Can you feel it? That pressure that is crushing your soul every single day? The constant, underlying tension that never goes away?
The stress this pandemic is causing for individuals with disabilities and their families is relentless.
Parents and caregivers are staring down the barrel of another chaotic school year. Schools are launching distance, hybrid, and modified learning plans with no clear answers for how accommodations will be made for students receiving special education services. The fast approaching fall feels ominous.
This is hard for everyone, but as journalist Richard Engel highlighted in his recent editorial; if you’re impacted by disability – this is hitting you exponentially harder.
There are no easy answers. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.
Right now, not only is it OK to admit that you’re not OK – it is critical that you recognize it.
The Center for Family Involvement’s mental health specialist Patrice Beard stresses, “Too often we just keep pushing through like everything is ok. It’s important to acknowledge the turbulence we’re experiencing in our lives right now; and it’s a lot.”
That recognition that this is a lot happened to me during a June well visit. We always put others first, but after 3 years of not seeing a general practitioner, I made an appointment for a physical. In the regular paperwork was a simple mental health questionnaire. I filled it out honestly, thinking nothing of it. We’re all stressed right now. I came to make sure my cholesterol was good, not my mind.
That questionnaire trigged questions though, which led to a 45-minute conversation about mental health. The doctor and I discussed how hard this all is, being everything to everyone right now. How nothing is normal. How feeling anxious all of the time is not OK.
The depression and anxiety I feel right now is situational. As such, I thought I could just power through. But the doctor pointed out that this is unprecedented. It’s not going away. How long can we power through? And why should we if it’s taking a toll?
And it is taking a toll. Not just on me, but on my family. Mothers (or the home’s primary caregiver) often set the tone for the entire home. If we’re off center, everyone feels it. Being a rock when the world is crumbling around us is nearly impossible. Feeling lethargic, irritable, and carrying a sense of dread for every day tasks was rubbing off on my children. I was crying randomly, apologizing for not being myself daily.
Along with the consultation and recommendation of my doctor, I opted to start an anti-depressant for the first time in my life. While it was a difficult decision, just making it made me feel lighter. I had been trying to feel better on my own through diet, exercise, and breathing techniques. None of it was working. Practicing self-care right now is impossible, as we literally have no time for ourselves.
I’m still not OK. But I’m better. While medication has leveled my moods and helped tremendously, it’s not magic. I’m still anxious. I’m still down. I’m still tired. But I don’t wake up with a sense of dread. I’m not as irritable. I’m not crying at the dinner table for no reason.
The pandemic is not going away any time soon; nor is the isolation, fear, frustration, anger, or chaos. We are, unfortunately, in this for the long haul. There is no shame in admitting how hard this is. We need to dig deep and see what accommodations, modifications, and interventions ALL of us need to manage this, not just our children.
As always, if you need someone to speak to, the Center for Family Involvement is here. Contact our helpline and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
Call: (877) 567-1122