In 2020 many governments around the world implemented lockdowns. The severity and length has varied greatly from one geographic location to another, but very few people in the world completely escaped them. The results were people isolating in their homes (Stay home, Stay Safe! and Together Alone! - or is it Alone Together? I can never remember, but whichever one it is - I HATE IT. And I usually avoid the word "hate".)
People limited who they saw, how many people they saw, how often they left their homes and the world slowed down significantly.
Over a year later and things seem to be slowly heading in a healthier direction. But in that time there were families that literally stayed apart for months or even more than a year. Grandparents didn't see or hug their grandchildren and some didn't even get to meet their new grandbabies for many months after they were born.
Gyms were closed. Parks and playground were closed. Anxiety skyrocketed - of course it did! We were literally trying an experiment out on almost the entire world's population, an unprecedented event in all of humanity's existence.
Look at that graphic above. Look at what promotes each of those happiness hormones. These are the ones that jump out at me: socializing, physical touch, and helping others (oxytocin), sun exposure and nature walks (serotonin), exercise and laughing (endorphins), achieving a goal and getting enough sleep (dopamine).
Considering the restrictions that were put upon people and the habits that emerged, it is safe to say that a large part of our population has been deprived of their fair share of these "happiness hormones".
But maybe being sad in these circumstances isn't such a bad thing. "Why I'm Happy I'm Sad" explores one man's experience and why he eventually realized it was a good thing that he was sad. He says:
In essence, the last year of pandemic has taken its toll on me, and even now whenever I put on a mask, read the social distancing signs in these establishments, or listen to reminders on the radio to be safe, I become depressed or angry.
I read another blog post of a writer I follow who described her relapse with depression. I suspect most of us know someone struggling with clinical depression. She said she didn't seek help for a long time because she wasn't sure if it was just from lockdowns. Well, maybe it *is* from lockdowns and maybe you need help too! It's amazing that people are trying to rationalize and talk themselves out of lockdown induced depression by telling themselves that they are "lucky" they don't have it worse or "What are you doing to do? It's a pandemic!"
No, no, NO! It's not normal to be locked down, it's not healthy and we all need to resist the idea and push back against anyone insisting that it *is* or *should* be part of our "new" normal.
It is normal to feel sad and depressed in these circumstances though. Maybe you will get a little bit of relief realizing that it's not you, it's a messed up situation.
And then - go take a walk outside in the sun with your giggling children, stop to hug them, maybe even talk to a neighbor! Get those happiness hormones moving again!
This picture was taken a little over a year ago on March 21, 2020. It was the first weekend after the official start of lockdowns and "2 weeks to flatten the curve." I am 99% sure I didn't post any of the pictures I took that day to Facebook. I didn't post them because I felt a little scared too. It seems pretty silly now. I mean, we weren't doing anything "wrong". There were many other people at this park doing the same thing we did - getting some fresh air and exercising. It was a great way to spend time with family and blow off some stress.
I know I wasn't the only person afraid to post pictures to social media showing what they were actually doing in their lives. I talked to other friends and acquaintances later in the year who told me they felt the same way. The fear of a public scolding from people who disagreed with you about what one "should" and "should not" be doing was very strong.
I can't believe that I was scared to post this picture. I vow never again to let fear stop me from sharing something that I know is actually a positive or healthy thing and that may help others. We need to all be braver together so we can get stronger together.
How about you? Did you self-censor last year?
Yesterday I posted "How am I lucky? Let me count the ways..." and it really seemed to touch people. I am glad. It was written straight from my heart.
Today I would like to set the record a little bit straighter though. Perhaps "the record" is always shifting this way and that, never 100% true to the entirety of any person's story. I want people to know that it is not all rainbows, unicorns and fairy dust in my head. Yes, Gratitude is absolutely life changing and sometimes I am really good at it!
But over the past year an a half I have also experienced a lot of rage. Like: white-hot burning in your belly RAGE. I have felt rage over injustices, cruelty and stupidity.
The truth is that *I* was lucky, but many people were not. Yes,*my* dad got timely cancer treatment that ultimately healed him... but how many hundreds of thousands did not? Yes, *my* mom was with her father when he passed - but how many families did not have that same basic human need filled last year? How many individual's mental health suffered and declined? How many relationships were severed? How many families lost all of their support for their autistic child and were trapped in their houses, basically turning their homes - a place that is supposed to be a safe nest - into a daily living hell?
