The news seems to get more intense every three hours. I woke up to news that the gyms were closed. And as I prepared to adapt to the kids doing school from home, the news came out that certain cities in the United States are on complete lockdown. I continue seeing clients (from a distance or on video chat), and I’m hearing reports about grocery stores only letting 25 people in at a time, and small business worried about being shut down and being unable to last. It is downright frightening.
But most of my heart goes out to the lonely. Everyone on this planet has struggles and problems. Those problems existed the day before all of this happened, and they were intensified by the news of social distancing and the impact on the planet.
Some problems are frustrations but ultimately of little impact. People had to cancel vacations, alter plans, or temporarily withdrawn from budding relationships. Others are growing stir-crazy or don’t like the people they live with. These issues can certainly get worse.
When I begin feeling isolated, I take time to visualize the elderly living alone. People isolated in tiny cruise ship rooms and unable to leave due to quarantine. Men and women told to stay in their prison cells. This affects all of us.
Then there are those with more extreme struggles. The woman struggling with the cancer diagnosis. The man who just found out his wife has been cheating on him. The woman taking care of her elderly mother. The man wrestling with deep and abiding chronic pain. The child that feels unsafe in her own home. The woman ready to give birth any day. The man who was already struggling with crippling depression and suicidal thoughts. The woman who just lost a son tragically in a car accident one week ago. The man facing bankruptcy.
Each and every human is going to struggle with isolation and depression in some measure over the coming weeks. This is going to shift routines and impact financial wellness. Travel and social gatherings are restricted. People will be working from home. And for many, depression is going to be a harsh reality.
For those who are going to struggle, let me offer two major pieces of advice, one that should feel like a big hug, and one that should feel like a small but swift kick.
First, sadness is normal in times like these. Struggle is real and you are not alone in that struggle, nor are you fully responsible. It just is what is. It’s painful, and isolation can further depression, and it can open up old wounds, the parts of us that ache from long ago. It’s okay to grieve, to hurt, to feel that pain. It’s okay to ask for help as you move through this. It’s okay to struggle to find the light sometimes. But the light is there. Routine and consistency are going to be crucial during this time of struggle. Find the good things and hold on to them tightly. So many people out there are wiling to be there for you. Depression is a real force, as is loneliness.
Second, you have to be responsible for you. Your pain is internal and asking for help during this time is going to be crucial. You are responsible for your decisions. Drinking yourself to sleep, numbing your pain with drugs, locking yourself inside and never venturing outward–these things are guaranteed to make the pain worse. You have to take responsibility and work to better your situation. The food you eat, the way you exercise, the people you associate with, and how you spend your time are things that are in your control. Be there for yourself, be there for others, and then appreciate when others are there for you as well.
Loneliness is real. And it is a sign of depression. Think of those people in your life who need you, a little extra love and support. Arrange check-ins and phone calls. Help when you can in what ways you can. I believe it is in times of pain and struggle that the best of humanity can show up. The ways we reach out to each other, and to this struggling planet, during these times, can make all the difference in the world for someone. And do this every day. Being there for others makes us less lonely, and it helps them as well.
And as far as those personal struggles you are wrestling with, well, things don’t change overnight, but they do change incrementally a little at a time. Practice healthy habits, now more than ever.
We need each other. You aren’t alone, even when physically alone. I’m here. We’re all here. And we are all going through this together.
When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm is a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the storm, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.
You’ll never walk alone.