When Crisis Strikes, It’s Sometimes Okay Not to Be Okay
By Jennifer Love, MD
If you’re like me, scrolling through old photos is taking up a large part of your quiet time during this challenging season of social isolation. I ran across this favorite from a night of olive-oil tasting in Tuscany. I distinctly remember taking this picture, and how I felt in that moment. But when I ran across it this week, strangely enough, my heart sank.
My mind immediately saw a path leading to a dark place with no way out. The photo ignited within me a heavy feeling of hopelessness, of claustrophobia. I saw an inescapable tunnel leading to an ominous unknown end. Was it a sign of my own unspoken fears about the coronavirus pandemic? Dreaded feelings about being in self-isolation that I hadn’t even acknowledged within myself?
This experience shocked me because it was so different from how this photo had always made me feel in the past. I remember stumbling across this tunnel as I explored the tiny stone village. In the excitement of the moment, I wanted to both savor the experience by touching every old stone, and to run all the way to the end like an excited child so I could see where it would take me. It’s hard to see from this angle, but there are holes (windows) cut into the stone that offered views of the rolling hills of Tuscany bathed in the light of a nearly full moon.
I remember the feeling of history…of authenticity…that magic feeling you get when you walk a path people have walked for hundreds and hundreds of years. I imagined what it was like before the modern lighting when I suppose torches were used to light the way. Perhaps it was a secret meeting place for lovers or a spot where children played in the afternoon to escape the summer heat. I wondered whether their boisterous voices carried out of the windows and onto the vineyards where their parents worked. In this space my imagination was ignited; I felt alive, curious, excited. Happy.
The discrepancy between these two experiences, then and now, silenced me for a while. I was struck by my change in perspective. You see, during this time of social isolation, I’ve worked hard to maintain a pretty good attitude. I’m Zooming with my friends. I’m productive with work. I’m bringing flowers in from the garden. I’m FaceTiming friends and family, sleeping well, doing yoga, paying attention to the fresh ocean breezes. Even so, with all of my mindfulness, with all of my psychiatric training, with all of my support, this happened, and it happened without my noticing it. When did this start? How am I really feeling? Am I just going through the motions? Am I okay? Thus started my internal inventory of all my thoughts, feelings and emotions.
In this unprecedented time, we may not always feel okay, and that’s okay. In trying to stay busy, in trying to keep the kids occupied so they don’t glitter-glue the dogs, in cleaning up after the dogs have been glitter-glued, it’s important to take time each day to check in with yourself.
I’ve added a short mantra to my mornings, as I sleepily take the first few sips of my coffee:
Today I choose positivity.
I will breathe it in and allow it to flow from me.
I will remember the long game while playing the short.
The temporary loss of social contact will create relationships with greater life, greater passion, and longer hugs when this is over.
So today I play my part in focusing on the welfare of others, from the security of my home, for which I am grateful.
What’s your mantra for the day? Do you choose kindness? Patience? Forgiveness? Reflection? I would love to hear from you—my community—how you manage your attitude, maintain perspective, and what you do when you realize your brain has shifted. How do YOU get yours back? Comment below!
About the Author: Jennifer Love, MD, Amen Clinics Orange County, CA
Dr. Jennifer Love is board-certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine, and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Love is an award-winning researcher and international speaker, interested in the interface between cultural and spiritual factors and overall mental health. She is also suboxone certified. Dr. Love’s work focuses on restoring life balance, brain and body health, and helping her patients improve their functionality and satisfaction in life. She considers a wide range of interventions including nutraceuticals, medication, exercise, yoga, psychotherapy, and sleep/relaxation training. Her specialties include mood disorders, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, anger and irritability, behavioral addictions, co-occurring pain, and opioid dependence.
Dr. Love is the co-author of When Crisis Strikes: 5 Steps to Heal Your Brain, Body, and Life from Chronic Stress. Stay up to date by following @dr_author_jennifer_love on Instagram.
Find out more about Amen Clinics, which offers comprehensive clinical evaluations and remote therapy sessions as well as in-clinic brain scanning, by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.