• Catherine Hansen MD, MPH

This is hard.

Picture: Rappelling for the first time, from our tree. Just because.

Our family has remained in strict self-isolation since we received military notification on March 13, 2020 and I must admit, it’s taking its toll.

I’ve experienced every emotion I can name and some I think have yet to be identified. There’s one I’m going to call 'hopified, it’s a combination between hopeful and terrified – have you felt that too?

On any given day, I can wake up feeling deep gratitude for health, safety and time with my family. Then, completely out of nowhere, I open my eyes to anxiety, annoyance and a paralytic desire to pull the covers over my head and hide.

I’ve felt sad, angry, jealous and alone and, on top of those feelings, I’ve layered shame and disappointment like a truffle cake. Oh, and that reminds me, I’m craving dessert and sugar and carbs and wine in ways that make me wonder if my body has been taken over by an alcoholic insulin pump stuck on free flow.

I’ve read non-fiction self-help books, consumed a buffet of free internet courses, held enough zoom meetings to burn out my wifi and, recently, I picked up a tattered copy of Clan of the Cave Bears hoping to be inspired by fictional feminine courage. Ayla is fiction right?

Truth be told, I’m at my wits end. But then *Glennon Doyle reminds us that it is by FEELING the pain that we gain the strength to finally become ourselves. Huh? I’m feeling the pain and it makes me want to crawl out of my own skin. *Brene Brown shares that this is the first time any of us has experienced a global pandemic so it ought to feel unsettling.

Bingo – I’m unsettled. You?

As someone who has been leading a small tribe of amazing, powerful, like-minded women for many years, I’m here to openly share that this is hard. Not as hard as raising 3 kids within 18 months of each other – that was harder – but there I go comparing hard with harder like my own little internal “hardness” competition. Who’s winning? No one. This is hard. Period.

We are ALL going through our own challenges and what I’ve come to learn is that all of this is normal because none of this is normal.

All of this is hard because COVID-19 is the ultimate “leveler”. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, living in a multigenerational home or all by yourself – there are things about this experience that are happening to YOU for the very first time. And those things are HARD!

If you are living in close quarters with loved ones – well – I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to keep the peace and cherish the time.

If you are all alone – you must feel very, very lonely some of the time but thank your lucky stars that you get to isolate from the chaos, choose your own TV channels and no one cares if you smell, shower or play Candy Crush all day.

Suicide rates are up, divorce rates are expected to rise, COVID-19 deaths continue to track upward and healthcare systems are bracing for what is yet to come.

Today, I’m blessed to be able to share my story and I do so for several reasons.

Firstly, it makes me feel less alone and writing is a form of therapy for me so thank-you for reading and send me your bill.

Secondly, if I sit at my computer and appear to be busy, I won't have to do all the food prep, kitchen clean up or math help.

Thirdly, I’ve been on a deep internal journey for many years and this pandemic has pushed me to rely on tools long forgotten to regain my strength and I’m hopeful that some of those resources will serve you too.

With every uncomfortable, vulnerable cell of my body, I pray that you find something of value in these words and ideas and please share your own inside our loving community here in our private Facebook Group: Empowered Women's Circle.

What I know for sure:

1. These unprecedented times require unprecedented self-love and compassion. Use every loving gesture, promise of forgiveness and grain of optimism you can muster during these times AND use them on yourself FIRST. Fill your own tank. This fight (and it is a fight) will not be short and it will not be easy. You MUST consider your own self-care above all else because there is a really good chance that you will be needed to support others. You cannot lift others from a weakened place of self-sacrifice and exhaustion. Be good to YOU!

2. It is expected that you will feel down and out on occasion during a global pandemic (If you don’t, share your tricks in our Facebook Group). Even with the strongest foundation of inner work and Divine connection, it is normal to go through bouts of anxiety, fear, sadness or disappointment. When you do, be still. Don’t numb. Be strong enough to take what you need. Be 100% self-responsible. Create a list of the things that will get you back on your feet and know that ‘this too shall pass’. Do you need tangibles like groceries? Do you need intangibles like time? Do you need financial support? Do you need mental health resources? Do you need love? All of these things are out there but they will not be delivered unless you order them, curbside. Ask for help!

3. Plan for the future. It’s easy to get bogged down in the chaos of survival as you look after everyone else in more ways than you thought were possible. We are mothers, teachers, spouses, friends, daughters, professionals, gatekeepers, employers, employees. It seems like we are everything to everyone. One day, very soon, we will return to life “as usual”. It won’t be the same life we left, it will be different in so many ways, but we will return. Be ready. Lean into your personal desires, dreams, yearnings and goals so that, when the times comes, you will feel like you weren’t left behind. Include you in your life. Include you in your plans. Include you in your dreams.

Begin the beautiful, expansive process of co-creating a bright, optimistic, harmonious future that steadily emerges from the dust of this historic disturbance.

I assure you, you are not alone.

Love yourself, be kind to yourself, take what you need and keep your eyes focused on a future grounded in the things that really matter and you WILL get through this. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

For more resources, more dialogue, more sharing and more women surrounding you in love and reminding you of your strength – join us at our next EWC Monthly Live Event (virtual and, yes, you can attend in PJs - I do).

*Ref: I learned a lot from this Podcast with Glennon Doyle and Brene Brown - enjoy! https://brenebrown.com/podcast/glennon-doyle-brene-on-untamed/

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