By Michael Patterson, LMSW.
The last few months have tested the patience, stamina and beliefs of this nation. Stress and uncertainty has evolved through the pandemic and the recent, yet repeated systemic racism that was sparked by the death of a black man at the knee of a white police officer, and a bat in Wuhan China. The closest I can relate this too is the Vietnam War and the civil unrest that happened in the sixties and early seventies. An invisible and virtually unknown disease has changed how we interact and run our day to day lives. But I have learned from others.
And the result:
- We have changed how we look at interacting with others. You can no longer hug a friend of shake their hand. You are encouraged to keep the distance and talk through a mask.
- Face timing, texting, and other technology has helped, but it does not have the comfort and closeness of touch.
- Even though many have holed up with family, many feel alone.
- Parents had to reassess how they parent. New rules and new social challenges.
- Ideas and preconceived beliefs on what is the way things are, and the reality of the way people are treated have been challenged to a degree that many find uncomfortable.
- Anxiety over the unknown. Stress over being confined. Sadness over the losses that many have experienced. Division over how to act or follow expectations of society, and family.
- Feeling guilty or unprepared.
- Fear of reopening our society is real.
I am considered an essential mental health worker. I don’t feel essential. But this label has allowed me to keep my business going, even though it has been on a virtual platform. I have not had to suffer lost wages. I have not had to worry about paying bills or juggling childcare. However I had to adapt my therapy to help others with the unique circumstances that have come from the lockdown, and the visual of a man dying.
There have been other times in our society where the challenges would overwhelm us. There are and still will be disenfranchised cultures and groups that endure overwhelming fear and anxiety. People will still be affected by this disease for many months to come, especially if there is no vaccine on the horizon. Most will overcome, adapt and survive. But scars on the soul and the psyche do not disappear, only fade.