Thursday, May 21, 2020

Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock
The other day I was watching Governor Andrew Cuomo use his new slogan, "How are you...really?" He was explaining how he was concerned with the overall mental health crisis that has risen a lot more since the pandemic. Mental health crisis lines have gone up 30% since March, and some people who have never even struggled with panic attacks or debilitating depressive episodes are experiencing this challenge for the very first time. You have to think about the life changes that we are all facing. Transitional "life changes" that affect us mostly are, death, divorce, loss of employment, moving, loss of home and financial problems.

The COVID Reaper

Many people are on social media airing out there opinions and whatnots. Some are downplaying the virus, while not having to experience the loss of a loved one to COVID-19. Most of the same types of people don't even know one person who contracted the virus. So, they start putting these strong opinionated articles, (most conspiracy theories) that the virus is a hoax, or it's not as bad as people think. Then you have someone reading their posts, thinking---"I just lost my mother to COVID and my two colleagues at the hospital died!" The virus is real---no doubt. I just wish that when people post articles like these, they would remember the people who are grieving due to this virus. It's insensitive and careless. I get it---quarantine the sick, and let the healthy go out into society again. But the tricky thing is, COVID can be contracted from somebody who isn't even showing symptoms. In fact, today there was an article about Alabama lifting the lockdown. They had recently flattened the curve and was ready to reopen the state. Now their ICUs are once again, filled at capacity because they saw a spike in COVID cases. So, you decide what's best for you to do. The people who are grieving over their lost loved ones would say four words: "I told you so."

Future: Unemployed & Homeless

As many of us are experiencing unemployment or the loss of our small business, we're also dealing with the possibility of the loss of our ability to pay for our homes, whether you rent or own. The fear of losing your home is devastating. So many thoughts can flood your mind like, "Will I be homeless? Do I have to ask relatives to take me in? Do I have to stay at a shelter? Will I be able to rent or buy a smaller home?" When the possibility of losing your home or business takes priority in your mind, you may feel as though you had something to do with the loss, or that you didn't do enough to keep your home or business. A false sense of failure may seep into your mind, and with that, depression can quickly escalate into suicidal thoughts. And that's where some people are at right now.

Domestic Disputes & Divorces

The average family wouldn't even think about the people who are struggling with their own spouse behind closed doors, especially if one is abusive. Things can be tense as it is when both spouses are home for a long period of time. I remember when my dad retired for the first time in his life, he developed an addiction to the QVC and cooking networks. All he did was max out his credit cards on crazy cooking ware that never worked and nearly burned down the house in the beginning. I'd get a call from mom, "Oh Gawd Deb, he bought another Magic Chef and now he has 22 in the pantry." I kid you not--when I moved out of that house, we literally left his Magic Chefs inside the pantry room. I giggled and shuffled back out of there. So that's on a very minimal "can't take him anymore" case. But some people are dealing with abusive partners and cannot escape at all. Some couples are divorcing, many families are splitting apart due to the rise in tensions. Don't forget about all of the parents home schooling their children. This isn't easy at all. They can barely get their mind off how to get food on the table, no less teach their kid about algebra for the first time.

Isolation

Isolation is no joke. It can literally screw with your mind and your ability to think clearly. We're social creatures, and we need human interaction. For me, since I work from home and don't mind being a little antisocial from time to time--it wasn't all that bad the first month. But I miss having my sisters and my in laws over, I miss visiting family and going to see my friends every now and then. To be forced into isolation is a whole other story. Those who are social butterflies are in complete shock right now. In fact, I'm kind of worried about one of my friends who is so used to going out every single day to see their friends--I haven't heard from her since the pandemic and she hasn't called me back. That makes me nervous. Check on your loved ones. Keep calling until they answer. Don't be a stalker--just keep trying here and there. Depression can manifest in many ways. Sometimes people do a disappearing act, or they'll lash out in anger. Other forms of depression can mean abusing drugs and alcohol. I can't emphasize enough: check on the ones that went silent! They're not okay.

