For the past several days I have ruminated on this thought….it began in session with a beloved client of mine who was struggling. Wondering why she had been unable to maintain her strategies for mental wellness and working in a front line profession I simply said to her ” think about what you have gone through, what we have all gone through in less than 800 days”.
As I spoke and we acknowledged the stark reality and shared experience of this I then spent the next three days considering it. The ramifications. The assault on our mental wellness, physical wellness, sense of safety, sense of security connectedness and belonging….and I cried.
On March 13th, 2022 ( next Sunday), it will mark the two year anniversary of the ‘holy fuck run to your houses, grab your loved ones, we’re all gonna die moment’. Much like other catastrophic and knee buckling events in our social histories, I am sure we all remember where we were and what we were doing as we watched with abject horror ( or for some complete disbelief in the truth of it) as the slow moving train crash began to hit the proverbial wall of reality.
I was working in community healthcare. As a Social Service Worker and Seniors Health team member. I had zero fucking clue what PPE was. And I initially didn’t consider the seriousness of it all until I went to work on that day, and we were shuttered in, shut down and in meetings to discuss how to mitigate transferring the virus to our patients, and our families.
Donning and Doffing was another term I had never heard of, yet I began to understand the severity and potential( at the time) lethality of an unknown, unseen virus that had me putting on and taking off PPE on the side roads of my small town, frantically sanitizing my work tools between patient visits in their homes ( which was my job) and even having to use the woods as my portable port a potty ( thank goodness it was Spring and Summer at the time) as I wasn’t allowed to use patients bathrooms, yet was on the road somedays for most of the day. I quickly was recruited to becoming a Covid screener of our front line and much beloved nurses and Doctors and learned very quickly that within healthcare, we simply lean in, and do what is needed. Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified. And as someone with PTSD, generalized anxiety and a propensity for hypochondria, you can imagine where this led. It led me to leaving my employment by December of that year as the stress was simply too much.
In 730 days ( using March 13th 2022) as my benchmark, we have collectively gone through not only unprecedented times with a virus, but unprecedented historical experiences that will be captured in history books, life lessons and ongoing therapy sessions for generations to come.
“As I chatted with my client we began to run down all of the life changing, perspective altering moments that we have borne witness too, and to be quite honest, it felt overwhelming just to say it, let alone acknowledge it and feel it in my bones.”
Let’s review, shall we? On March 13th, 2020 we began the lockdown, the awareness of an extremely virulent virus had arrived in Canada and throughout the globe. The collective trauma of this experience alone is one that will be studied, discussed, studied some more and theorized about for many decades to come. Getting our heads around what those moments felt like or what we experienced, for some of us, was nothing short of a traumatic response to our central nervous systems. Our brains were re-wired if we felt fear. We had to change the way our lives operated and how we trusted and believed in our Governments and Public Health agencies. ( that I even have to say this is yet another layer of complete shock and confusion for me)
As we recoiled to our respective places of safety ( and many, many, many millions of people/countries/cultures did not have the luxury to recoil in comfort and safety so our vision of health inequities globally expanded exponentially if we were paying attention…and I was paying attention) to witness the unfolding on our screens, in order to stay in connection. We saw bodies being stored in mass containers and mass graves across the globe. In less than a month, in Canada, we would again witness another unprecedented, historical act, as a lone gun-man took to the streets of a small Nova Scotia community and opened fire again and again, until he too was gunned down on live television to our continued horror. Spring quickly led into summer and our lock downs continued, access to generalized services became increasingly impossible. Businesses that we loved run by people we loved, in our small communities remained closed. And to the South, our neighbours in the United States saw civil unrest as their Nation prepared for a Federal Election, which had its flames fanned by an unstable leader, unstable government and desperate communities of individuals horrified and distraught by the ongoing onslaught of violence and hatred against African Americans marred by the video of George Flloyds murder.
The summer of camping, outdoor activities and trying to remain hopeful ( as we do) ran into the fall of 2020 as we remained relatively connected to each other in creative and meaningful ways, in order to help us cope. And as the days became shorter and the darkness crept in, here in the Northern hemisphere, we watched as the election to the South of us became increasingly unstable, errant and horrifying, as we grappled with our own political narratives and an uprising of voices dissatisfied with our Canadian leadership.
January 2021 found us still in lockdown, witnessing an insurrection to the South of us. And let’s be honest my fellow Canadians, some of us ( I’m admitting this anyways) watched thinking ‘that would never happen in our Country’. So much for that thought. As we hoped for an end to the virulent spread of the virus we heard about the soon to be available immunizations that would help us quell the tide of outbreaks and protect us from dying from the virus. And dissension continued. We went in and out of lock down, emotional whip lash becoming part of our weekly and monthly patterns.
