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Covid Recovery: COVID19; Varients, Trauma Effects, and Recovery

Late summer, 2021

I’ve been working on this post for a while.

First a couple of month ago, when vaccines first became available.

Then, variants began to appear by and I’ve started and stopped a few times with edits

This pandemic is frustrating.

So, today, I decide to push through and write again, as I work to track this pandemic and some effects I notice.

In good frustration fashion, I started and stopped this computer 3-4 times, and the blog is continuing to want to open as if I am viewing it instead of working on it.

Now, as I begin to write, I realize the wordpress.com app has an update so I did that and waited.

(that was a very short time, so I’m able to continue to write)

I participate in trauma recovery daily. I work in trauma, as a mental health therapist who listens to stories about trauma.

I am trained and informed to be a trainer in Trauma Informed Care (TIC); and am trained and practice Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral therapy, (TF-CBT).

Recently, I completed Lane Peterson’s course and exam for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through PESI.

and

I am also living in, through, and working together with those who are trauma affected by the pandemic we are currently experiencing. The pandemic is fairly traumatic, so I’m using the word frequently.

As the pandemic began in March of 2019, the effects were quite unclear to me.

My grandmother lived through the Flu (frequently referred to as the Spanish Flu) in 1919 and talked to me about it, a little bit, when I was a kid and I would ask her about it.

‘Grandma??’ I would say, with a question in my voice to show I wanted her to answer and was pretty curious…

…..’yessss……’, she would say, again, with pleasure in her voice because she talked like that.

‘How come you were born in 1910, but graduated in 1929, but you didn’t repeat a year in school?’

That last quesiton was because those of us born in the first year of the decade (ends in ‘0’) tend to remember our birth year and others’; and, like I said, I was pretty darn curious.

She would then answer me with a little bit of laughter in her voice, a little bit of frustration, and would then again be a little bit misleading; her experience with the pandemic in 1919 was not really my busines, nor did I need to know the answer, but eventually, she told me.

‘I was ill one year, or actually; I was ill later in the year. The schools closed for the first half of the year, and then I got sick.’

So she missed a year of school, which was true; did not repeat a grade, which was also true. And I, the granddaughter of Eva and a child with lots of curiosity and questions, had my answer.

So, I moved on to different questions, different thoughts, and different experiences as I grew up to be just right about 50 years old.

2020 is also a decade year, or ends in zero. And I, as a 50 year old rising, was busy getting ready for things like creating income as a mental health therapist/writer; my children graduating from college; and preparing to make income during the time that was just prior to COVID at the group practice I am contracted with, Blank Slate Therapy. (March 2020)

Emerging and Gathering in Crowds/Groups of People

So, as we begin to get together into bigger groups, the COVID 19 virus is mutating into a more able to travel form. For those who have chosen to be vaccinated, the effects appear to be less deadly. There also tend to be some health conditions which makes the COVID experience quite a bit longer lasting, which has been termed ‘long haul COVID.

Many hospitals are filling with people who have a diagnosis of COVID, many of whom are not vaccinated, from research I am informally conducting through health providers I know.

I’m fairly certain that the cold virus has been mutating and changing like this ever since people began to work to create a vaccination to it.

I see larger crowds, as a resident in Texas, a little more often than people in some other states do.

My son who lives in Wisconsin has had a very different COVID experience than my husband or me, since Wisconsin’s mandates related to the virus have been quite different than ones we experience in Texas.

My son who lives and goes to school in Indianapolis has had a different experience as well, as on-line courses were the norm for some of his classes last year, and professors and students in his law school continue to adjust and change as they work to provide structure/course and a safe learning environment as safely as they can while learning.

Indianapolis is different as well, and the local surrounding counties and farm communities have their own cultures around how wearing masks, being vaccinated, and responding to the pandemic tends to be perceived and acted on.

When I see a crowd of people on television, I al not as surprised as other people may be, who live in an area of fewer people or different. Norms and mandates.

I haven’t been watching much television for several months due to how often the warning voices of the newscasters get my attention. I prefer an upbeat tone, with optimism in it.

Some National newscasters, or perhaps those who guide and write for them, have determined that if you use a very scary, deadly voice people will listen. I do listen, but the fear that the voice induces in me is not pleasurable

I’m noticing that working to adjust and synching back and forth from COVID is as difficult for some people as synching into it was for others.

I would guess that many of the same people struggle with synching back and forth, which is a sensitivity, and also affected by the pandemic, routine shifts, and change.

