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I am about to speak the truth or "spill the tea" as my youngest would say. My kids keep me up to speed on all of the latest “tweener” jargon.  This “tea” isn’t going to be fun to talk about, but it is time.  If you are reading this blog post, thank you.  If you are reading this and think about feeling sorry for me, don’t.  Instead, reach out to someone and do a random act of kindness, you LITERALLY never know how that random act could change that person’s day.  If you are reading this and think, what a joke.  She posts pictures of working on the farm, apple trips with her family, and all of the fun.  When I see her she is happy and smiling, etc.  Please know, I am blessed.  I have a supportive, hard-working husband.  I have two wonderful daughters. I have a great family and the best friends a girl could ever want.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have times I struggle. It also doesn’t mean there aren’t others just like me that struggle quietly. 

So, with all of that being said, here comes the “tea” or “T”  or “truth”. Today, October 10, 2020 is World Mental Health Day.  Yes, I am someone that has to work real hard on my mental health, especially since March, when my little safe world became real crazy.  I am going to talk about how Covid-19 has impacted me. My story. From my lens, not from a political lens, not from a medical background lens, but from the lens of what this virus has done to me. From the lens of someone with a chronic disease for which I take immunosuppressants, from the lens of someone that is admitting that my BMI is in the obese category, and from the lens of someone that has experienced some health “ish” that has left a lasting mark that some may call PTSD.

I will also admit that March through August wasn’t awful for me.  As I have described to others when you have a farm with animals being born in spring, your farm is primarily a small grain/hay operation, school is closed, my work as a special education consultant was virtual until schools officially ended in June, county fair happened with several restrictions, we were able to be with our friends and family outdoors, etc. life was pretty darn good.  I was in my safe space. Then it was time for school to start.  Requirements in education were changing literally by the day. Would masks be required, would schools be hybrid or face to face, should we be worried about this virus spreading quickly through the kids, etc. The uncertainty that I had kind of been able to hide from was starting to literally smack me in the face and I couldn’t hide anymore. Every time I had a scratch in my throat or a sniffle or my own children complained of something, my arms and legs would go numb and my mind would immediately begin reeling with the worst case scenario.  My heart would race, I would sweat, and the thoughts would literally not stop.  Ironically, all similar symptoms to the stupid virus, which doesn’t really help a mind that is already spinning out of control. If you aren’t someone that is super close to me you are probably reading this and shocked as hell, yes, I am someone that can hide/hold all of this together until my kids are usually in bed.  Then all hell breaks loose, which leads to interrupted or no sleep, which only worsens the cycle. My amazing husband, that knows me well, quickly recognized what was going on and prodded me to admit it was time to talk to someone.  This could have been a result of the Amazon packages arriving daily that included more masks, a finger pulse oximeter, and extra batteries for our thermometer. But I think the reality is he could see I was really struggling. (What? Don’t y’all have a machine to check your blood oxygen? Told you that anxiety messes with your mind!) 🙂

Fast forward through early September which included some of the days as I mentioned above, but they were getting fewer and far between until COVID began hitting me more personally. A co-workers father in hospice due to Covid-19, a local nursing home being greatly impacted, my best friend's husband hospitalized due to the virus, another friend's co-worker on a ventilator. I literally could not escape the fear that was consuming me.  I get it “Faith over fear”, “pray”, “we can’t live afraid”, “living like this is going to lower your immune system”, “just stop the thoughts.”  I say those things to myself, I have others say those things to me, and I literally ride the roller coaster of being tired of being afraid but also wanting to never leave our little slice of heaven so that I don’t have to fear it. I deleted most news outlets from my social media and even limited my use of Facebook to keep it out of my face.

Well, this week, I couldn’t hide my true feelings or thoughts anymore.  They came spilling out to some co-workers during a meeting and then became crippling when I discovered I was a close contact with a covid positive case last week. Yes, as I am typing this, I am currently quarantined and feeling fine (regardless of every sniffle or sneeze that my mind tries to convince me is “it”.)  I have about 5 more days of quarantine and already had a negative test so truly I think I am probably fine, but that doesn’t change my fear or the stories that run through my head.  During that interaction with co-workers this week I realized that through all of this crap of 2020 I have avoided all of the things I KNOW are good for my mental health: writing, self-care on my days off of work, and talking about this crap because I was ashamed.  Guess what?  There is no reason to be ashamed, I know with 100% truth there are other people living with anxiety, people that play the worst case scenario in their head about being hospitalized in isolation (hello, lived it), people that have experienced worse case scenarios, and people that are ashamed to admit it. 

I am here to say, it is ok to admit it.  Do not feel ashamed. There is relief and power in naming it and “Doing it afraid”.  Relief and power in reaching out to friends and family for help and relief and power in seeking help from medical doctors and therapists. 

You may be reading this and think, “She is crazy, I am not going to live my life in fear.” That is an absolute ok opinion to have. Maybe you are someone that has said, “Just stay home if you are afraid.” Sure, I get saying that, but that doesn’t pay the mortgage, farm payments, or help our mental health at all. Maybe, just maybe you are someone that hasn’t looked death in the face and wondered if you should be saying good-bye to your family from a hospital bed, maybe you don’t have underlying health conditions, and maybe you do.  Everyone has the right to feel the way they do.  I guess what I am hoping if you have stuck around to read all of this is that you realize mental health is real. It impacts real families, your neighbors, your children, your best friends.  Mental health causes REAL physical health issues, that you will probably never understand unless you experience them for yourself. Mental health needs to be talked about and cared for just as physical health does because it impacts real life human beings every single day whether there is a pandemic occurring or not. 

To wrap this long post up on World Mental Health Day, please know that someone like me doesn't want to have people tip toe around them either.  Invite your friends with anxiety places, they can choose to go or not.  Encourage them to take care of themselves! Ask them to go for a walk. Shoot them a text, drop them a card, or just be present with them. Remember those random acts of kindness I mentioned 5 minutes ago in the first paragraph?  They can change someone’s entire day!

From the gravel and (sometimes windy) road,

Jen

When was the last time you laughed? Like hardcore, belly, almost pee your pants laughed? Laughter truly is the best medicine!  If you can’t remember I challenge you to think about the company you keep and find a crowd that causes the above-mentioned kind of laughter. Why? For your own mental health during this crazy time with the coronavirus, but also because today is National Let’s Laugh Day!

Here are the other reasons why you should spend time with people that make you laugh (even if it is via FaceTime with a cup of my chai tea for now.) According to the Mayo Clinic, the short term and long term benefits are that laughter can lighten your load mentally and it can actually induce physical changes in your body. It can also:

  1. A laugh fires up and cools down your stress responses and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure.  The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  2. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation.
  3. Relieve pain-Laughter produces natural pain killers.
  4. Laughter boosts the immune system-don't we all need that right now? Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  5. Last, but not least, laughing burns calories. 

If you don’t spend time with a fun crowd here are some tips for getting in a good laugh each day.

  1. Read the good old funny pages.
  2. Watch YouTube videos about cats and cucumbers.  I love this one!
  3. Look up some funny memes, there are some SUPER creative people out there creating memes about the virus.
  4. Pull up some comedians on YouTube

We don’t laugh because we’re happy — we’re happy because we laugh. ~ William James

What makes you laugh? Any favorite jokes that you like to tell?

From the gravel road,

Jen

We had a ton of laughs at our Fondue Party, maybe you could try while your family is participating in social distancing.
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