Keeping Sane During the Lockdown
(There are things I do to maintain a level of sanity.)
  1. Pray and meditate. For me, prayer is the most effective way for me to start feeling better and hopeful. Prayer is letting everything go and talking to God about all of your worries, your fears and what's deep inside your heart. Prayer is also thanking Him for everything He has provided you with. Meditation is sitting in His presence, silently. Sometimes, I can feel a wave of chills (comforting tingles) that immediately give me a feeling of peace. 
  2. Music is therapeutic. When I'm having a little anxiety, I will pick up my guitar and play for an hour or two. Sometimes, I'll just light a few candles, put on my favorite music and reminisce about good times and hope for more to come very soon. 
  3. Gratitude. Every single morning, I write down at least five things that I'm grateful for. It usually ends up being more than ten. Simple things like thanking God for running water, a roof over your head, the bed you slept in---not everyone has those provisions. Thank Him for the breath in your lungs and the ability to make it through this difficult time. 
  4. Exercise. You don't have to do a triathlon to exercise. (Certainly not for me!) Even if it's rainy, I will walk 30 minutes inside my home. I have an elongated open concept living space where I can power walk at length each side. Granted, there are no hills, but it does help me mentally. When I'm feeling ok physically, I sometimes walk the hills of my neighborhood which is a good workout too. 
  5. Go outside. Even if it's for 10-15 minutes, bring yourself to get outside of the house for a little while. The sun provides a generous amount of natural vitamin D and helps to improve our mood.
  6. Cook! One of my favorite things to do is cook, as you all know. I not only do it for my food blog, but I genuinely love to cook a healthy meal for Madelene and myself. Cooking is a form of art, and if you don't know how to cook anything, just go to Youtube and follow the instructions. Just make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy! 
  7. Watch a comedy. Find something that'll make you belly laugh. I just watched the movie, "The Wrong Missy," with David Spade. Madelene heard me howling with laughter from upstairs. I try not to watch too much TV, but when I do, it has to be a comedy or a light-hearted drama. 
  8. Stay in contact with your friends and family through video chatting. I can't stress this enough. You need to be in communication with those you were in communication with before the pandemic. This helps to improve your mood because it gives you a sense of socializing---and it is in a way, but right now, it's important to stick with it. It does remove the feeling of isolation temporarily. 
  9. Read. I'm not talking about reading some bias article from social media. I'm talking about grabbing an old fashioned book that you can physically open with pages and read the entire thing. It'll take you out of your reality and into another world. You can bring the book outside or sit on your sofa with a nice cup of chai tea and relax. I will never give up reading books with pages. Kindles and digital books never did it for me. I will never convert.
  10. Stay on a routine! Go to bed at the same time if you can and make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest immunity builders, so it's also important physically. But having a routine (no matter what is may be) will help with your general ability to not go completely insane. At night, before I go to bed, I light a few candles, and do deep breathing exercises with guided meditations from Youtube. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. 

While the suggestions above can be helpful, sometimes it's just not enough. There is a number you can call if you feel depressed or having a panic attack.

Orange County Crisis Call Center (OCCC) officially opened on April 1st, 2019 and is composed of a team of experienced and highly trained professionals. The calls are answered by clinician-staffed telephone support and outreach unit that is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-832-1200 to anyone in the county in need of emotional support or crisis intervention. This is not a suicide hotline---this is a number that you can call if you are experiencing a bad panic attack or having a mental health crisis and just need somebody to talk to. You don't have to go through this alone. There are people who truly care about you.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com
for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Pandemic Outrage

This room at Wilson High School in Pasadena was converted into a flu isolation ward during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Mark Landis)
We've all entertained the possibility of something devastating to hit the U.S. soil, no less the entire world, but I had imagined it a bit differently. If someone would've asked me before March of this year, "Something is going to wreak havoc on the entire world, including the U.S.! Millions of people will die,"---I would've instantly thought maybe a nuclear war, or some sort of terrorist attack planted in each country, in each state and in each province. The thought of some virus or plague is more science fiction than anything else, but then again, we came close with the Ebola outbreak, and it's still happening in some parts of the world. There's even a section on the CDC website on what to do if there is a "zombie apocalypse." FEMA also has a page dedicated to the "zombie apocalypse" in a more light-hearted way.

In January, when I first started seeing citizen's footages over on Twitter of the new virus in Wuhan with people just falling on the streets dying, body bags by the dozen taken into trucks and people in huge trucks disinfecting the empty streets, I thought, "Wow, that would never happen here. God help these people." It's as if we think the U.S. is invincible for some reason. We're not. We're extremely vulnerable. If 9-11 hasn't taught us anything, then we have a real problem. That tragic day hit the hearts of those who lived out in the west coast and throughout the world. And we got through it. People were actually being helpful, nice to one another and there was a sense of community. But with the Corona virus, it seems like people are dividing....politically...religiously...and personally.

The fact is, nobody (especially your average civilian) truly knows anything about this virus. I don't even think our top officials know much about it. Hospital protocols keep changing daily because they seem to find new ways of protecting their patients and themselves. New information always comes up, for instance---if you've already had COVID-19, you can get reinfected....or can you? Or, if you had COVID-19, now it's known to give strokes, blood clots and heart attacks. Some "experts" say to stay away from NSAIDS, (ibuprofen) as it seems to worsen symptoms of the virus. And some experts say it's fine. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the lockdown was only going to be two weeks. Well, two months later, we're looking at another extension, while businesses are shutting down and people are having a hard time collecting unemployment. The new update tells us that schools may not reopen in September. What will parents do? Keep homeschooling their kids? Keep sheltering in place?

