In these turbulent waters, I am sometimes riding the wave, feeling resilient in the chaos – clear and ready for what’s to come. Other times, I am tumbling under, doing my best to avoid the rocks and get enough air to keep churning through it. Perhaps you know what I mean.
I’ve struggled to write a consistent message about caring for mental health during this pandemic. Should I normalize how crazy and terrible this might feel? Should I talk about how to get out of the amygdala response of fight or flight and into a more resourced frame of mind? Yes and yes. Both are important.
So today, I’m starting with an article written by my fabulous teacher and colleague, Dr. Roz Dischiavo.
I feel awful right now. Not physically. Physically I am well, so far. I have no signs of ill health.
But I cry every single day. Often more than once. There are days when I am so tired of struggling with it all–the Coronavirus, the world’s political and economic situations, the causes I care about, the hopelessness and the fear and the paranoia and the infighting and the censorship.
I used to want to shout from the rooftops the truths I have learned—that we become what we focus on, and so we must believe in wonderful possibilities as well as awful ones, because they are just as real. I used to want to shout that most people are good. I wanted to shout that we should stay home to flatten the curve, that it’s not just hype, that we will save lives by doing so…maybe our own.
I don’t want to shout anymore. I feel awful. I am tired of struggle, and the negativity I perceive in the world right now. Sometimes I want to lay down and not get up.
You know what keeps me going? That I know I’m supposed to feel awful right now. We all are. This is me, speaking to me, as well as to you who may read this. This is Roz giving Roz a pep talk, feel free to listen in.
If you feel terrible, Bravo.
It means that you and your emotions are working just fine. You are supposed to feel terrible in a pandemic. You are supposed to feel scared, and defeated, and depressed amidst the hope and other emotions that you have. You are supposed to cry a lot, and want comfort, and rail against the futility of it all.
As soon as you try not to feel these things, you isolate yourself from the world, because everyone else is feeling awful, too. Everyone is scared. Everyone is hopeful. Everyone is trying the best that they can to do what they feel they need to for themselves and their loved ones. Everyone is clueless about how to act and feel and what to do if we can’t leave home and have to shelter in place.
So don’t try not to feel awful. Cry. Feel terrible. Talk to your sister, your mom, your best friends, your partner, your spiritual guidance on phone and Zoom and Facetime. Pray, meditate, do your yoga stretches and your Pilates and take your distance walks as long you are allowed to, so that your awful is shared, and not isolated awful. So that you know that you are never truly alone. So that you know that awful is OK. So that you know that awful is part of being human, and being human is a part of being loved.