As we live our lives on the brink of authoritarianism and all that entails it becomes more and more clear that we must do the small daily actions that keep us mentally and physically healthy. We will not be able to continue the important work if we don’t.
It’s been a long few years, with Covid adding a layer of challenges to our mental health. Mine surely has struggled. Immensely. The last time I felt this lost, scared, anxious, and depressed was when I was a young child after the death of my brother. Those emotions lasted my entire childhood and well into my adulthood. There were other issues as well but that loss triggered many unhealthy feelings. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered relief in the form of a loosely rolled joint. Fifty years later we understand the medicinal effects of that plant and thankfully it is legal in many states.
But the feelings of hopelessness and fear have returned and are fueled by the octane of hate, racism, and greed. Choosing to live life stoned is not an option at this stage of the game so what are we to do?
Three years ago I ended my teaching career. A friend and colleague told me to be ready, that it would take a while to settle in. Boy was she right. She told me it took her mum 5 years to settle into retirement. That sounded long to me. Now I see that she is probably spot on. I have not settled in. Thinking about this the other day I realized that it would of course take years. Ending a life that identified you is a bit more difficult that expected. At least for me. Now add the events we are living through and it is clear we need relief. Recently I had a long conversation with a teacher friend. She explained the mental health struggles of the staff and students are blatantly obvious. She said it is sad to witness and experience. It makes perfect sense. They are teaching and learning through a perfect storm and I assume they are not getting the support they need.
There are major life events that shape us and they need to be named and legitimized. Recently for me it was retirement, selling our home that we raised our children in, moving away from friends, Covid, increasing climate chaos, awareness of blatant racism, the rise of authoritarianism, and the large physical distance from my kids. Damn that’s a lot. Minimizing these events because they are not “bad enough” caused another layer of harm on my mental health. Throw in raising a family, I imagine, would add to that struggle. Trying to be brave and strong for everything that needs a brave and strong response, I have learned, is impossible. Especially if we are not taking care of ourselves. This is why our mental health care is important and that includes leaning on our communities. Something Covid makes difficult.
So what are we to do? Remember to breathe. Deeply breathe when struggling. This has more power than we may think. Revisiting the things we use to enjoy such as creating art, music, dance, nature, writing. For me, renewing my daily yoga stretches has helped immensely. We unpacked our turn table and 40+ years worth of albums (vinyl) and as I listen to them I am transported to a time when listening to music of my choice was central in my life. In other words, it feels good. Walking outside on trails always helps. We have a new dog with quite a few special needs. Being reactive around other dogs has made walking in beautiful places challenging but we manage to find spaces that feel good to be in and which work for her.
So dear friends, take care of yourself. You are loved. You are needed. And by golly you are important.
In love and solidarity,