My husband and I have been home together for 110 days. I can count the number of times we have left our building the past three months on two hands. During this home time, this social distancing time, this “him and me” time, I have been working on myself far more than usual.
When we received the stimulus check, I signed up for virtual counseling with a counselor at BetterHelp. After two months, I decided that it was too expensive and signed up for counseling through my psychiatrist’s office. The counselor I have now works in conjunction with my primary care physician and my psychiatrist. I feel like I have a reliable treatment team in place. I feel like I made a move to do everything I can to reduce symptoms and live a life with as few difficulties as I can reasonably control.
My counselor and I have been working on techniques to lower my anxiety and ways to overcome some medical trauma I have, so I don’t panic every time I need to see a doctor. One of the techniques she is working with me on is to distance myself from my thoughts. What this is, is a way to have my thoughts have less power over my reactions and responses. So, for example, if I am anxious about going to the doctor, I say to myself, “I am having anxious thoughts about going to the doctor.” She said this technique works well for some people, but she asked me to also keep in mind that not everything works for everyone.
A few things that appear to be working well for me are deep breathing exercises ( I do these while doing my morning stretches), and I do them when I find myself tense, tight, and stressed during the day. When I am doing the deep breathing exercises during the day, I imagine tree roots growing from my body into the chair where I am sitting (a grounding exercise I learned in my mindfulness journal). If the tree roots exercise doesn’t start to relax me, I imagine I am wrapped tightly from head to foot in a blanket like we often swaddle babies. While visualizing these things, I focus on my breath and breathe as deeply as possible. Most of the time, I can slow my heart down, and feel the tension that gets all balled up in my shoulders and chest and upper arms start to fade away.
The other technique that is helping me is my writing practice. I used to write whenever I had an assignment for a magazine due, when I thought of an idea for a blog post, when I thought of a poem, or when I was working on an essay that I wanted to pitch to an editor. For the past 40 days, I have been practicing something called Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner. Every morning, I receive a video from her, and she reads a poem then gives a writing prompt. I set my timer and write for 15 minutes as fast as I can. Some days the writing is terrible (and that doesn’t matter), other days I write something I like and want to develop into a blog post, poem, or essay. My writing practice has tapped into many of my memories, and it is a safe place to write how I am feeling and thinking about current events.
We tried to open up our economy in California, but it looks like we will begin closing back down again today. The pandemic has been stressful, continually worrying about getting sick or loved ones getting sick. It has also been stressful to witness the massive division in our country over racism and even over wearing masks. Almost everything on the news is cause for intense worry and concern. These days are full of uncertainty and confusion, but I am working to make myself as strong and resilient as possible in a time when those two things seem necessary to daily survival.