Hey. How’s it going? I have attempted to write/podcast this post for well over a week now. I started with the topic of allowing our emotions during the holidays. Then I rewrote it and started talking about melancholy and how hard the holidays can be for us.
But nothing felt right. Everything felt contrived, every time I sat down to write. And normally, my content is created in my head, when I go out for my daily walks, and I sit down and write it out rather seamlessly. Not the case this week. And for good reason. I wasn’t feeling inspired. I felt like a phony. I felt like ‘who am I to talk about how hard the holidays are?’ And then my whole heart just gets sad for everyone, everywhere on the planet who is struggling and I minimize my thoughts and shrink away from writing.
How’s that for a look under the hood of my writing process?
But this morning, as I sit on hold with Air Canada, trying to postpone a pre-planned holiday trip, I find myself staring aimlessly out my office window and feeling helpless. And hopeless. And frustrated, sad, angry, exhausted and scared. Covid is no joke. I understand this. I’m not about conspiracy theory or distrusting my Canadian Government. And I certainly do not judge anyone who has a different opinion on this. But what I do know, what I am abundantly clear on is the effects of this pandemic on our mental health.
As someone who has had anxiety her entire adult life, and also having a career as a therapist, the impact of this Virus and the continuation of knee jerk reactionary information is a continuing recipe for a mental health crisis
For those of you who don’t have an anxiety disorder, or PTSD or depression, this may not make sense to you. And cancel culture has a lot of us on social media, hiding our personal experiences of struggle because keyboard warriors tend to diminish and sometimes ravage our struggles with their own beliefs. What started out as a ‘we are all in this together’ mantra ( I was in front line healthcare for the first six months of the pandemic and it was a beautiful mantra of support) has turned us against each other in so many ways. Fears of being seen as vulnerable or weak or worse, being judged for having anxiety or depression and having it ramp up each time we face another potential crisis is real. I hear it on the therapy couch every day ( and yes, I have a couch in my office)
For me, this shit shows up in a disconnection, disassociation from what is happening. Or it finds me bingeing news networks and social media feeds to get as much information as possible. And I hear my clients struggling with it too. In Ontario, a lot of folks went and got their ‘jabs’ and did the right thing in my opinion, in order to ‘get back to some semblance of normal’. And I understand that the scientific community is doing their absolute best. I do. This virus is pivoting and doing what it needs to do to survive on it’s hosts. I also understand that no answer is perfect. No solution or precaution is absolute. There is no road map here, we are building the bridge as we walk over it. And that can feel terrifying, and exhausting for a lot of people.
For those of us who were so excited to travel, visit, embrace and celebrate the holidays this latest variant has us reconsidering our plans. And maybe it doesn’t affect you. That’s ok. But for those of us who struggle with anxiety, it means constant worry and consideration. It means always wanting to do the right thing and follow the rules. It means trying to navigate conversations with others that feel ‘crazy’ or ‘over reactive’ in most circumstances, which leads to just quieting down and holding all of the anxiety and worry in a tight little ball in the pit of your stomach. And suffering in silence, because who are we to upset the apple cart? Who are we to express our vulnerability and ruin everyone else’s joy?
No matter where you sit on the continuum of affect with regards to Covid, the holidays and your mental wellness, I want to return to the ‘in it together mantra’.
I have witnessed first hand the ongoing mental health damage that this pandemic is causing. And when I referred to feeling sad for anyone struggling right now I can’t even imagine those in Kentucky who lost everything in last week’s tornadoes or the families in Australia who’s children were killed in a freak accident this week. Or the weather and climate crisis that is real and playing out all over the planet right now. Or the continuing global disasters and inflation. It’s a fuck ton of pressure my lovelies. It is. I suppose this doesn’t feel very Optimistic. I suppose that my ranting in a blog post/podcast about what some of us might be feeling might have you feeling shitty too. But here’s the truth – we are all in this together. We always have been. Divisiveness, keyboard warriors, judgement seekers, and general unkindness is not the way for us to go forward. We need to get back to our humility, our shared humanity, our connectivity.
We need to see each other. We need to get back to trying to understand each other.
As I sit riverside today and through the weekend, my anxiety wants to come out and play. My anxiety wants to cancel Christmas and my planned vacation. My emotions of melancholy and missing my boys exists, and feels harder some days. My wakefulness through the night, with consideration for how this new variant will affect my clients whom I care so deeply about, my Mother who hasn’t left her home since 2020, and my fellow humans who are just struggling has me coming back to loving-kindness again and again. For myself. Because I have an anxiety disorder and it’s ok. Because I can feel really sad and melancholy during the holidays, and it’s ok. For you, because this shit is hard and getting harder again. For them, because if we were to peek into the belly of every soul on this planet right now, their stories we fell us to our knees.
So, if I was sitting in my office doing a session with myself what would I say to someone rattled with anxiety and a bit of depression? I would honour their feelings. I would allow them to come forward with them and hold them, get curious about them. I would suggest strategies for allowing the discomfort to exist but also back filling the hours and days ahead with things that feel soothing and good. I would recommend connection with friends and family in a safe Covid friendly way. I would hold the space for myself and discuss resilience, the importance of helpful thoughts, and how to acknowledge unhealthy rumination patterns. And then I would suggest two to three tangible ways to take care of my mental health, and to turn loving kindness and compassion not only inwards but outwards to a planet in deep desperation and need of it.
No matter where you are today emotionally. No matter how the next two weeks rolls out for you please remember that allowing your emotional discomfort to be held with self compassion is integral to your overall wellness. And in honour of a dear family friend who died this past week, please remember not to take it all so seriously. To turn off the news if it freaks you out. To go off of social media as a source of distraction. To get in nature, in connection, in Covid safe celebration. There are far too many of us that didn’t make it to the end of this year. And life remains a flicker of time still. Our responsibility is to honoring ourselves, our experiences and the experiences of others and knowing that in time, things will change and that we all will be ok. We will. No matter the outcome. Life continues to be a fragile vessel for us to continue to learn, grow, and work towards enlightenment to the best of our ability.
Join me there. Join me here. Show up as sloppy as you need. Just keep that gorgeous heart of yours safe and loved and soothed. And reach in if you’ve got it to give and reach out if you need it. Let’s do this holiday together with loving kindness.
And as always, I see you, I Hear you, I am you. Happy Holidays. And may the New Year ahead find you with as many moments of peaceful loving reflection as possible. xo