I have sat and stared at this blank document many times over the past week. Part of me doesn’t know what to say about everything going on because I don’t have the words. Part of me doesn’t know how to make sense of the jumble of racing thoughts, emotions, and feelings I am experiencing as I sit with clients, speak with my family and friends, watch the news, and scroll through the variable rainbow of reactions on social media. So please bear with me and give me some grace as I try to make sense of it. I hope that my words help you to not feel alone in your reactions and in turn bring you some peace.
In many ways, this situation is putting things into perspective. We are being forced to reflect on what is important to us and this time is serving as an opportunity and reminder to slow down. While we can get caught up in the news and scrolling on social media which makes our minds race, we also are being given an opportunity to take a step back and turn things off and separate a bit from the chaos. We are so lucky that this is happening in March and not in December. We are able to get outside, go for walks, hikes, and bike rides. We are given the opportunity to not rush around to this activity and that, and instead we can read the book we have been meaning to pick up or play the board game that has been sitting in a box for who knows how long with the people we are closest to. I also have been reflecting on the fact that I am actually thankful that this is happening now, in 2020. I am reminded of riding on Spaceship Earth in EPCOT as a child and seeing the scene where the son and father are speaking with each other over the computer while the father is away somewhere in a different country. How strange and foreign that seemed and here we are, in a place in our world that we are able to telecommute more readily and I am grounding myself in the thankfulness I have that both on the federal and state level we, as mental health providers, are being supported in utilizing teletherapy so that we can continue to support our clients through this unsteady and uncertain time.
So many people are responding to the craze in our grocery stores and with an obsession of hoarding materials that do not always seem helpful or necessary for this current situation. But, as I reflect on this, I begin to understand. As humans right now, we feel unsettled, and wholly and completely out of control. There is so much that we do not know about this virus and how different it is from others like it, that we do not know how to react. As humans, anytime our feeling of being in control is rocked we feel uncomfortable and we react, grasping at any possibility of gaining that control again. In my therapy sessions, I challenge my client to think of someone in the ocean, that feels their footing disrupted even temporarily. They begin treading water, to flail and splash and try to find their way to solid ground again. Many of these reactions are not helpful and may in fact create a worse situation as they tire themselves out. They fight against the current, not realizing that by letting go of trying to be in control, may in fact be the best way out and the quickest way back to control again. What I try to help my clients to see is that if the person has the skills to ground him or herself, they would know that the ground that they were standing on solidly before is still there, that they just need to put their feet down and find it. This is what is happening around us right now. Because the waters we are in right now feel so foreign to us, we are not sure if we feel safe to put our feet down and find the ground that will make us feel safe.
One thing that I am sure of, is how beautiful it is to see that that majority of the people in our country are understanding the significance of our current situation. While we still experience the naysayers that are comparing our reaction to this to reactions to pandemics past, most of our country is seeing that by staying home and keeping our distance, we are trying to learn from what happened in the past. We know that our actions are part of working toward preventing the number of those lost with COVID-19 from reaching the numbers of those that were lost in past experiences. We have to remember that we will never know if this was an over-reaction, but I, for one (and, I know I’m not alone), would not want to see what would happen if we did not react enough.
We are also seeing how we are all in this together. I am trying my best to focus on the beauty of people helping people, instead of my own fear of how this virus will affect me personally. We are seeing those who have, give to those who do not have. We are seeing celebrities not only give money to charities, but also reading to children, sharing the gift of their voices in song, and share how they are coping with being at home with their children and offering support. We are seeing landlords give residents free months in order to take the weight of bills piling up off their shoulders. We are seeing internet companies offer free services to children who need to connect in order to continue their learning. We see restaurants making the most of being shut down by setting up a system in which people can buy food from their business to be delivered straight to hospital workers in their communities. Applications are offering free access to their content in order to stay fit and healthy at home. I can go on and on, and when I think of these people, these organizations, these companies I am finding some peace because it restores my faith in knowing that when it comes down to it, we aren’t red or blue, left or right, we are all humans. This is where I am finding my ground, in being human, in being in this together.
I have been practicing therapy for 15 years and have worked with countless individuals, families and couples. While I do not want to claim to be an "expert" on all things therapy or life (because I always believe that there is room to grow and learn) I have noticed throughout my time connecting with my clients that similar struggles and repetitive patterns present themselves that affect how clients experience and see life. I wanted to take this experience with my clients and the knowledge I have gained and share it here, so that maybe it can touch others lives the way it has helped my clients.