Then you have your friends on social media giving their two cents. Everyone and their mother has become a virologist and scientist overnight. This is all new to us. Wearing masks in public is something we never imagined. "Oh, you're wearing your mask wrong! Don't wear a mask! Always wear a mask! Wear gloves! Don't wear gloves!" Nobody knows anything. It's all fear-based assumptions at this point. Some believe that the virus "isn't that bad," while other people are losing family members and seeing their loved ones suffer from a horrible condition. You can't even be with them in the hospital.

Do we keep the country on lockdown or do we just get out there as if nothing happened and hope for a herd immunity cure? Then you have the debate about the vaccine. Some folks believe the vaccine will be coming soon and that all will be fine. Others think it won't be anytime soon, in fact, it'll be about two years. Some religious folks feel that we are living in the end times of the Revelations in the Bible. I'm Christian as well, and feel that we are definitely close, but no one knows the hour nor day. They got through a pandemic 100 years ago, we can hopefully do it again....right? Or do we have to live with this new virus that will always be here? Will we always have to wear masks and keep a safe distance from everyone? Or will it mutate into something of a lesser scale, making it into a cold or flu-like illness (to which it is for many healthy people?)

I don't have an opinion, because there are no "secure" facts. I understand each side of the coin--whether you are for the shutdown or you're all about getting back out there and reopening your business again. Maybe I would have a stronger opinion (on each side) if my income was based on the small business that I own down the road, or if I was elderly or if I had an autoimmune disease, but I don't. I have asthma, so it does worry me, but my opinion lies somewhere in the middle with all of this.

Here's another "logic" I don't quite understand. Some people believe, that if you are healthy and want to reopen and live life again, then do it. If you are unhealthy and have a low immunity or you are elderly, then stay home. So my question is, if someone has the virus and they're not showing symptoms, then how do you know that everybody is "healthy?" But I get their point. Quarantine the sick, and let the "healthy" people out---but it's not that simple. My mind toggles around each scenario, each strong stance against this or that.

I do have a strong opinion on one thing: social media is the devil. It somehow turns people into "virologists" and "doctors," yelling and screaming their strong opinions--even public shaming others for their beliefs. People are dividing and we're becoming animalistic morons. Since literally nobody knows the facts, and I don't give a rat's ass if you're one of those conspiracy nutters---the truth is---nobody knows the truth. Is it hidden? I don't know. And guess what---neither do you. This is all new to us. We never wore masks into grocery stores or to just get gas for our cars. We never had to disinfect our steering wheels after shopping for food or stand two meters away from loved ones. So give people a break if they're doing something you don't agree with. Stop the bullshit and realize that we have so much misinformation out there---it's enough to blow our minds. We're confused and it's solely based on fear. All of our anger and public shaming on social media is based on one thing: FEAR.

Fear of what?

For some, it can be the fear of getting sick, or the fear of their loved ones, parents, grandparents and immune compromised family members getting sick.

It's also the fear of the government taking complete control. Some people fear that we are all going to be placed into FEMA camps like they did in Nazi Germany. Here's a scenario: say officials take you away from your home because you have too many people living with you, is it because they're throwing you into a FEMA camp, or is it to quarantine you into a safe facility or hospital so it'll stop the spread of the virus? Who do you trust? Many people say that history will repeat itself, and that's something I also believe in, but in this case, I also see the logic in safe quarantining.

In the beginning of this pandemic, I did have a strong opinion. I was all about the "shelter in place" for two weeks, so that the virus would go away, like we were told. But that didn't happen. For my own personal reasons, I will remain sheltered in place, just because I don't think my asthma can handle the blow, but for my seemingly health friends and family who own small businesses, I really can't give them advise, because they're losing what they worked so hard for, and also losing their homes! They can't put food on the table and at this point, everything is---UNCERTAIN, which is a scary feeling. So, should we die in fear of dying while sheltering in place? Because that's what this lockdown is doing. Or is the lockdown to save our lives, to only go out into the world to realize that our lives are now lost and homeless? If you're wealthy, you probably have nothing like that to worry about, except for a few stocks that crashed or maybe you had to sell your Bentley Continental GT Convertible. Whatever position you're in, are you completely sure that what you're going on are solely based on facts?

For now, I'm the monkey in the middle. I truly have no opinion. Also, my political views have shifted straight into the middle as well.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com
for some of her famous recipes!

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