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I feel more caught under the wheel than sitting in the driver's seat

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Today is April the 7th. It is a new day, the sun is out, I can hear the birds chirping... and I am exhausted! I went home from my job with a migraine the afternoon of February the 10th and have had daily headaches and/or migraines every day since. You would think that being home, especially with this COVID-19 pandemic, that life would somehow just be easier since I don't have to get up and go to work each day. That I would just have all the time in the world to sit on my couch, or step out in the sun, or catch up on all those never-get-to's that I save for the weekends. That does not seem to be the case. Trying to deal with these headaches & migraines, as well as all of the wide-spread joint pain, intolerance flares, medication trials, etc. is utterly and completely wiping me out :/. Not only do I have to monitor screen time (television, computer, phone), watch my diet closer than usual, make sure I take my meds on time three times every day, and make sure my body is getting enough movement without overdoing it, I also have to be vigilant about Coronavirus exposure and avoid any type of high risk exposure due to having Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This morning as I was journaling, I found myself writing, 'This is supposed to be my year not focused on health issues, not falling under financially. I am supposed to be happier, more at peace, more mindful, more productive. Mostly I just feel more caught under the wheel than sitting in the driver's seat'. And then it hit me. I bet there is an entire community out there that is dealing with feeling the same way that I feel. You may not have a migraine condition or been diagnosed with MCAS, but you may have believed this was going to be 'your' year filled to overflowing with good health, prosperity and productivity. Your new year's resolutions may have included a filled social calendar, getting in prime physical shape, saving more money, going on a grand vacation, meeting someone new and falling in love, getting out of the house for more than a grocery store run, being more committed to getting your nails and hair did... and so many other things that fall under personal, spiritual, professional, physical, mental and emotional categories. Just maybe, even being restricted to home with Stay Home Save Lives orders in place, you might be knocking some of your resolutions out of the park. But one leisurely scroll through Facebook and I can see that most of us are feeling the strain of change. This pandemic has impacted so many of us. Heck- you can't even drop by a grocery store to pick up a frozen pizza without concern of exposure to this virus that you may or may not get, or that you may or may not expose your loved ones or friends to. The threat of exposure is a very real thing, unless of course, you still sit on that island of denial telling yourself that this whole thing is nothing but a ploy to get people in a panic and to stay locked up in their houses while the government is playing hockie pockie while we are sitting with our blindfolds on. I promise you, I will not jump into a political pool. I am not even going to wade into the water- mostly because I fall into that camp that is under-educated and with the brain fog I deal with on a daily basis from having MCAS, I cannot seem to retain facts and events like those around me. So how do we get from living our normal day-to-day life... to feeling caught more under the wheel than sitting in the driver's seat of our life?

Today, all you have to do is simply type COVID-19 or Coronavirus on your search bar, and you will find yourself drowning in our world's current reality. On January 30th the outbreak was declared to be a public health emergency of international concern. By March 11th it was recognized by the WHO [World Health Organization] as a pandemic. For you WordNerds out there, Pandemic: occurring over a wide geographic area and effecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population; a pandemic outbreak of a disease. Synonyms: epidemic, pestilence, plague, affliction, ailment, contagion, infection, illness, infirmity. (Credit: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS-CoV-2]. Known prevention per the CDC includes hand washing, quarantine, and physical distancing.

On March 23rd Gov. Kate Brown issued a Stay at Home order for Oregon which restricted non-essential social and recreational gatherings of individuals outside of a home or place of residence if a distance of at least six feet between individuals cannot be maintained (Please refer to the Executive Stay Home, Save Lives Order for Oregon for a complete list of restrictions as I am just focusing on 1.a.). People violating this order can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor under 401.990 which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $1250.00 fine. When will the Stay Home, Save Lives order end? This is unknown (Credit: As of today, those restrictions were put in place just 16 days ago. And already, in just a short span of time, many of us are suffering from a case of the pandemic blues. We are feeling the effects of quarantine and social distancing. Isolation, anxiety, and depression are on the rise. Being told we are restricted from socializing has caused many of us to feel restricted from living. It is quite easy to get caught in the strong current of Stay Home, Lose Sanity than Stay Home, Save Lives. I am sure we all understand the purpose and intent of the order, it is to bring awareness (coupled with the threat of penalty) to the reality of this situation we have all found ourselves in- and not by our own choice. I am sure we all want to band together and do whatever it takes to save lives... the lives of those we love and care about, our own life, even the lives of people we don't even know. I imagine we are all feeling the blunt force of reality each time we turn on the television, open our social media feed, or talk to someone we know. The truth is, you cannot escape this current reality. We are, after all, dealing with a true pandemic.