Highly Sensitive People, (HSP) and Highly Sensitive Children, coined by Elaine Aron, are more sensitive than others and tend to be more affected by routine changes, as well as smells, fabrics, medications and anything else that can be classified as a sensitivity.

Reading Elaine Aron’s books about ‘Highly Sensitive People‘ and her book about ‘Highly Sensitive Children‘ helps with understanding how sensitivities can affect parenting and ourselves.

An Example

I have gmail accounts for different purposes; and this is a complication that can be frustrating to me.

That’s a frustration that I’ve been having at times, but not quite as often as I was, during the quarantining and trauma we’re experiencing during and through this pandemic.

If I log out of my gmail that is logged into one account, I have to take some steps to show gmail that ‘I’m really me’. This causes me to experience an amount of frustration.

The computer that I’m using is particularly impacting my level of frustration, regarding Google Suites and how it affects my MacBook Pro.

The computer example is that g-suites tends to take over and decide that the email owned by me, my place of work, or the place I work on a non-profit board, is my ‘primary email’. Every time that I fairly consistently use each.

What Can You Do

We are all living through this pandemic and have had some changes in our experiences in some ways.

As we work to stay healthy, emerge to experience those all important social connections, and continue to work, parent, and exist, there are some important things to remember.

Remember that we do not all have the same values, upbringings, or set of beliefs about health; whether that be mental, physical, or how we act during and post-pandemic.

It’s important to show respect to each other, and to recognize that each of us needs a level of respect as well.

If you ask an introvert who does not enjoy seeing people in person or interacting with others all that much what they have thought of the pandemic, you may get a very different answer than from someone who is quite social and enjoys moving around and changing their scenery.

As always, we remember the value of children and their own experiences which have been affected by the pandemic; what kind of changes that have been and are still being made to their daily lives and patterns; and their own tendencies to want to be around people or to leave their homes for activities.

I hope you, your family, and your loved ones work to recover from the changes we are continuing to experience, and I hope that you stay as healthy as you are able.

Thankfulness: Thanksgiving, Tradition Changes and COVID

I’ve got to admit, Thanksgiving used to be my least favorite holiday. Here are some things I’m not really a fan of:

Turkey

waiting to eat

As a child, pitch-ins, or food I didn’t know what it was made of. I was (and am, if I’m being honest) a picky eater. If food was brought in by someone else, it was hard to know what foods that I might not like were in it.

Thanksgiving always seemed to be a time of waiting until I was really hungry, or snacking to fend off the hunger, and then not being hungry for the meal.

Then there were lots of foods prepared that I may or may not want, and the pressure to eat them. Later, there was the fact that others had a lack of interest in eating dinner because they had overeaten.

I rarely miss a meal, so that doesn’t really work for me.

Now some might say that a reason I am not a huge fan of turkey may have something to do with the amount of time my grandma cooked it. My grandma was one of the nicest, kindest, most pleasant people I have ever met. She had lots of great skills, and there are many, many things I miss about her.

Cooking a turkey? Well, I’m not going to say that was among her list of greatest talents. So for the first 16 or so years of my life, we spent Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house, with a turkey that had been cooked past its prime.

I’ve come around though.

As a kid, we talked about being thankful, and what we were thankful for. We also talked about the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians (the term Native American would come later) sitting down and eating together, recognizing that working together worked best for them. As I learned more about history, I realized that there is a little more to that story.

As an adult, I find the Thanksgiving holiday a beginning, and a time to rest and reflect.

It’s a time to start thinking about the Christmas season, which has always been a time of celebration in extra ways due to my children’s birthday being Christmas Eve.

It’s a time to have a long weekend, without a ton of traditions and hurry. We have a meal, on Thursday. For many years, we alternated spending Thanksgiving with my side of the family and my husband’s. In the past few years, our traditions have become much more fluid.

My in-laws moved out of state; my Aunt and Uncle, who had hosted Thanksgiving since my teens, both passed in the same year; my brother began hosting; and then we moved to Texas.

Then my boys had the audacity to continue to grow up, graduating from college and moving on to their next things.

This year, Thanksgiving is looking different for a lot of us.

We have a global pandemic, with recommendations to keep our gatherings to a small number of people to help avoid the spread of the virus.

Things that people have done for years and years, to indicate the Thanksgiving holiday, are changing for many of us.

For me, I will spend today with my husband and one of my sons. The three of us will eat some turkey, some pie, and several sides that I’m sure will include quite a few leftovers.

I’m looking forward to trying something new, knowing if it tastes terrible I’ll toss it and eat something else.

