The tulips are blooming in Washington State right now. The Orcas are in Puget Sound, swimming and feeding around the beautiful islands across the Sound from Seattle. And Jonathan, my sweet, smart bio-dad, just celebrated his seventy-seventh birthday at his home in Bellingham.
It was five years ago this weekend (Easter) that I flew up to Washington to meet Jonathan for the first time. Here is a post I wrote later that year about the experience. Back then I was calling him “Jackson” here on the blog–I was respecting his privacy at the time because I wasn’t sure how this whole “reunion” thing was going to go. For those of you who know my story or have read my book, you know by now that Jonathan is a loving and open man and he has shared his love of life with me. For those of you who haven’t yet read my book, it’s on sale right now–a good read for this time you’re stuck at home (wink).
Anyway, I had plans to be in Washington earlier this month, but the evil Covid-19 (a.k.a. the novel coronavirus) foiled my plans.
I get it. What we’re dealing with is serious. I’m doing my best to stay put at home. I’ve got a family member who is a nurse, and several friends who are in the retail grocery business–all considered “essential” workers. They’re risking their health every day they go to work. I also have family members who have lost their jobs and their income because of Covid-19 and the mandatory business closures. They are scared and stressed out about an unknown future. I’m worried about them. And then there is the illness itself. I have a couple of friends (one in California and one in Washington) who have had it. Both are recovering, thank goodness.
And what about the people among us who are more vulnerable than average? Those who have compromised immune systems due to cancer treatments or other medical issues must be extra vigilant. And the elderly have their own struggles with this pandemic. My poor mother-in-law is stuck in her assisted living facility with no visitors. She was crying on the phone today when she told us how much she misses us. She keeps asking questions about the virus . . . it’s heartbreaking!
This is a scary time for so many reasons. And yesterday, the mayor of Los Angeles announced that the stay-at-home order has been extended through May 15! This includes the social distancing, mask wearing mandates, business and park closures, etc. I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time before all of California will follow suit, along with other states and large metro areas across the country.
This is crazy. Or, I should say, I’m going crazy. I know you are, too. Let’s get real, the months-long isolation will take its toll on our mental health. How, you ask?
- increased anxiety (about health issues and financial stress)
- loneliness, boredom
- anger, frustration at the loss of personal freedoms
I’m no expert, but I’ve done a lot of reading and research on how to protect my own mental health over the years. Like a lot of us, I’ve lived with trauma and stress related to my adoption and my adoption journey. Many other non-adoption related curve-balls have been thrown my way over the years, as well. So, I’ve been to counseling. No shame in that. And I’ve learned to cope. For the most part. I still struggle. Just like everyone else.
Anxiety lives in me. Are you ever lying in bed trying to go to sleep when you realize that every muscle in your body is tense? On particularly stressful days this is me. I have to force myself to relax. Every. Single. Muscle. Or, do you mindlessly self-sooth? Are you ever just sitting reading, watching tv, or visiting with someone and you realize that you’re rocking your leg or tapping your foot and you didn’t even realize you’re doing it? That’s me too. Self-soothing is simply a behavior that has developed over time that is originally learned when a child tries to regulate their own emotional state. There are good self-soothing techniques for adults (spending time with a pet, listening to music, etc.) and there are destructive coping techniques (risky behaviors, drugs, violent behavior, cutting, etc.). I’ll be honest . . . having a cocktail or two to blur the stress sounds like a good idea to me sometimes. But let’s try to stay away from the negative stuff.
I just want to help in any way I can, so I’m going to share what I know. It’s easier said than done, and it’s probably more difficult for us adoptees, but bear with me. Here goes.
When the stress and the negative seem overwhelming, look for a glimmer of hope to keep yourself going. I’m not talking about a simple look-on-the-bright-side attitude. That would be ridiculous. It’s not that easy. You have to work for it. I’m talking about actively searching for that silver lining. Do something about it.
So, where is the silver lining about being stuck at home during this time? Here are a few suggestions.
- Getting chores done – I’m stuck at home so I should finally clean out and organize that junk room downstairs. I haven’t yet . . . but I should. I know it will feel good when I do. Silver lining.
- Learning to enjoy togetherness – I’m stuck here at home with my husband so we’re doing more stuff together. He’s newly retired, so both of us being at home together all day has been quite an adjustment. Before the lockdown, at least I could escape for some retail therapy or lunch and wine with friends. Now, we’re going on walks, watching movies together, even discussing things. It’s been (surprisingly) nice!
- More time for hobbies – I like to cook. I’m definitely getting to do that a lot while on lockdown. I’ve been experimenting with my Instant Pot and my air fryer. I realize cooking is not fun for everyone, but what about paper crafting, sewing, painting, etc.? Get your creative juices flowing!
- Catch up on reading – I’ve read 3 books in 2 weeks. One was a really great adoption memoir that I need to review here on the blog. That’s another thing–I should blog more often! Stay tuned for a book review coming soon!
The most important thing you can do to keep that silver lining in view right now is to STAY CONNECTED. We’re lucky to live in a time where technology has made it much easier to keep in touch. For starters, there are Facebook groups. There are many adoptee/adoption-centric groups, or other groups geared toward specific interests that may help you get involved and connect with like minds. And don’t forget Facetime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger for video calls, so you can meet socially online with a more intimate group of friends or relatives. And, of course, there is Zoom for larger groups.
I’m all for on-line social clubs, too. Indiana Adoptee Network has started an Adoptee Happy Hour for adoptees and those connected to adoption. The group “meets” online several times a month. You can check out IAN’s Facebook page for more information. The next #AdoptionHappyHour will be on Friday, April 17 and will feature guest speaker, Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D, author of Blue Mind, a best-selling book about the remarkable effects of water in all of its shapes and forms on our health and well-being. Dr. Nichols’ Ted Talk is on YouTube–check it out.
While staying connected is important, I also think there is nothing wrong with a little introspection, as well. Take some quiet time to assess where you are in your life. Contemplate if you’re content with who you are and what your’e doing. Be honest with yourself. There is no benefit to pretending that everything is okay if it isn’t. Adoptees are good at adapting, but move past your comfort zone and really look at your situation. If you are not happy with your professional and personal life, now might be a good time to start developing a plan or a strategy to achieve your goals. Ask for help or get a mentor. Some of us will be building a new future out of necessity after this is all over. Plan accordingly.
Unfortunately, there is going to be suffering. The goal is coping. Coping well and finding that silver lining. Share how you are coping and what silver linings you’re finding during this crazy time in the comments. And most importantly, STAY HEALTHY! Together we’ll get to the other side of this!