Let’s talk about the nervous system. We are 16 months into this pandemic now.
16 months into a prolonged stress response.
16 months into a string of mental health triggers.
16 months into chaos and confusion.
16 months into pivoting and adapting.
16 months into change and uncertainty.
16 months into politically charged conversations that either breed diversity or commonalities.
16 months into debating and discussing vaccinations.
16 months into this pandemic and I don’t know about you, but I am done. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually depleted. Running on empty, struggling to find a place to refuel, to regenerate, to refresh and re-set.
There has to be a better way forward.
For our household the last lockdown has been a real struggle. It’s been hard to find logic, to make sense of what is open, what we can do and what we can’t do safely or legally. It’s been another blow to the kids and their lives. These are years that we won’t get back. Prime years of development that are being altered. To see changes in their personalities, faith, outlooks on society and government that make them question humanity, ethics and morals has been conflicting as a parent to watch. I am happy to see that for the most part they are navigating this world responsibly but on the other hand, I just want them to be kids and to worry about kid things. Age appropriate worries. Age appropriate struggles. Age appropriate limitations. Age appropriate recommendations.
The last month, I have been bogged down justifying and explaining and enforcing these latest lockdown measures. Like many other parents, exhaustion doesn’t help the cause for remaining stable, level headed and disciplined to the rules. Recently, I wrote a letter to Doug Ford. Being that he makes the rules but we are the ones expected to enforce them with our children, I thought it prudent for him to know the position that puts us all in. Now, I wrote this letter and clicked “send” while I was angry at the announcement extending the lockdown, , while I was exhausted and needed hope and not MORE disappointment in that moment. And even though when I floated back down into my right mind I was embarrassed that I sent such an angry and scattered message, I realized that what I sent was a very truthful, real and emotional snapshot of life in that moment. Here’s what I wrote:
Subject Line: Throw us a freaking bone already.
We have been compliant in following all the rules since the beginning of the pandemic. We’ve missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Funerals and Weddings to comply with your recommendations.
We are tired. We are done.
Last week, I talked two friends off the ledge as they were having suicidal thoughts. My own teenage son has asked to see a counsellor to “have his brain re-wired” because he doesn’t like the quality of his thoughts and he can’t find hope anymore. A 26 year old friend of mine is unnecessarily no longer with us because of a broken health care system right now. We are not numbers and dates. We are human beings who need to breathe, need connection, need hope.
Please throw us a freaking bone.
Give us something to look forward to here.
Our kids are struggling mentally and emotionally…and we strive to instil compliance and respect. We are raising teenagers and are acutely aware that if we teach them that it is okay to break the governments rules, what would stop them from breaking ours? Up until now, we have been a team Doug. BUT, at this point we are feeling like we have to start making decisions not based on government recommendations, but on the wellbeing of our house hold, the mental wellness of our children and ourselves. We are no longer buying what you are selling. FIND A BETTER WAY. Fund our health care properly – even in times where we don’t have a pandemic! Let’s call a thing a thing here Doug, society is limited because of a lack of health care infrastructure…an infrastructure that is the responsibility of the government. I am not insensitive to those who are dying, suffering, those who are in the trenches working overtime to keep the healthcare system functioning. And like those workers (hero’s if you ask me), the public is exhausted too. There has to be a better way forward.
We can do hard things. I’ve just come off of a year of severe illness, granted a second chance at life, only to have been locked down with NO opportunity to live it on my terms. Our family, has essentially been in a “stay-put” atmosphere for 2.5years. It’s time. We need to live. We need connection. We need hope.
Please, at the bare minimum, give us some outdoor activities back. Give us golf. Give us camping, give us hiking and biking and boating. Give us options. We are responsible and respectable people.
Let us move about responsibly.
Let us live.
You know what? I felt better after I wrote the letter. I slept. I woke up, prepared to responsibly break rules. To allow my kids to see kids. To be kids. I realized that everything I was saying “no” to over the last 16 months has been preventing kids from being kids. As a family, we have had amazing conversations about how to move forward responsibly, about how to have a voice with what we are feeling, thinking and experiencing and about how to navigate these times and still respect what is happening on the front line.
Writing the letter has helped calm my nervous system, it was my fight. I meditate daily (sometimes more than that), I journal regularly, I exercise daily, take all my vitamins and medications (including cannabis), limit social media, have turned off the news, – I am responsible and aware of my energy and mental well-being. When I do all of this self-care every day and still have a tanked nervous system, clearly there is a trigger beyond my control. And yet, I still had an unsettled nervous system that was screaming FIGHT OR FLIGHT!
So this time, I chose flight.
Today, I am writing to you from a beautiful garden on 100 acres of property in Orilla. I have a pair of Bluebirds on my right sitting on a cedar rail fence, a pair of nesting Baltimore Oriels ahead of me, and a Pileated Woodpecker going to town on an old pine post on my left. The breeze is blowing through my long grey hair (that desperately needs a cut) and the sun is bathing me in vitamin D. I’ve broken the rules and traveled outside of my area. I booked myself four days a strawbale cottage in the woods to unwind, recharge, dump my brain, and find a place to put all the changes the last 2.5 years have brought us. Don’t worry, I shopped locally and topped up my gas before leaving my area, with no stops between home and here and I am completely self-sufficient here until it is time to come home. At this point, I’ll pay any fines incurred if you feel you need to turn me in…because you can’t put a price on mental health. This is what I felt I needed to do not only for myself, but for my family too. You know what they say, ‘if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy!’ This is what self-care looks like, even in the midst of a pandemic.
May is Mental Health Awareness month, and how perfect that it falls at a time when so many are struggling. I’m rightly concerned that as the Covid Pandemic fades a Mental Health Pandemic is on the rise. If you are struggling right now, please reach out to a friend, a trusted someone. Call a help line, find a counsellor, contact your doctor or pharmacist…you are not alone. Take care of your well-being and take a day off if you need to. Find some space to meditate, journal, quiet your mind, exercise, get some fresh air, eat well, connect with friends or loved ones, do some yoga, read a book…find your way and don’t be afraid to do it your way. We’ve all done hard things and come through the other side…do what works for you. But please, know you aren’t alone.
One of my favorite mantras in life is “This is only temporary.” The last 16 months have been a LONG temporary, but I know that this too shall pass….eventually. And then, just as life always does, we will be on to the next gift life brings us. In the meantime, I intend to find the gifts that the Covid experience has exposed in my life and focus on those instead of all that’s been lost.