Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it did. Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. We lost a feminist, civil rights leader and icon of badass perseverance. And gained a glaring open seat on the Supreme Court. My hope for a better tomorrow vanished. I was sliding faster down a depressing slide into the pits of despair. I explained my feeling of loss over a salmon dinner I made for the family. Then, that very salmon gave us all food poisoning. Apparently, things could get even more worse.
As I cleaned up the kids’ puke while ignoring my own stomach pains, a Gollum like creature appeared in my brain. “Come, my precious…” it said. “Give up on life. You’re no match for it. There’s no hope.”
I could give up and slide further down the dark hole, letting helplessness overcome me. Or, I could crawl back up. My daughter likes to walk up steep slides at the playground. Why can’t I do the same with my life?
Finding hope and happiness isn’t easy right now. But for my kids’ sake and for our country’s sake I have to. Afterall, I must stay alive to vote in November. Food poisoning -you’re just an inconvenient distraction.
Here’s how I plan to pull myself up from the bathroom floor and, perhaps, how you can too.
Lets’s collectively get out of the pit that is 2020.
HELPTRAINING. Help implies we can’t do things on our own. We can- we just need a coach to get there. Let’s treat our mental health like our physical health. Coaches (aka therapists) help us work out our mind to concoct more positive thought patterns. At the bottom of this blog are mental health hotlines. I call this ‘sprint training’. I’m currently navigating my health insurance for longer term training, aka therapy. I’ve also employed the technique of “phone a friend.” Although what works best for me isn’t a friend. It’s more like “Phone an acquaintance that barely knows me.” The other week, I called someone I barely knew. For some reason, spilling my guts to a near stranger felt more healing than talking to someone I intimately knew. I could ugly cry without her thinking it ugly. It helped.
WRITE IT OUT. “By writing you will find your truth,” a mentor told me. I wrote blogs, yes, but I needed to write for NON publication. I journaled to get the mess out, understand myself, and see my own patterns. I started to pull apart what was real, what was my imagination, and find my next steps. I made commitments in my writing. And commitments are what will get me out of this world alive.
FOCUS OUTWARD. When we become depressed, we turn inward. Many times we fall back into the hole. Focusing on other people or other causes is like extending an arm so the world can pull us out. Volunteering with those less fortunate connects you to humanity. Volunteering for causes connects you to greater meaning, There are a LOT of ways to volunteer right now. Getting out the vote, delivering groceries, manning mental health hotlines. According to some research, a focusing on meaning rather than fleeting happiness, has much greater physical health benefits too.
4. GET OUTDOORS.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.John Burroughs.
Nature is healing. The world is amazing if we find the time to pay attention to it. Watch the caterpillar crawl along the leaf or the squirrel dart up a branch. There is a whole world happening around us! When I get outdoors under tall pine trees, I feel insignificant. Which makes my fears insignificant. In a good way. Next weekend, assuming good air quality, I’m hoping to take my (almost) three year old up to Tahoe. We’ll get outside, focus outward, and avoid eating salmon.
5. FIND WHAT MATTERS AND DEFINES YOU. And double down on it. Whether it’s politics, health, art, writing, your children… pick your uniquely you focus and hold onto it like your life line. Writing has become my savior. What’s yours?
Lastly, take a deep breath. 2020 will end. A new year will begin. How can we prepare for it? What can we do now to ensure it won’t get us down, but rather, help us take off? How might we leverage this hard time to become stronger?
“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 1933-2020
Mental Help Hotlines
SAMHSA’s (Mental Help or Substance Abuse Treatment) Help National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Samaritans: (877) 870-4673 (HOPE) (offers emotional support to anyone who calls feeling lonely, depressed, suicidal, or just are looking for someone to talk to).