How are you?
When our sessions begin, we usually start with a “mood check.” Although there are clinical scales and inventories that can be used to assess someone’s mood, I prefer to simply ask, “How are you?” I might follow up with something like “Tell me about your mood today.”
This morning, while I was getting ready for another day of telehealth from my home office, I was thinking about that process and thought…what is my mood? How am I doing?
Honestly, I’m tired. Exhausted at times.
Let’s be real about it…this year has been a whopper, and we are only at the halfway point for 2020. We are still grappling with the pandemic and resulting business layoffs and closures, navigating the reality of working from home, dealing with the possibility of continued home schooling for our children, and feeling the loss of child care for most of the past three months. We are living with daily fears of illness and death, watching the news, trying to keep up with home and business sanitation efforts, social distancing, wearing masks, missing milestones such as graduations, weddings, birthdays, and funerals, missing the gym, missing summer camp for our kids, and feeling the loss of cancelled community and family events. We are facing an economic recession and fearing a “second wave” of coronavirus outbreaks and closures.
At the same time, we are facing the reality of our country’s history of racism, past and present. The death of George Floyd, dying on the street in front of our eyes on national television, was a horrific lightning rod that ignited national and international protests and demonstrations. Individuals across every demographic in America have marched in incredible numbers, demanding justice and meaningful change, crying out for an end to racism and police brutality.
Americans have always been survivors, and we have been resilient in the face of so much uncertainty and change in recent months. But the price tag for a constant, seemingly endless barrage of pain and loss is grief. Not only are we grieving on a personal level, we are experiencing collective grief. We are grieving all that we’ve lost personally, grieving over the pain and struggle of our friends, families, and country, and grieving the loss of our pre-COVID way of life, fearing it may never return.
The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We are all experiencing these emotions in different ways as we continue to navigate all we’ve been through this year, and worry about what lies ahead. Even though the stages of grief are always listed in the same order in textbooks, the truth is that we don’t experience them in a linear fashion. We don’t start with denial and check off the remaining stages while we try to run through them like an unpleasant to-do list. Grief is messy, and it’s complicated, and people do not experience or handle their grief in the same way.
Information about the stages of grief, including common symptoms associated with grief, can be found here: https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html
One of the keys to navigating grief is kindness. Be kind to yourself when it feels like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, as kind as you would be to a friend who is struggling or going through pain. Because, honestly, your friends are in pain. If you’re tired, anxious, stressed, not sleeping well, drinking too much, eating more than usual, gaining weight, feeling foggy or unfocused, experiencing a short temper, and just feeling “blah,” you’re not alone.
There are a lot of resources out there, and I encourage you to use them. Do whatever you need to do to stay emotionally healthy, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know that flight attendants always direct you to secure your oxygen mask first during an emergency, then take care of the person next to you. The same advice applies here. Taking care of yourself and being as strong and healthy as possible gives you the ability to help the people you love most, and the strength to face the challenges of life.
I’m always here if you need to talk, vent, cry, or make a new plan for your life. You are not alone.
I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I want you to know how much I appreciate and value my clients…the level of trust you place in me, and your commitment to being your best self inspires me every day.
Call me if you need me.
Susan Bechert, LMSW
Huntsville Psychotherapy & Counseling Services, LLC
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