This morning I was watching the “noise.” Which, by the way, I regularly swear off and start scanning again. One segment was all about mental health and the pandemic.
A medical doctor explained that so many people are isolated, which is impacting their mental health. He even used an analogy I often use in my Trauma Wellness classes. Only we certainly don’t use that analogy in the same way.
He talked about a broken arm and called it a disease. Well, in my mind, a broken arm is not a disease. It’s a condition—a situation. You put enough pressure on someone’s arm, and it will break. My take on this arm is that what happens after that is not a sickness. Not an illness. But your body’s natural response to a broken arm. Your arm will swell around the break. It might bruise, bend in an unusual way, and it might be challenging to move your arm.
Again, not a disease. But a condition that is a response to that break.
This is true with our minds as well. There are mental diseases. Things like Schizophrenia, like my Dad had. But feelings are not diseases.
This pandemic sucks. Sucks the big one. It’s difficult for everyone. Tragedy is around every corner for so many people. Death, loss of income, the threat of death for you or someone you love. The threat of homelessness, starvation, and so much more. Even if you have an income or still have your job, the restrictions on us all are just plain hard.
No way around it. Right now, everywhere in the world, life is complicated. That, too, is not a mental disease. COVID 19 is a disease. Our reactions to it are not.
So, back to the broken arm idea. That pain, swelling, bruising, and difficultly moving your arm is the body’s natural response to a break. Again, annoying, uncomfortable, and even irritating. But not a disease.
I always think that our bodies are beautifully made. Our responses to most things, however irritating, are the body’s way of protecting us and trying to heal from injury and even infection. Sometimes it works, and sometimes what is happening overwhelms our body’s defenses.
The same is true for our minds. Our minds are truly wondrous. Created to protect us and attempt to naturally heal from most things. Our psyche gives us our key to surviving this pandemic emotionally intact. Our feelings, thoughts, dreams, and reactions to what is going on around us are natural.
What happens, though, is most people make themselves wrong. People think they are bad for how they feel and what they believe. People harshly judge their natural reactions to the most outrageous experience most of us have had in generations.
I call this the “wrong rule.” People hurt inside themselves, and they critique themselves for feeling bad. They blame themselves for what is happening. And then they think very abusive thoughts. Like “If I was taller, shorter, fatter, thinner, prettier, more handsome, smarter, better, or just different in some way, life would be better.”
Like it’s your fault there is a pandemic! It’s not. And your reaction is normal. It’s normal to be upset in the middle of crazy time.
Doctors might need to re-set your arm, moving it around until the bones fit back together. You’ll get a cast, a sling, or something to keep it safe until your arm knits itself back together.
My Trauma Wellness approach says that what you do with your feelings will help you knit your psyche back together. Tell someone how you feel. Write down how you feel. Use art of any kind to express yourself. And keep expressing those feelings until you feel better.
Feelings are funny. Imagine trying to hold a balloon underwater. It always pops back up. But let the air out of that balloon, and you can keep it underwater just fine.
Myself, I connect with the people I care about over the telephone, social media, and zoom. We commiserate together. Sometimes we laugh at the ridiculousness of our lives. We do this like my friend and I did over our mutual cancers. And sometimes we talk about unrelated things. What we don’t do is try to fix each other. We don’t make each other wrong for what we feel and think.
Here are my disclaimers.
People under the care of a mental health professional need to follow their provider’s advice and directions. If you need extra help, tell them. That is what they are there for.
If you feel like harming yourself or someone else, please seek help. Walk into your nearest emergency room. Or you can call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255. You are worth the effort!
This has been my brief reaction to the idea that we will develop a mental disorder just because we live in crazy times. Crazy times do not make crazy people. Making ourselves wrong for how we are during this outrageousness does.
Please share your thoughts, ideas, experiences, or reactions to my writing in the comments space below. I’d love to know what you are thinking.
If you’d like to talk with me or seek Trauma Wellness Coaching, please email me at aGentleDrLaura@gmail.com or telephone me at 615-464-3791.