It began at the end of 2019, this sense of foreboding as if something was lurking over the horizon. I couldn’t put my finger on it as I did a quick check, a life inventory. I had work that I loved, family and friends I adored, health, after years of roller coaster twists and turns that included shingles, heart attack, kidney stones, adrenal fatigue, and pneumonia and bonus… a grandbaby on the way.
I attributed it to ‘state-of-the-world-itis’ since contention and tension were escalating geo-politically and financially. I am a peace and social justice advocate and activist, who shows up, stands up, and speaks out. I noticed that people, regardless of political affiliation were being affected by the shift.
Those in my personal and professional lives were ramping up with anxiety without necessarily knowing why. My friends and I mused about it. We chalked it up to these world events. I sensed a storm was brewing.
New Year’s Eve had me in the presence of kindred spirits at the home of friends who host an annual meditation followed by a party. It as not a particularly a wild night, but it was just my speed. We talked about our roles as healers and lightworkers who had been called on to make the world a better place. Cue Kumbaya. I left after 2 a.m. feeling a sense of hope for the future.
At the end of January, my beautiful bright light grandson was born. Months earlier, my son had prophetically informed me this new leaf on our family tree would be “the center of your universe.” I pooh poohed the idea, telling him that he would be the center of their universe, not mine.
I should have trusted my son’s wisdom. This little one, now nearly four months old has me wrapped around his little finger with his beguiling smile. Up until quarantine, I was there two to three times a week to help with his care. Except for a few distanced visits, videos, pictures and Facetime, there has been no contact. I have not held this little jelly- bean since early March. For those who are reading this who are grandparents who can’t snuggle their grandchildren, you know the pain.
A few weeks after Dean was born, my son noticed that I wasn’t looking well. He pointed out the dark circles under my eyes, weight loss, and sheer exhaustion since I was nodding off holding the baby. I went to my PCP who sent me to the ER after having heart palpitations and an erratic EKG.
Turns out I was dehydrated. They sent me home and a few days later, I was back with a round of kidney stones. No admission and with the passing of another 72 hours or so, once again, I was their guest.
This time, I was admitted with a 103 fever as a result of E Coli caused by the blockage of my ureter. Four days later, I was sprung and attempted a return to my ‘normal’ routine. Enter Corona and it came to a screetching halt.
Easing into a new routine that involved home staying rather than homecoming, I still felt ill. Long story short, it turns out that I have a hiatal hernia which causes poor appetite, but no other sickness and to date have lost 40 lbs. I still experience fatigue and nausea. That I attribute to several factors.
I am an empath. It goes beyond empathy and into a realm of feeling what others are experiencing. I am one of those who can take the temperature of a room when I walk in and sometimes pick up the energy.
Dr. Judith Orloff, author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” created a quiz to assist folks in determining if they fall into that category. As I perused it, I found myself checking off each item. Although I am indeed a social butterfly/people person, I have noticed in the past few years, that I do need some alone time to push the reset button. I can be in crowds and get juiced by the positive energy and then need to retreat a bit; not isolate, but rather, regenerate. Naps help greatly. Since the quarantine I am doing more of that of necessity.
Vicarious Traumatization in Play
I am now offering telehealth sessions with patients who are in the same emotional soup as every other person on the planet unless they are Zen masters. Likely even they, being human, have their moments.
The term, vicarious traumatization comes into play here. Imagine hearing story after story of pain and loss, of trauma and tragedy. Anyone with a heart and even a wee bit of compassion would be affected. Imagine doing this work five days a week, eight hours a day under ‘normal’ circumstances and then multiply it 100-fold in the midst of the Corona-crisis.
I do my best to prepare myself for what might feel like an emotional onslaught each time I begin a session. In between, I get up from my dining room table which has become my makeshift desk and adjourn to my living room/gym where I do a few minutes of yoga and push ups using a rubber exercise ball. That helps me to push the reset button so I can re-immerse in professional mode.
Try as I might not to watch the news reports filled to overflowing with gloom and doom information, the messages sneak in. I tuned in briefly to Rachel Maddow and Chris Cuomo this week. It is like an accident that you can’t look away from and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Hearing the uptick in the numbers of people impacted by the virus is not conducive to good health, nor does it change my behavior. I am just as cautious as I had been a month ago. I mostly stay home and on the rare occasions I emerge from the cocoon, I wear a mask and when I come home, wash my hands thoroughly and spray my shoes with Lysol and leave them at the front door.
When I view reports of the impact of the virus and the likelihood of extended quarantine, I can feel my gut twisting. I am reminded of the wise words of my Reiki teacher who used to advise us, “If it’s not mine, I release it.” These days, it is sometimes hard to discern what truly is mine and what hitchhikers I am unwittingly picking up.
Tools to Alleviate Distress
Tools that I have been using that help alleviate some of my distress:
Literally shaking off the feelings
Imagining when showering that negativity is flowing off of me and down the drain
Visualizing a protective shield around me
Come friends, it’s not too late to seek a newer world.― Alfred Lord Tennyson