I have to make sense out of things, it’s just part of my nature. Meaning, I think there is a reason for most things. It is difficult, in this current crisis of COVID 19, to find any meaning. Still, I had to look within at my current state and past experiences to find purpose in suffering. Bear with me.
I have been extremely calm during this crisis. Maybe unusually so, but I don’t see another way. I have always prided myself on being calm in a crisis, and I’ve been in a few. When others are losing control, I have found that I come down further because it’s calmer heads that will prevail. Please, continue to stay with me on this.
I have been transparent about a lifetime of having depression, and the past several years, anxiety. Depression has taken me to some dark tunnels in my mind. The kind of darkness that I was unsure if I would ever crawl back out of and see light again. To make sense out of my depression, I often had to find how it’s helped me in life. I will say that it has made me more empathetic toward others. I am an empath, my therapist, and more importantly my wife, have confirmed that. Being an empath can also be difficult because it makes me feel the world, both good and bad. Depression has also shown me how resilient I am. When the hopelessness is so overwhelming that I feel I am dangling from a cliff with a rocky bottom, hanging on with two fingers, something within me pulls me back up on steady ground. I keep surviving over and over and that has inevitably made me stronger and able to withstand pain.
Anxiety has also taught me a lot, more than I wish sometimes, because the suffering is real. I learned through panic attacks and generalized anxiety that I can still succeed. I can function in the midst of terror and fear. I have had panic attacks while working with students. I have been in classrooms and cafeterias where my vision is blurred, heart pounding out of my chest, face numb, and the adrenaline is filtering between my ears disorienting me to the world, and I function. Panic has visited me while driving my truck and I still make it to my destination. It has visited me while swimming or paddling in the middle of a lake, and I’ve survived and made it back to shore. Anxiety has taught me to appreciate the times when I am calm. I am more in the moment, and mindful of when I am at peace and happy. I recognize happiness and live deeply because I know that anxiety will eventually return, and I will suffer once again. We cannot have happiness without suffering. It is simply a part of life. Fighting your suffering instead of welcoming it is futile. It will only increase your pain, so accept it, breathe through it, and move on. Resilience!
I have had losses in my life. My dad, an abusive man with his own demons, took his life through a medical suicide. My best friend took his own life. My sister died suddenly one day and changed my family forever. Another friend, a like soul in many ways, took his life by police. My father-in-law died way too soon. He was more of a father to me than my own, and to watch my wife suffer after his loss was the greatest pain. My dog, Payton, died after he got bone cancer. His loss hit me harder than any human loss I have known. This is no disrespect to anyone of the people in my life that have died, and because they knew me they would understand. Losing that dog ripped my heart out and shortly after, my world turned to constant panic. What have I learned through all of this loss? To love life! I live for the moment and want to experience the world. Experiencing death makes me want to be a survivor and have a meaningful life. Yes, loss is difficult but so is giving up.
During this current time, when I see many people suffering, I can’t help but to be calm. I am this way because I am hearing and seeing people become anxious about things that are out of their control, and I refuse to lose control. People are asking a lot of “what if” questions, and that is never helpful because life will then become a guessing game. I see some frantically hoarding food and items to clean their backsides, and they are thinking selfishly about their wants. I say “wants” because it is not all “needs” that they are after. If we started to think about others and have empathy, we would all get our needs taken care of ahead of everyone’s wants. When people get into this state of panic they stop thinking rationally, and they stop thinking of others. I have said that we should all pay attention during this time because people are revealing their true selves. Their character is showing, and you should pay attention because you will know them and their ideals after this crisis is over. Keep in mind that this is the anomaly.
On the other side is hope. There will come a time when this crisis is over and it will be because people have pulled together. A global crisis will give rise to the good in people and we will come together more than ever and stand strong side-by-side. We will find that the world is more connected than ever and together we will get through this. I just hope our memory is not short term and that we do not return to old ways of destroying our environment and one another. I have hope.
Yes, I am scared and worried about my family, friends, pets, coworkers, students, and the world in general. However, I will not let my worry cripple me or lead to acting on things that I cannot control. What I can control is my response, which is how I have survived this far with any suffering that I have endured. My response is to listen to the experts (social distancing, staying at home when I can, etc.), take care of my mind and body, and be there when others need me.
I hope that this piece of writing finds you well and safe. I hope that you will accept and embrace your suffering because it is a part of living, and realize that happiness will return. Build resilience and cope with your fear. I have hope for all of us!
This is from my book, Everything That Makes Us Feel, that will be published soon after I get through my second round of edits. I thought it was appropriate.
Sometimes our paths were altered to give us a new one to follow. Destiny wasn’t for the blind or weary. You had to look for it.