I had more than one friend tell me last year that *I* was irresponsible and dangerous for asking questions and sharing information that didn't line up with their belief system. My beliefs were compared to a person believing "drunk driving shouldn't be illegal." That's right, my beliefs are the same as saying people should just be allowed to drive around recklessly drunk and killing people willy-nilly.
I feel very loved after receiving so much beautiful feedback on what I wrote yesterday. But I don't want the moment to slip by - my main message was that millions of others suffered more and did not have the benefit of my "luck". And the large majority of those people suffered because of government overreach and lockdowns. I repeat - it was NOT a virus that caused this overwhelming suffering, it was lockdowns.
It's time to turn the tables and stand in our power. I will never agree that it is the government's place to tell us to hunker down, isolated and fearful for months on end. I look back on this year and I know that in ACTUALITY I hurt and killed NO ONE. If someone in our family was sick - we stayed home. Yes - we traveled, we visited family and friends, and we did our best to live "normally." And we were right to do so, because that is actually what is best for individual and public health. Exercise, sunshine, socializing, being with family, being PRODUCTIVE - these are human needs and rights.
But those of you who begged for the government to tell everyone how to live? You absolutely are on the side of history that killed others. You killed elderly with poor public health policy implemented by the government you begged to take over. Not only that, many died alone without their loved ones holding their hands. You killed people who were already suffering from depression and mental health issues - as lockdowns were the last push that sent them over the brink. You killed people who needed medical attention but did not receive it because they were denied or too scared to seek it. The repercussions of lockdowns are not over and will be felt for years and decades to come.
There were two things taken from me last year. Carter's treatment was the first. I can accept that fairly easily. I wasn't sure I even wanted to go down that path anyway and we're very good at meeting his needs as a family. But the second hurt. When we went to NY last summer I was denied a visit with my grandpa. He died later that year so it was my last chance to see him. That hit me hard.
Those of you still saying - well, what are you doing to do? It was a pandemic? I invite to you take a long hard look outside of your normal sources of information and open your heart and mind to asking the questions: Did lockdowns make a difference? Did mandatory mask mandates make a difference? Take this quiz and I think you may be surprised at the conclusions you come to.
Yes, I have felt rage. But I know that rage is not healthy or sustainable. So I let it flow through me and pass. And I do things that nourish my soul, like go to a spray park where Carter runs around for 2 hours while I get to sit and talk with other adults! I go on walks twice daily with my steadfast partner in life. I talk to my mom on the phone every morning and FaceTime with my sister each week. And I make plans for the future... plans to travel, to take classes, to visit family.
I am ready to move on from the rage. But that takes a perspective shift and a lot of letting go. Gratitude helps me get there. I do not plan on rehashing this much more - I know what I believe and most people are now set in their beliefs. If you are ready to move on also, I hope you'll join me.
In 2020, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in January. In February we got an official confirmation that Carter is on the Autism spectrum. In March the whole world locked down. In April a long time, very close friend unfriended me without a word. She did this not only on Facebook but also in the flesh, which became clearer with each passing month. In June my grandpa was hospitalized and kept for a month with no visitors allowed. Even though he had virtually no symptoms, he kept testing positive for COVID. It was a long, hard month. In November we decided to put our house up for rent. In December my grandfather died, of old age.
In 2021, we moved to Florida on January 18th. I texted one of my best friends on January 19th to let her know we made it, and she texted the sweetest words back. This soul sister of mine ended her life 3 days later on January 22nd. Not knowing, I texted her on Monday January 25th. She didn't respond, and I didn't think much of it - it wasn't unusual for her not to reply right away. I found out she died on Thursday, January 28th - almost a week later - when I opened Facebook. I saw her mom had friended me and went to her wall. There, my friend’s beautiful smile stared at me from her obituary.
So, you may be wondering - why did I name this post "How am I lucky? Let me count the ways..." (Yes, the title is a hat tip to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a great poet that was the topic of one of my high school term papers. Also, I'm pretty sure my dad once wrote out her poem "How do I love thee?" in a love note to my mom. Ah, sweet, young, romantic love!)
Well, the truth is that I have been extremely lucky and I count the ways every day. I am lucky that my dad was diagnosed pre-lockdown so that he started treatments in a timely fashion. He was already well into his treatment plan when lockdowns started. Thank god. Many people were not so lucky.
I am lucky that our parenting journey uniquely prepared us to love, accept and support Carter in his unusual developmental path. The week of lockdowns was supposed to be his first in a program specifically for Autistic kids. He never started that program. I am lucky that I did not depend on it for sanity and support. Many families were not so lucky.
