we've been the bestest of friends since we were in elementary school.  It was so amazing to "see" everyone.  We talked about our fears some, but we tried to just catch up on how everyone is staying busy.  I can't wait to actually seem them in person and hug each of them.  We're generally not huggers, but oh, well. Each of them is getting a big ol' hug when I can see them again!

So...I think everyone collectively hit the wall yesterday.  Many of my friends and social media peeps seemed to be dealing with a lot.  Most of us have generally been along the lines of "yeah, this isn't fun, but we're doing okay."  Yesterday, lots of people were not okay.

I woke up from a crappy night of sleep where I had dreamed of continuous struggle:  I was fighting uphill (literally and figuratively) in my dreams.  (My dreams have always been very vivid and I usually remember them fairly well. When they're funny, they're hilarious. When they're not....they're paralyzing.)  I got up and realized my anxiety had climbed through the roof while I was sleeping (sneaky that way), and now King Kong was sitting on my chest.  I notice when my anxiety is up, I do all my breathing in my chest instead of belly breathing.  It's stupid, stupid, stupid.  Of course, then I started thinking it was the beginning of Corona, which then amps the anxiety up even more.

I finally took myself to the couch to read.  After an hour or so, my body seemed to give in to the exhaustion that follows an anxiety spike for me, and I slept.  Three hours later I woke and felt some better.  It took awhile for the "electrical" current to subside (it's a weird vibration in my body when my anxiety is up), but I was okayish by evening.  Hidden Figures was on, so I watched it and let myself relax.

Lots of people were in the same place as I was yesterday.  When we read/see/hear the news from other parts of the country, it can be overwhelming.  In some ways, the waiting game of "when will it get here" is utterly exhausting.  We still have 8 cases, but I feel certain that number will increase as results from testing start to come back to hospitals.  One of my dear friends works in healthcare and she had to work with a patient who was potentially positive.  I can't imagine how overwhelming that must feel for all of our healthcare workers.  We are truly living in this moment that will forever change who many of us are as professionals.  I don't know what healthcare will look like in the future.  Will people choose to study this in school?  Will we face an even greater shortage because of the horror stories we are hearing?  

I hope everyone is trying to be kind.  That is what I hope.  The emotional toll this is extracting on each of us is huge.  I wish I had a more eloquent word, but that is it.  This is a beast draining our emotional reserves, and we need to be aware of this as we interact with one another.  I can't make someone stay home, but my berating and screaming won't make it happen, either.  I wish our leaders would step in and make everyone shelter-in-place (re:  keep your rear at home), but I know others are afraid of this being the beginning of the gov't stripping away personal freedoms.  I don't know where I sit on that fence.  Today I think if people can't behave appropriately during this, lives are maybe more important than a person's freedom to hang out at the bar on Friday with 50 of his/her closest friends.  Everyone can choose to be an a-hole during this, but your character is revealed by choosing to place others' well-being before your own desires to head out to the Hobby Lobby.

Here's what I mean:
Infection Trajectory: What is “Flatten the curve”? - Extra Newsfeed
I think we can do this.  Really I do.

To all those out there struggling: You are not alone.  It's normal to feel anxious, sad, grief, anger, rage, shock, fear...  All the human emotions are really up for grabs right now.  Be kind to yourself and others as we walk this new path.

March 25, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic, Day Three

Here we are...again.  

It's strange how there is nothing new going on, yet, the whole world is changing in the blink of an eye.  All in all, we are doing well as a human people.  There are some pockets of ugliness, but there will always be those.  I saw a video of a neighborhood in Atlanta cheering as healthcare workers were going into work.  It made my heart race and my eyes water as I watched because I knew that action came from a place of love.  

There's lots of us living with anxiety on the daily, but it's worrisome how that looks for us in these times.  I giggled when I saw a meme that said "This is what those of us living with anxiety have been preparing for!"  That is true in some ways!  My anxiety tends to spiral down the "what if?" lane....What if I have a heart attack while driving?  What if the house catches on fire in the middle of the night?  What if? What if? What if?

Some people fear how self-quarantining/social distancing will impact those with mental health issues.  I don't have a good answer for this.  It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.  I worry about those who are struggling, and I try to reach out through FaceBook or texts.  I don't know that's enough evidence for me to abandon the guidelines.  So, if you have people in your life who may be struggling, take the time to check on them.  It won't take a second, but it might be the best thing you ever do for them.  Matter of fact, check on everyone.  We all need to feel loved and connected right now.

I have not been as rattled as I thought I would be.  I calmly prepared what I thought we'd need.  (No, I didn't hoard anything. I have a reasonable amount for my family and that is all.  Pinkie promise.)  I thought out what our days might look like and got things together.  Now, being honest, I got sidetracked by "Love is Blind" on Netflix when Abby Wambach mentioned it on a post.  I haven't gotten up when I planned.  I only walked one day.  I haven't read any complete books.  Lordy, I still have a People magazine I haven't cracked open!  So, not what I had tried to plan, but I'm being kind to myself. 

This morning I had a strange thought:  Our house, which we all love, is becoming confining. Not quite a prison, but I wonder if we'll feel differently about it when this is over.  I am grateful we are here and not spread out across the country, but the walls can become smaller as the days continue to pass.  The weather has been excessively rainy, so I am hopeful tomorrow will be a good day to bask in the sunshine.

There were roughly 40,000 new cases from 3/16/2020 to 3/23/2020 according to the CDC.  That's insane to me.  Our town is up to 5 cases, all of whom traveled together over spring break at the beginning of March.  There may be more since I last checked.  I try not to check the numbers too frequently because, ya know, I worry more.

There's lots of Zoom (video conferencing) going on right now.  As far as education, school districts run the gamut from "no instruction/try to rest/read a book" to "HERE'S YOUR FULL 8 HOURS OF INSTRUCTION DUE BY 4PM!!!"  There is lots of craziness out there right now for how to deliver education.

My fear (because equity is my jam) is there will be places where the divide is widened even further by access to educational resources during this time.  My district talks about equity frequently, but it has been part of every discussion we've had related to COVID-19.  I don't know that others are doing this, and it breaks my heart.  We don't all live in homes full of books or with access to unlimited internet.  We can't fix that right now, but we do need to bear that in mind as we move forward.

So that is all for Day 3.  I'm going to go clean something just to move around. I have some books to read.  I bought a beautiful paint-by-numbers, so I can do that.  One day, someone will purchase this at a garage sale and think they've discovered some rare, exceptionally talented artist only to learn it's a middle-aged woman's kit painting, and all their retirement plans in Tahiti are washed away!

Shout out to my husband and our anniversary being today!  There's no one else I'd rather be self-quarantined with than him!!