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T-O

Perspective.

Just like opinions, we all have one.

There may be overlaps in our perspectives, but they’re all different. It doesn’t matter how well you describe what you see or feel, no one else will be able to fully get in your shoes and feel and see in the exact some way.

There have been a few times where I’ve either thought or said “2020 can go fuck itself.” As harsh as that is, that’s kind of where I was last month. In the past month though, I’ve been able to change that up a bit and mostly suggest that 2020 stays on its side of the room, while I stay on mine.

I know for many time has no meaning, or less meaning. As more “free” time “has been” was available this spring, it was hard to know what to do with yourself, especially if you typically have a commute that is longer than walking to another room in your house or apartment. Or chauffeuring children around was all of a sudden stopped.

Time became weird for many people and just because there was more “available” doesn’t mean you had to do anything with it. What was interesting to me as I talked with friends and clients, was that things we thought were mundane were actually being craved like mindlessly browsing Target or being stuck at red lights. And things people don’t usually do – they wanted to do, like, going to the mall. How often do you really do this if you’re not in high school? Did you really want to or was it the psychology of being told no.

That’s what cravings are – emotional connections and desires, thinking we can’t or shouldn’t have something makes us want it more.

With slow transitions back to a more normal routine that won’t actually feel or look like normal, I know there’s going to be a lot of thoughts and anxieties going around – more than we already had while in quarantine. Every state is unique and that will add to the media chaos. We’ll continue to compare and question and get pissed. This comes from both having and lacking understanding and education about what’s going on. We’re allowed to feel all the feels.

During quarantine, I have found myself sometimes feeling bad that I haven’t lost track of the days because I’ve still been plugging along with work and school. I also signed up for online summer courses and have been working more than ever as I started a new health coaching job along with my solo practice.

That’s not bragging, but that was my reality.

I personally thrive on deadlines and love pressure. My calendar is color-coded because that’s how I organize myself regularly. It’s symbolic and helpful. I can’t imagine you’re surprised by this.

But there were also times I found myself being manic – having a hard time turning off from whatever I was doing. This is something that is connected to anxiety and PTSD. It’s something I sometimes recognized and sometimes had pointed out to me by friends.

I’ve also found myself feeling torn about how I navigate my emotions, either dealing with them or accepting them and letting them ride their course. This is something I brought up in therapy the other week – that was interesting and since then, I’ve been having more conversations with myself – kind of talking things out.

I can accept various privileges I’ve had either inherently or because of hard work and circumstances I’ve created, but feeling bad doesn’t do a damn thing.

I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 11, I’m 31. I have two decades of looking at my bullshit, calling it out, ignoring it, boxing it up with ribbons and bows and kicking it around the room. I’ve been successful and I’ve failed, I’ve worked really hard at this. I know how influential it has been to my physical health – this is why I became a health coach. This is why I fell in love with public health.

Privilege is interesting too.

There are some privilege’s that are inherent by our appearance like our skin color, body size, our biological gender or how what gender identify/expression we can pass as. There are some that come with titles or financial status. There are some that co-exist. Regardless, it’s important to understand what privileges you have and who may not have them.

This was something I started diving a few years when I went back to school for public health. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a health coach, but I wanted to be accessible and I wanted to educate my clients. I wanted to consider barriers that are examined in medicine an apply it to health coaching. Coaching is about guiding and partnership – not dictating, which is a little different than personal training.

I know not everyone has had the privilege of not only having access to affordable (financial access) therapy in their area (geographical access), but also feeling capable of asking (emotional access) for help and actually seeing a therapist or a counselor. Then another layer – seeing one that they connect with and enjoy seeing.

For some, if they do feel capable of asking, their social circles and communities (social access) may have influenced if and how they will actually go about getting help and talking about it.

All of these are important to consider, and it’s something I think about often when I start to get down on myself. There are also things I considers when I talk to clients about their abilities to seek additional assistance outside of coaching.

You can have geographical access, financial access, but if you don’t feel like your shit matters and have emotional access to ask for help, the other barriers don’t matter.

There are times I’m more sympathetic than empathetic – I think a lot of you know this about me. It’s hard to hide. I wish things were fair and equal – I also know that’s a far fetched dream, but I can contribute in my own ways to fight and work towards it.

So things that I’ve tried to remind myself when I start to feel bad about what I do have and other don’t:

There are people who are hungry every day.

In the United States, more than 11 million children live in “food insecure” homes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, roughly 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018, which is about 14.3 million people. About 7.1% of households with children had food insecurity, which is about 2.7 million households – not individual people. Food insecurity is highest in southern states with about 12% of households being food insecure.

What can we do every day?

  • We can donate to food pantries and banks in our area to support those who need them.
  • We can reach out to organizations throughout the year – not just at the holidays – and ask about how to sponsor individuals and families that need support.
  • We can contact local school districts and see if we can support children who need food assistance because low-cost and free-meal programs may not actually reach everyone that needs them.
  • We can communicate often and loudly with legislators about increasing food access to those who are most vulnerable.
  • We can educate ourselves about what having food access actually means in our communities and face the realities that it stems from and creates.

Talking about mental health is HARD, but mental health matters every day.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5, or 47.6 million US adults experience mental illness each year and 1 in 6, or about 7.7 million US youth experience a mental health disorder each year.

In 2018, 64.1% US adults with a serious mental illness received treatment. Anxiety disorders had a prevalence of 19.1% or 48 million US adults – and there are a lot of diagnoses that can be included in this category like eating disorders, general anxiety, social anxiety.

There are so many factors that go into our ability to have these conversations. I try to normalize these conversations by being open about my personal struggles and pointing people toward resources that may help them ease into those conversations, either with themselves or eventually feeling able to reach out.

  • We can create safe spaces for our friends and family to confide in us.
  • We can reflect inward and see how our biases about our own struggles may reflect outward.
  • We can educate ourselves about what it takes to improve our mental health and how variable that can be for others.
  • We can educate ourselves in the differences in diagnoses.
  • We can be better about the language we use and how it continue to perpetuate certain stigma.

I have talked about disparities before in both of these areas. I’ve heard so many great talks, read articles – both research and journalistic that talk about them. Coronavirus is just setting those issues that have always been there on fire hoping for more attention, but also action. The NIH even wrote about it here in their blog.

As a health coach, I bust my ass to help my clients feel and be empowered to advocate for themselves in ALL areas of their lives.

During quarantine, I have worked with multiple student clients on navigating hard conversations with faculty and staff so they were supported academically. These were some of the hardest conversations that we’ve ever had because these clients felt like they weren’t more important than other students – and maybe they weren’t, but someone needed to speak up and their needs needed to be met.

I think we can all find something that is fucked about right now – how long it takes to get a test, who is considered essential and non-essential, unemployment, livable wages, education systems – these are conversations that we should be having every day.

We’re individuals, but together voices can be loud.

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