and I am responsible…
In the midst of rising numbers of infected, scurrying for masks, a historical unemployment rate, and praying for health care workers and first responders I find myself wondering where is this pandemic “taking us” and what are we learning from it?
Coping with a fall from grace
There is no doubt that this is a fall from a platform of economic strength. We lived in a world where “chasing after it” has become the national pastime. Riding a wave of economic prosperity, confident in the ability to grow a hopeful and more secure future, we find ourselves brought to our knees. Barred from going to the office, or to leave the home for nothing more than the essentials, what can we learn from this place in which we find ourselves now?
Some are learning to value what they have rather than searching for more. Personally, I am remembering the words and behavior of my grandmother who lived through the depression. “Grandma” wasted nothing telling us repeatedly to save our money and not to spend it on frivolous things. Perhaps none of us need as many shoes as we have in our closet?
Looking for leadership
The daily news is heated as we watch political tension grow. Federal and state authorities play the game of “hot potato” deciding who is responsible for supplying respirators, finances, and ordering shut downs and who is to blame for not foreseeing, or preparing for, our current state of affairs. In this sea of panic, we thirst for leadership. Amidst the clamor and noise, we search for one voice of sound reason, good moral judgement and compassion for all human interests. Often, our personal values influence which voice we listen to.
The best and the worst in us
One thing is certain, whenever crisis hits, it brings out two things in people; the very best and the very worst. Fundamentally, most people have a desire to help, to be generous, and to make a postive impact and difference in their world. When stress is high and resources are few, people often resort to a “me first” mentality as we saw with the hoarding of toilet paper and subsequent shortage of that “commodity”. Some have turned that into a source of humor now as we laugh at our own human behavior.
The other side, the best in us, seen in a young man giving away free rolls of toilet paper to those in need. To the millions of dollars raised to insure that the homeless have something to eat. To the for-profit corporate hotels that have opened their doors to offer free rooms to the caregivers and healthcare professionals in their community. Try to watch for the goodness that is emerging in this crisis, it will restore your faith in humankind and humanity.
We are a vulnerable
We are learning just how vulnerable we are. When tragic events happen in other parts of the world we feel a sense of empathy, but, it’s “over there”. When those events happen in our own town, neighborhood, backyard, that veil of distance is torn from our eyes to reveal a harsh reality, “this can happen to me”!
Vulnerability leads us to seek safety. But, during a pandemic, where is safe? The last time we collectively asked the question, “where is safe”?, was following 9/11/2001. Let’s remember that New York, and the nation, did rebuild, grew stronger, and better, by growing stronger together.
As the virus spreads the sense of helplessness pervades. It may only be a matter of weeks before we all, personally, know someone infected with, or who has succumb to, the coronavirus. Sheltered in place, we each have a courtside seat to the new “March Madness” and we have absolutely no control over it. The one role we can play, that many seem to resist, is to stay in place and stay away from other people. While we may want to be out in public ‘doing something’, we must remain in the confines of our homes and do what we can to help, from home. If we think creatively, there is much we can do to help in this time of turbulence.
We are responsible
As the coronavirus spreads, untamed by medical intervention, we realize just how dangerous this pandemic is. The U.S. surpasses China in number of cases and will surge past that country’s number of dead from the disease by the end of April. What began as a sound bite on the nightly news in January has now closed down Manhattan, Chicago and California. The world is a very small place and what happens in China now happens in Barrington, Illinois.
Our part, in the war on COVID-19, is to practice “social distancing” when in public and to stay home except for making a run for the “essentials” or a brisk, solo, walk around the neighborhood. This is not only for our own protection, but for the protection of others, their parents, children and grandparents. It is time to recognize, and be mindful, that we are responsible for the health and well being of others, not just ourselves!
Not enough connection
Despite all of our digital “connectedness”, we seem to crave in-person meetings and face-to-face interaction. In fact, in the face of government ordered ‘stay at home’ mandates, the fear and chaos in our lives drives us, more than ever, to seek community, and connection. Perhaps we have fooled ourselves that our digital world was enough to ‘keep us together’. Clearly, the ‘pack animals’ in our DNA demands a warmer connection than can be afforded by a handful of silicon encased in “Gorilla Glass”. There is something about this pandemic that is showing us that we need more. That face-to-face, in-person, interaction and connectedness, handshakes and hugs, are essential to maintaining a healthy “human condition”.
We are interdependent
Becasue of this desire, and need, to connect we are learning just how dependent we are on one another. This is not a bad lesson to learn. None of us can get through this crisis alone. Unity, against a common enemy, disolves the divisive lines between us as we focus together on overcoming this challenge. A spirit of cooperation causes the most tense and strained relationships to put differences aside and join together to work toward the same goal. For example, it is, truly, amazing how fast the United States Congress can work toward, and agree on, legislation when they work together.