Today I’m thankful for the chance to sit quietly and begin the day, waiting for the sun to come up. Watching the sky lighten, I know today will be a fairly nice day. Someday I may take the sunshine and temperate weather that we get here in Texas for granted, but I’m not there yet.

I’m thankful that we have the ability to decide who to be around, and that we are not currently ill. Knowing how many families are missing members for the first time this year, and other families where people are ill or quarantined as they recover, makes me aware of how rough that is and how grateful I am for health.

I’m thankful for the chance to begin the holiday season, knowing that Christmas traditions may also look different for many of us. This Christmas season will include thinking about how to be creative, in order to spend time together in ways that may look and feel different.

I’m still wondering how all of these changes in traditions and work patterns may affect us going forward, when the pandemic does not have such a daily affect in terms of risk to our health, and is more about determining what the middle ground is for changes that we’ve made in the last year.

As you think about your holiday traditions, those that you are keeping and those that you are switching up this year, what things are you grateful for?

What do you think about, as you wake up and prepare for your day? Are you spending it similarly to previous years, or differently?

What about today do you look forward to, and what do you wish were different?

2020 has certainly been a year of changing the status quo.

Leadership: Using Empathy ‘I Hear You Saying You Are Frustrated’

So anyone who lives in the US (or really, in the world) knows that there has been a recent election in the US.

It was, or is, a very tight race, with lots of people voting for the candidates whom they feel best represent their interests, their level of comfort, and numerous other reasons that compel people to vote.

Record numbers of people have voted, which affects local races, the Senate, Congress, and the election for the next leader of our country.

As a leader, both in parenting my children and as a leader in my work environments, I tend to have a lot of opinions about characteristics of leaders and what I find useful in bringing out the work/change in others that we are working together to accomplish.

A story of when I was first hired to be a supervisor of staff:

I was 28, and my two children who were born on the same day were just about 1 years old. I had been providing mental health therapy to families who were involved with Child Protective Services, and had learned about a program called Healthy Families. A difference between Healthy Families and the work I had been doing was the timing of the intervention to assist kids who were at risk for being abused or neglected by their caregivers. The program is intended for families who have a certain level of assessed need.

Healthy Families targets families who are going to care for an infant, and has to begin within the first 3 months of the child’s life. The research has been pretty clear that children who receive prevention/protective services fare better in terms of lowering their likelihood of being abused of neglected compared to those families who do not receive that support. The criteria to qualify for services at the time period in which I was working was a pretty low amount of documented risk, and families chose to be a part of the program.

I was hired to supervise this program that was new to two of the counties in which I had been working. I was promoted from my position as home based therapist/caseworker, to Healthy Families Supervisor.

A few benefits to me were the following: I had a predictable time to finish work each day, which was generally before the day care my children attended closed; I was able to be a part of something which I truly believed in and wanted to support; and I could utilize my skills/training in mental health to supervise entry level staff. I went from being a peer to several other employees, to having no peers. I got to jump in and lead two staff who were fairly new to the company and learn with them how to implement the program. I was also able to retain just a few clients I had been meeting with for counseling and of course, continue to parent and lead my children to be functioning adults.

I noticed that utilizing empathy when a staff is feeling frustrated helped them to perform better.

If I had a staff who was stressed about trying to schedule the number of families that they were seeing, particularly taking into account the distance the families lived from each other, I could identify the emotion that the staff was feeling by naming it and then have a discussion with them about their interpretation of what could help.

Example: I hear that you are feeling frustrated about getting all of your families scheduled. It sounds like you are concerned about driving distances between each client, while you are also wanting to make sure to get them all scheduled. That must be stressful.

The above is an example of empathy. I’m verbalizing that I hear that they are frustrated, which they may have specifically stated, and I am summarizing what I am hearing that they are frustrated about. I am then stating the stress that I am interpreting that is causing them.

One difference that we have among us is that we tend to use different words to express our feelings. I might say frustrated, and the staff member may correct me and state they are not frustrated, they are irritated. Or angry, or sad about it.

Me naming the correct emotional label was less important than me indicating that I heard what they were saying, with an opportunity for them to correct me if needed.

Leading with empathy can be very effective in getting desired results both at work and in the home enviornment with parenting children.

With kids, I will give a different example, which involves my then 4 year old son.

He was hungry, or wanted to play something different, or had some sort of need.

I don’t remember specifically what we were having a disagreement about, but I do remember getting quite frustrated and raising my voice to a higher volume. I was repeating myself, and he was repeating himself, and we were not communicating well

He stopped and yelled my name:

Mom!! I get frustrated when you use that voice to yell at me!’