At the start, before the full gravity of this pandemic took effect, I noticed an upswing in positive social status updates. So many people were willing, if not eager, to jump aboard the 'WE are in this together' train. Social media and the news became flooded with do-good stories of people banding together (literally & figuratively) to help their communities, to assist their neighbors, to support their local businesses, and to hold each other up mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially. Those who found themselves at home, whether by choice or by circumstance, announced plans to clean house, reorganize closets, set new goals, volunteer, get more involved, and pick up those home projects they had saved for a 'rainy day'. But as time has progressed, I have noticed that social media status updates have taken a downward turn. More and more people are becoming opinionated, judgmental, cynical, and just plain mean. The negativity is literally squashing down the positive vibes. Stress is on the rise. Depression and anxiety are increasing. Isolation has suddenly become a common term. Fear is gripping so many people. How could it not?! Instead of opening your mind and heart to a brand new day, each day, you might now find yourself having to pick sides. Do you support our current president? Do you really believe this COVID-19 thing is as real... or as dangerous, as they say it is? Are you going to choose to comply with or be committed to the Stay Home, Save Lives order? Are you going to hit Share on memes that might be considered offensive or hurtful by other people? These are, after all, valid questions.

But a much harder question to ask yourself is this, can you (or will you) choose to remain hopeful & positive despite what is going on in the world around you? And... what happens if you are struggling with all of the new restrictions, rules and guidelines and you find yourself caught up in a bad case of the pandemic blues? With the executive order(s) in place, it is understandable that you might find yourself much more isolated than you are used to. Maybe prior to this pandemic, you took advantage of getting out of the house each day just to go to work, even if you didn't especially care for your job. You may have gotten out of the house to hang out with your friends or family. You might have left the house to go shopping for new shoes, to take your kids to the park to play, to go to see a new movie that just came out, or maybe to drop in to your favorite restaurant for a date night. Whatever the case may be, you may have found your social routine come to a screeching halt, not just with the Stay Home, Save Lives order in place, but also with the very real fear of being exposed to Coronavirus just by venturing out past your own doorstep. As much as you try to not be effected by the social media squalor spouting endless complaints of 'my hair salon is closed', 'I need to get my nails done', 'can you believe I have to get my food carry-out style', 'it irks me that I can't peruse my favorite thrift stores', 'what do you mean I can't take my entire family in to shop at Walmart'... and the list goes on and on, day after day after day after day. And it wiggles it's way in there, fitting real tight between your super positive mental state and that slippery negative slope that sends you right down into a pit of depression. I know some of you are able to stand strong, determined to not let the downs of the world bring you down with it. You are filled to the brim with positivity, words of encouragement, and your smile lights up the social media realm. I applaud you if you find yourself feeling pretty rock solid when the world around you is turning into a war zone. We need positive people that want to gush hope out onto the rest of us! For those of you that are dealing with that slippery negative slope, I want you to know that you are not alone. Not for one minute! You have an entire community surrounding you that you maybe don't, or can't, see because you are letting isolation rob you of your sanity. I am going to venture to guess that there are more people dealing with the slippery slope than are dealing with a super positive mental state. And that is okay <3. It is far better to be real than to fake it.

Reflection can be a very positive tool in times of duress. For you WordNerds out there, Duress: forcible restraint or restriction; compulsion by threat. Synonyms: arm-twisting, coercion, compulsion, restraint, force, pressure (credit: Sound anything like the pandemic we find ourselves in? It can be very eye-opening and insightful to reflect back on how things were, especially how you were, prior to this pandemic. You can scroll social media for ten minutes or less and see countless admissions of boredom, rebellion, defeat, and hopelessness. People are admittedly giving up on their resolves to stick with their diets, their physical fitness routines, their date nights, their sleep schedules, their recovery journey, their self-care routines, their social connections... all in the name of this pandemic. Again, I realize that this pandemic is a very real thing, that it is impacting our daily lives whether we allow it or not. But how much power are you willing to hand over to it? I am asking myself that very question as I write this, and not just in relation to the pandemic, but to my heath condition. Do I really want to look back at this season of my life, regardless if it stretches for 6 long months or for a full year, and realize it kicked my ass to the curb- instead of allowing it to push me to grow how I am intended to through it? You know what they say about how God will bring you right back to where you started if you don't learn the lesson the first time round?! Do you really want to be brought back to that starting point of where you didn't want to be once this pandemic passes? I know I sure don't. Maybe your goal pre-pandemic was to lose 20 pounds and to fit into your favorite pair of blue jeans that have been sitting dormant in your closet for the past 10 months. You may have started strong, eating better, sticking with a fitness routine that was starting to work, you were feeling more positive and chasing away those pesky 'piece of cake' rumors from your mind. Then pandemic hit, you were told to stay home and away from other people, and suddenly that 20 pound goal turned into a 30 pound goal almost overnight. That would be enough to send you down that slippery slope of negativity into a pit of depression, just now 10 pounds heavier. What if your goal pre-pandemic was to continue to stay strong in your recovery journey to remain clean & sober, to not fall prey to retail therapy, to not allow love relationships to take you captive, to remain free from sexual addiction, to practice self-care instead of self-abuse. What if you have now lost footing, not just in your resolve, but also in your mind. If I have learned anything about addiction recovery, it is that when the going gets rough your resolve starts packing it's bags to leave. And the one responsible, the one pointing its finger, demanding that resolve pack that damn bag and leave- is your thoughts. I have heard countless testimonies and personal shares about how isolation brought someone to recovery groups... and isolation is what keeps them wanting to go back. If you have ever suffered from isolation, or used isolation as your sanity space, you will resonate with what I am sharing. Isolation can be dark, and gloomy, and restrictive, and safe. Isolation is fertile ground for relapse. Isolation can convince you that all you need is you- it can trick you into believing that you are in a safe space, that you can- and will, do this on your own. (sound familiar?). You don't need anybody to help you stay clean, sober, safe, or sane. You got this! But... ya don't. All you've got is isolation and lies. And don't go blaming this pandemic. All this pandemic has done is to give you an excuse. Its up to you if you take the bait.