When lockdowns hit, our family was able to hunker down at home easily- we were used to it! The kids and I have been together every day for their whole lives, so nothing new there. Our big kids are the best of friends and we unschool so we had no added stress to our lives. Many kids were not so lucky.
When my friend cut me off, she gave me a gift and I am very grateful. Now I am lucky enough to have a deep understanding that it is ALWAYS best to be 100% myself. Those who stick by me when I do that, are true friends. I am so lucky that this confidence led me to find so many amazing new friends. Many women are not so lucky.
When my grandfather went into the hospital we were extremely lucky that my sister-in- law worked in the hospital where he was, and she checked in on him for us often. We were able to FaceTime with him and have someone in there looking out for him and facilitating communication. I was lucky enough to have many phone conversations with my grandfather and I got creative - singing and playing my guitar for him, reading to him, describing to him the foods he would be able to eat when he got out of the hospital (oh, how he loved that!) Many elderly people were not so lucky.
I am lucky that my husband and I have been on the same page throughout this whole rollercoaster ride. I am lucky that we explored many different ideas together about where we want to go with our family. I am lucky that he can work from home. I am lucky that our house easily rented when we decided to move to Florida. Many couples were not so lucky.
I am lucky that my grandfather did get out of the hospital in the summer and had more time to make memories with his family. He played golf only a couple of months before he died at the ripe age of 96! What a life he had! I am so grateful my mom was by his side when he passed. Many daughters were not so lucky.
I am so lucky to have spent the winter basking in the Florida sun and spending as much time as possible with my parents - soaking up the time my kids got together with their grandparents. Many grandchildren were not so lucky.
As for my soul-sister? I am beyond blessed to have known her and had her spirit touch my life. I am lucky that I was surrounded by love as I grieved her death. I am lucky for all the lessons I learned from her - especially one of her parting gifts, a beautiful philosophy of how I want to live my life. I am so lucky to be following this lesson the best I can and how powerfully it is impacting my life. Many souls are not so lucky.
Yes, life has been extremely challenging for the past year and a half. But all I can see looking back is just how lucky I am.
In January of 2020 our family received news that we all dread. My dad was diagnosed with cancer. He started feeling unwell right around Thanksgiving and had a couple of appointments, including a scan, before Christmas. The scan gave enough information that we all kind of knew what was coming. But that didn't make the official diagnosis in January any easier to hear.
My husband and I had been taking high doses of Vitamin C for 2-3 years at that time. My mom had started to take a daily dose herself. My dad hadn't been as convinced, but when I asked if he was open to the idea of getting high dose intravenous treatments he agreed immediately! In fact, he dove in headfirst finding a place where he could receive infusions and researching himself. Good fortune had me in Florida visiting when we had his first appointment there. My mom and I went with him and met the woman who runs the clinic.
The picture above was taken the week we all gathered for our family visit in Florida. My dad has lost a lot of weight but was feeling pretty good. He started taking high doses of Vitamin C orally back when he first started having symptoms in the fall. That helped him feel better long before he started any formal treatments. That week was bittersweet. We were all so happy and grateful to be together, but of course we were all worried about the unknown future. There were many tears shed when we said goodbye. Dad was set to begin his chemo and vitamin C treatments the next week. I tearfully told dad how PROUD I was of him for trying something outside of the "box". His oncologist was not being exactly supportive of him doing Vitamin C, but he was going forward with it anyway. I told him, "It's going to work. You have to believe and keep your spirits up! It's so important!" He said, "We'll get it done." Oh man, we were a mess!
Fast forward 3 months and we received just about the best possible news. Two out of the three lymph nodes they were tracking had decreased so much in size they were back in the normal range! The third was also down by a significant amount. Altogether the improvement measured about 90%. The Doctor said she was expecting a 30% improvement AT THE MOST. Yet, when my dad mentioned that he had been getting 100 g of Vitamin C intravenously twice a week, she was ambivalent at best and mentioned how it can "interfere" with the chemo! It's difficult to understand that statement, when she herself already said he was doing much better than she expected!
Needless to say, we are thrilled and just want to share our story. There are many, many stories like his being shared! Throughout the first 3 months of treatment, everyone was amazed at how amazingly well Dad was doing! He had virtually zero side effect from chemo, continued to exercise regularly (golf, walks, even pickle ball! and the occasional swim). His weight came back up a bit and stabilized, his appetite was good, and he generally felt as healthy as ever! He will be continuing his treatment plan of chemo and vitamin C and we expect to see continued improvement.
Post Script: I originally wrote this post over a year ago. After one more round of chemo + vitamin C infusions my dad was in in remission. He is doing so great!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.