Using My Mental Health Recovery To Create Community & A New Normal
By Nancy Mercer, LCSW
I must be honest; my mental health was tested the first week or two of the #stayathome orders. I lacked energy, could not focus, did not want to connect with others—or even walk my dog (a favorite activity of mine). I felt like I was surrounded by mud and every movement required a great deal of effort. I did not have the desire or energy to put any effort into creating a new routine, or even keep up my old ones. I found myself “just going through the motions.”
Linda, a woman I work with—to help her maintain her independence—suggested that I was experiencing something like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My husband the therapist did not see it, my 92-year-old mother-in-law could not diagnose it, and my adult children were worried. It took Linda, who very gently, reminded me that two years ago I was relegated to #stayathome orders, due to a head injury.
She was right, I suffered a fall in 2018, which resulted in me hitting my head and breaking some ribs. For six months I had to “wait” for my new normal to come back, so I could work, regain my memory/focus, use the computer, feel comfortable in crowds and drive. It was a scary time; I was not sure I would be able to get back to my baseline.
In 2018 and the start of 2019 I had to rely on others to help me manage my daily activities. I was supposed to be the one “helping others.” It was humbling experience for a person who believed she was Super Woman.
When I let my guard down and accepted my limitations and challenges– this super woman learned that I was surrounded by superheroes of all shapes, sizes and walks of life. With their help I was able to get to my new normal—and was reminded about the importance of having a strong support network and using them when you need them!
Once I identified the barriers, I was re-living, I used this knowledge to begin investing in my mental health. I am hosting ZOOM activities and creating Weekly Newsletters to provide community and connections, for people in all my different social circles. Through exercise classes from Maui to hosting “Pet Talk” (a venue for pets share their thoughts about COVID-19), and opportunities for individuals to share their passions and talents like playing the piano or creating virtual computer worlds that are totally accessible—we have come together to create a “New Normal”—one where our mental health is valued, talked about and supported without judgement.
We all know our pets have feelings…and during this COVID-19 Crisis we might learn something if we take time to LISTEN and let our pets share their thoughts about #stayingathome, people wearing masks and so much handwashing. Inclusion Consultants has worked with Sammy Goldin and her cat Gaia to develop a template for you to use. The goal is to write down your pet’s perspective about what it is like to live during the COVID-19 Crisis. Feel free to fill out the Pet Pawgress Report if your pet is not comfortable writing him/herself. (Remember we don’t all use words to communicate so feel free to describe your pet’s reaction based on amount of “purrrrriiinnnnng” , “need for walks”, “food intake”, etc.
Most of all have fun!
If folks are interested in participating in events with Nancy and the other Inclusion Consultants, they can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Nancy wearing a face mask with a picture filter that says, “Stay at Home, Save Lives”)