Let’s support each others mental health (pandemic week 5)

Last night I had a dream… typically I try not to make it a habit of sharing my dreams (my daughter already thinks I overshare here) but this dream would seem to illustrate what I’m feeling – maybe what we’re all feeling – during this time.

In my dream, I have gone back to work at my retail job. I’m at the register preparing to check out the first of a long line of customers. I’m stressed. Stressed by the amount of customers in the store, by my inability after several weeks (months?) away from work to remember how to process the sale and the customers are losing patience with me. I am stressed that no one is adhering to social distancing still in place, and of course no one is wearing a mask.

I suddenly don’t care about keeping my job and go into a public rant of epic proportions. “You want to know what mental illness is? This is mental illness. It’s not being able to focus because I’m traumatized by all of this. And you’re all making it worse. Why can’t you be understanding that I’ve forgotten how to do my job? Why can’t you respect the distance between us so we don’t have to worry about getting each other sick? Why can’t you wear a goddamn mask?”

Week five of the stay-at-home order may have been the most difficult for me so far. It’s the first time I was consciously aware of a few isolated bouts of depression and had to keep myself from getting caught up in a downward spiral.  

I’ve had trouble getting out for my runs. Running isn’t as comfortable as it used to be and, especially in the city, just going outside is a source of stress. Running with a mask sucks, but it’s what we’re being asked to do. So runs are slow. I should run early in the morning before sidewalks and streets get crowded, but I lack the motivation when there’s hardly anything on the calendar for the rest of the day.

Going back and forth between the townhome I share with Kurt in the northern suburbs and my daughter’s apartment in the city, makes me feel a bit like I imagine the child of divorce must feel like going between parents. There’s a different “vibe” at each home, and my daughter has her own set of “rules”. I get scolded for putting stuff in the dishwasher incorrectly. LOL

These of course are “first world problems” and I do remain grateful to have these people in my life; that we are healthy and employed, have roofs over our heads and the ability to stock our fridges, go for runs (as slow or short as they may be). I am also grateful for friends that keep me sane, while some of the world has gone completely mad (I think all we can do is ignore ignorant protesters).

A friend wrote in her blog about how important mediation was for her at this time. It reminded me of how important this practice once was for me and I returned to it. Somedays, if all I accomplish is my morning mediation, I can feel positive. But I’ve found since returning to it, I’ve been able to stay focused and accomplish much more, including getting back out to run after almost a week off.

I also had a zoom call recently with the group of girls with whom I grew up (we’ll all be 55 by the fall, but they will forever be girls to me). I’ve know all them at least since the 5th grade, some since Kindergarten. We’ve seen each other at our best and worst, watched each other grow and mature, had times when we were busy with our lives that we lost touch, always finding one another again. In their company I am most myself. They are who I am. I remember when they supported me after Chris died; thinking how comfortable I was with them, how I felt wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket of unconditional love and security. That has only grown stronger now.

So what’s my point? I’m grateful for the people and things in my life that raise me up – that keep me from the downward spiral of depression. It’s a reminder to be understanding and patient, that while we are all in this together, others may be experiencing it very differently.  This piece illustrates that perfectly “we’re in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.”

As I said last week, thinking of what we can do for others, rather than just thinking of ourselves, helps us too. Maybe the best thing any of us can do right now is to find ways we can support the mental health of others; stop doing things that make others more uneasy, or uncomfortable, or that might add to their stress and anxiety. Let’s make it our point to only raise others up! 

Running away. Vernon Hills, Illinois. April 2020

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