As 2021 began we started to witness further unrest and frustration. What once was a globe pulled together in shared experience ( even if the experience was unequitable for the majority of the planet) to the rumblings of ‘ us versus them’. We were getting tired. Anything that could join us together historically; concerts, live theater, music in any form, sports, large group events, parties, weddings, funerals – those moments that bind us together in our shared humanity – were online, out of reach and furthered our sense of isolation, disconnection and armouring up and into our own corners of fear and exhaustion.
Climate change asked us to ‘hold her beer’ as we witnessed floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, massive hurricanes and complete decimation of communities across the globe from the end of 2020 in Australia all the way through to the fall of 2021 as we witnessed our fellow farmers out West drag their cows through flood raging waters in hopes of saving some of their livelihood.
And the whiplash continued. Open. Closed. Masks. No Masks. Get the vaccine. Don’t get the vaccine. You’re going to die if you get the vaccine. You’re going to die if you don’t. The existential overwhelm just kept on fucking coming….unabating through 2021. We opened, then Delta hit as we witnessed massive illness taking place in India, Israel and other Countries. We closed. Then we opened up again and started to lean into the potential for normalcy in the coming holiday season and Omicron hit. We closed again.
We had had it. Mental Illness, overdoses, death by suicide, self harm, youth mental health, our mental health….no amount of podcasts, meditation, namaste and connection could touch the overwhelm. Medication prescriptions at an all time high to stem the tide of increasing anxiety. The health care system buckling. Small businesses shuttering for good. All front line systems buckling. Not enough help for us. Christmas was cancelled AGAIN.
And then we saw what we were feeling, the discontent, divisiveness, begin in January of 2022- and for some we connected, cheered, supported and showed up. Some felt connected again. Some of us didn’t. The divisiveness grew. Social Media became more hostile than any other time since it’s inception. The Convoy in Canada, to assert that the whiplash effect could no longer be tolerated, and that our Government needed to do something began. And with horror, if you didn’t agree or support it, you watched as a city became overwhelmed with what can only be described as the accumulation of our utter helplessness over almost two years. For the first time in my life I was scared to live where I live. I watched and felt so sad that in Canada, the Country I have been so proud to be apart of my ENTIRE life, had become unsafe. Divided. And at some points, hate fueled.
If you weren’t feeling bothered, anxious, disconnected, terrified, overwhelmed or shut down by any of this then February of 2022 might just have gotten you there. As we all watched, Vladimir Putin unleash war on Ukraine. And to date, MILLIONS of innocent people have lost their homes, their land and much like Afghanistan and Syria (some of the most recent events of this unfolding), mad men in power have used hatred and greed to capitalize on their evil agendas.
Just writing all of this has created a response in my body that feels a bit heightened. And you know, I understand that some folks may not feel amped. Or affected. I also understand that some of us have used Covid as a launch pad to move towards what is the best for them. But as a private therapist, I can assure you, that A LOT of us are buckled. Spent. Cooked. Overwhelmed. Burnt Out.
So……how do I flip this to help us feel better? I don’t know the answer to that. And when I was studying Pema Chodron this morning, and leaning into Maitri and Compassion for self, I don’t believe that there is one answer. I believe there are millions. But it starts with us. And the understanding that the onslaught of stress and anxiety has been 730 days of unabating tension, fear, and witnessing. The millions of answers begins in the millions of hearts that are beating on this planet today. On each one’s ability to love and be loved. To know that we are all the same in our shared humanity. That we don’t need to lock into our perspectives, emotions, or experiences – but that we can reach out to each other through the lens of shared terror, persecution, failure, and imperfection and connect from there. And to know that it’s ok to not feel ok. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed in a world where putting language to our emotional landscapes is not only frowned upon, it doesn’t even fucking exist.
” Without understanding how our feelings, thoughts and behaviors work together, it’s almost impossible to find our way back to ourselves and each other’. Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart
Yup, it sounds simple. And maybe I’m just a simple girl living in a complicated world. But I don’t believe I’m alone in this for ONE SINGLE SECOND. If we are to learn anything from these past 730 days, it’s that using vulnerable language, reaching out and naming our shared experiences, using that to drive compassionate responses is the only connective tissue that can combat divisiveness, fear, hate, evil, war, civil unrest, and even one little fucking virus that set our world into a dumpster fire of epic proportions…even that. Because as I lay awake most nights, with intrusive thoughts some nights, reflecting on how to move forward, how to show up, how to love myself better and forgive my own imperfections – I know that on my last day, in the last minute, of my last moment on earth, that will be all that ever mattered. (WWGD).
I love you. I love us. I love me. And if you need it, for the love of goodness please reach out. Share this post fare and wide and shout from the rooftops ” ME TOO”. Let us all know that we’re together. xo