People over profits
Are we a culture that puts people over profits or will we put profits over people? This age-old ethics argument plays out each day in society whether there is a crisis, or not. Whether it’s an opportunist hoarding toilet paper and selling single rolls for $2.00 each, or the owner of a warehouse full of N95 face masks that holds them hostage to the highest bidder, we all face our own ethical dilemas.
Do I go to the park and play soccer and risk bringing the virus home to my family or do I stay at home and find something to do that includes them. Do I really need to go to Costco to see if I can get another 24 pack of “Charmin” or will the two 24 packs of Charmin I already have last my family until the pandemic is over? Hmmm…
We are seeing some huge corporate entities stepping up to perform altruistic acts for the good of the whole. Apple donates 10 million face masks to healthcare workers, Ford Motor Company designs a new ventilator it can make from automobile parts it has in inventory, and thousands of retired healthcare workers step up and volunteer to help when, and where, they are needed.
Perhaps we are learning, during our life in coronavirus, is that what is valued most, is people, not profits.
Whenever we are confronted with hardships and challenges, we are quick to learn just what we are made of. We dig down within ourselves to muster determination, strength, optimism, and hope to move forward into a new world that is unknown, and often frightening, to us.
The process of seeking answers to how can I help, what do I do and, when will it be over, is a journey that, like all journeys into knowledge, provide the opportunity to grow. In that growth, we find that ‘stuff’ in us that is our character, our inner and true self, that is stronger and more resilient than we ever knew.
Dealing with the unknown
We were told, “15 days”, the “President’s plan to flatten the curve”. The reality is creeping in that it may take 60, 90 or more, days to reach the end of our pandemic journey. Even then, we hear that this virus may become a seasonal event. Unless, of course, we can find a cure for this coronavirus.
It takes special training to run a marathon. Collectively, we were barely prepared for a sprint. How do we muster the fortitude to keep going when we are frightened, tired and lonely?
Our most anxiety producing state is the unknown. Even when presented with bad news, we do better knowing that news, and are able to plan through it, rather than not knowing at all and having no way to plan for an outcome. Right now, we have little to no plan. We consume ourselves with thoughts of survival as we scramble to adapt to our new reality on a daily basis. It’s like driving in a snow blizzard with no ability to see any further than our front bumper. History, and often blind faith, calls us to believe that we will prevail as we have done in the past. We turn to human nature, the drive to survive, and the facts of history, to gird our confidence that, ultimately, all will be okay.
Perspective, thoughts, attitudes
So what choices will we make during this worldwide crisis? Will we choose to be part of the solution or will we create problems where none are needed?
Will we focus on the goodness found in the midst of our communities and nurture the sparks in our spirit that ignite our compassion, or will we dwell in fear, hostility and blame?
The internet and the media are filled with a combination of these competing perspectives. Only we can choose which of these we will allow to play in our minds, conversations and communications with the world. An attitude of gratitude will change your thoughts, and your persepctive and help to improve the thoughts, and perspectives, of others.
We all have choices to make during this pandemic. Some are sewing masks, delivering food, having birthday parades, singing & dancing, chalking messages on the sidewalks or getting groceries for their neighbors. These are the people who, in the face of adversity, hold their gratitude up for all to witness.
Others are slinging political venom, fighting over supplies in stores, hoarding, price gouging or intentionally spreading the virus. These fear-driven attitudes and behaviors are as dangerous and contagious as the coronavirus itself and, to use a time-worn cliche, ‘should be avoided like the plague’!
We all have choices to make every day. During our life with coronavirus, where will we place our energy during the pandemic? The answer lies within the conversations we have, the programs we watch and the behaviors we engage in. How will you use this time? How will you contribute to those around you? What will you learn about yourself? I invite you to emerge from this time in our lives, “better, not bitter”.
Let us find our resilience, together, by fighting to get to a better place than we were before all this started.
Look forward with vision. Allow this experience to teach us, shape us, and develop new hope for our future. Take these lessons to heart and allow yourself to be transformed as you grow through this time to a stronger self.
Stronger, together, than alone. Let’s put our hands together, one hand at a time, across America to lift her up and help her to be well again.
“United we stand, Divided we fall”.
We can do it!
If you are, or someone you know is, feeling lost, overwhelmed, depressed or in need of support during this holiday season, we at Barrington Behavioral Health and Wellness are here to help.
Dr. Denise Casey, Psy.D.
CADC, NBCCHT, ACH, CCT
Dr. Denise Casey is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a Certification in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling and a National Board Certification in Clinical Hypnosis. She is also Certified in Cognitive Therapy and has studied addictions and hypnosis at advanced levels.
Her general experience in working with young adults to seniors has equipped her to deal with a wide variety of issues. Dr. Casey is highly skilled, deeply compassionate, and presents a very casual and caring atmosphere.
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