The truth is, we are being told that we must social distance from others. A good friend of mine likes to spin this truth a bit, that we are dealing more with a physical distancing issue than a social distancing issue. True that. Yes, we are being asked to keep physical distance, which you might find difficult. I know I do. You may have friends and loved ones you want to see in person- and can't. Now that we have all this open time we can't even board an airplane and travel to spend time with family- or go on a mini-vaca. All of those 'rainy day' projects are left sitting for yet another rainy day after the pandemic ends when time and money might become available. Recovery groups now meet on line instead of in person, face to face. Churches have moved to online services you can view in pj's on your couch. Gyms are still taking your membership dues every month even though the gym doors have closed. Heck, you can't even go see your own doctor in person without a list of restrictions and precautions- and that is only if your doctor is willing to see you in person, otherwise all visits are being held over the phone or by video. BUT... I want to remind you that although each of things, and many more instances I didn't list, are difficult, maddening, even disappointing that you have the power and the choice to decide if you are going to let it rule you or ruin you. Isn't that exciting?! You get to decide how you choose to respond to something that is out of your control. We are all so fortunate today that we have access to cell phones, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Whatsapp, Google Hangouts, and many other options so that we can keep in touch by text, by voice, and to still see each other face to face. Twenty years ago that was not the case. We may not be able to physically touch but we can certainly stay connected socially, especially if you are home-bound. We have Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, the Disney Channel, books, board games, online learning, fitness and cooking programs... the list is endless with possibility of things to do to stay connected while we are in this quarantine. There are apps for Yoga, meditation, drawing, playing guitar, learning about astronomy. And don't forget the healing power just outside your front door if you have a lawn and flower beds to dig your hands into! Finding sanity in an insane situation is the key to keep yourself from that slippery slope of negativity that drops into a pit of depression.

I look at today as the testing ground for all that you have been through that has led up to today. Don't allow isolation to rob you of living a good life. Don't let yourself lock others out just because you can't meet in person. Don't fall prey to the addictions you have shed sweat, blood and tears to get free of. Don't give up on all of the hard work it has taken to get you to where you are today in your life. I, for one, don't want to slide down that slippery slope and find myself back where I started. That was a very painful, miserable, lonely place to be. And I spent far too many years there. I worked too damned hard to get myself free and I do not intend to hand that back over to anyone or anything, especially to a health issue or to this pandemic. My challenge to you is this, if you find yourself on that slippery slope and you have come down with a bad case of the pandemic blues, I urge you to use the tools in your healthy tool belt and not your unhealthy coping mechanisms that you allowed to serve you for far too long. Does acting out, anger, arrogance, avoidance, self blame, cheating, codependence, control, denial, gossiping, hate, impulsivity, lust, manipulation, negative thinking, neglect, perfectionism, prejudice, pride, projection, resentment, self pity, self harm, sex, worry sound familiar and soothing to you? If so, ya better check ya'self. Reflect on your progress and remind yourself that even if not easier, it is healthier to make a choice to just breathe, to check in with a friend or a sponsor, to journal, to go for a walk or step outside, to eat healthy, to put on some feel-good tunes and dance if you feel like it, to take a bath, to meditate, to start a new healthy habit, to engage in a new hobby, to read a book, to clean out your closet, to start a donation pile (this list of tools in your healthy tool belt is literally endless). With all of this extra open time on your hands, maybe now is a good time to create a vision board, or start a gratitude journal, or each day-every day write down 3 things you like about yourself (and not what you do for others). Find your passion and pray about how you might be able to use that now- while our world feels upside down. Surprise yourself!

If you happen to be someone who ends up falling back and you find yourself at the starting place where you didn't want to be, I encourage you to reach out. Let others who love and care about you, show you grace. Don't let shame keep you from getting help. You might cuss yourself for choosing relapse instead of recovery, but be encouraged. God knows exactly how many times you will fall until you don't fall anymore. And your hard climb back up, well it just might be witnessed by someone who continually falls and doesn't know they have the choice- or the help, to get free. Love the journey even if it's on your knees <3.

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