As you may be able to tell, he had spent four years of his life (so far) with a therapist for a mother. He wasn’t getting his needs met, which for arguments sake was a snack before dinner.

I wasn’t getting my need met, which was for him to accept that I had told him ‘no’ and to move on to something else

We both started using loud voices, which can be hard on our ears and unpleasant to hear.

When he yelled my name, I stopped and listened. He was able to express his feelings, and to name his own emotion. This story includes an ‘I-statement’ and it indicates that he was listening and hearing my loud voice.

As we all work toward having peaceful moments, I encourage you to think about how you can show empathy for others.

How can you, as someone who is hearing someone say something, indicate that you are hearing what they are saying and understand what they are saying about how they feel?

In graduate school, at the University of Cincinnati, we had a whole course on practicing reflective listening and using empathy. We practiced with each other, and it felt awkward at first.

As you are working to get your needs met and yourself heard, how do you respond when someone shows empathy to you? Do you feel more heard and listened to when the person you are speaking with names the feeling you have or reflects back what you have said?

I challenge you to work to increase the amount of empathy that you show. I encourage you to speak in ways that show the person you are talking with that you hear not just the words they are saying, but also the emotions behind it.

Phase 2, Coronavirus: Hitting our Stride and Moving Forward

We heard this spring that there may be a second wave of Coronavirus as people started to re-emerge from their homes.

Texas, which is a state with soooo many people, seems to be experiencing that at the moment.

There are a lot of debates and different opinions about why the numbers have gone up so much. There is certainly more testing than there was in March, that is clear. There are also more people who are younger contracting the virus than did initially. These younger people tend to be surviving the virus, which is a positive.

So some might ask: is it that older people are more likely to stay home and not be infected? Are young people more likely to go out in close proximity to others and catch it? Has the virus mutated and evolved to be less deadly than initially thought?

And then there is the mask controversy.

Some people, me included, have accepted that masks are a part of going out these days. Whether they protect you, or others from you, they certainly contain germs differently than not wearing a mask. Sneezing and coughing, once thought to be a part of life which could be allergies, getting over a cold, or any number of innocuous reasons, is now a part of a regime of questions you get if you go to a medical provider or appointment.

Others feel that masks are infringing on their rights. I have heard some state that they don’t believe that the Coronavirus is ‘real’. I’m not sure exactly what that means, other than that their opinion is that people’s cause of death is being attributed to the Coronavirus vs. some other reason.

Regardless of people’s opinions, people’s lives are directly affected.

Children have not been to organized school since March. They have spent time with their parents, or childcare providers, to a degree that they had not previously.

Each school system that I have read about, which includes the school systems near me (Allen ISD, McKinney ISD, and Frisco ISD, and those in Hamilton County, Indiana), have communicated that school will be held, but parents will have the choice of sending their children to school or having on-line school for their children.

This gives parents and children the ability to choose, which hopefully will reduce anxiety in children, parents and even teachers who may have smaller classrooms. I can remember after Noblesville had a school shooting in 2018, that many students were anxious about returning to school that next fall.

I had multiple parents talk with me about having their child go to online school. At that time, if a student did not attend school they could not play on a sports team. This caused a lot of stress to families who had a child who wanted to play sports but was feeling very anxious about attending school.

I’m glad that parents will have the choice whether to send their children to school or participate in online school. My guess is, many parents are hesitant to send their children to school for fear of their child contracting the Coronavirus.

For other parents, their children need to be in school, and their parents need for them to be in school.

I’ve noticed that there is a lot of variability in people’s nervousness/anxiety about contracting the virus. I think it would be interesting to know the health background of people who are more anxious vs. people who are less.

The fact that this has become a political issue seems very surprising to me.

For you, as you think about the number of people who have contracted the virus and your risk, what are some thoughts you have about how to stay safe?

What are things that are comforting to you, and what are some new restrictions that are frustrating to you and you do not find helpful?

How do you communicate to your friends and loved ones your level of need for protectiveness from contracting the virus and staying safe?

Are you someone who wants to support local businesses and tends to order carry-out food? Are you someone who is comfortable eating in a restaurant?

Have you widened your circle to beyond your house so that you can see friends and family?

I have many friends and family in Indiana, where the numbers appear to be going down, and I live in Texas, which is making national news for having higher numbers of people who have tested positive for the virus.

It is interesting to see, on social media and through talking with friends and family, the different responses that people have to the suggestions of masks and measures to take to stay safe.

I hope you stay safe today, and in the future.

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