This weekly column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
This week has been horrendous as there have been many suicides within our community as well as other destructive behaviors related to emotional stress. I'm a bit confused, as for the first time in a year, there is information that the world may be making progress in containing the pandemic, elections are over and even the fact that spring is around the corner would seem that people would have more hope for a better future. Why does the emotional news seemed to be showing the opposite?
Thank you for sharing your insight into the world of hope and despair, which can dance with one another at the same time. This discrepancy is real and common within change, especially in a time that there has been a long-lasting dark cloud of suppression and sadness that has loomed over the world with COVID-19. The pandemic increased exponentially over the last year, with the unknown constantly pressing on the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being of each person.
The KFF Health Tracking Poll found that people reported negative impacts on sleeping and eating, increase in alcohol consumption and/or substance abuse, worsening in those with chronic conditions due to stress, and an increase in isolation, loss of purpose and loss of jobs. From January to June, 2019, 11 percent of average adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, while in January of 2021, this increased to 41 percent of adults reporting anxiety and depression symptoms. Young adults (ages18-24) reported increases up to 56 percent. Chronic trauma has led to trauma fatigue, where people's level of sustainability has waned, not knowing how much longer they can keep up with constant change, trying to predict the unknown, containing their fear of health and safety, and not being able to do the many social interactions that are needed for a healthy emotional life. Some recovery programs talk about not quitting five seconds before the miracle. In the last month, there has been new information and actions such as vaccinations that have given new hope for a better future and a decrease in restricted life.
Sometimes there is new energy in the middle of a depressed life from new hope. There is a dichotomy here as new energy has surfaced and yet the outer world has not caught up with the new information and change yet. This can cause a rift within your psyche as there is an incongruence with new energy and the lethargic change, causing an increase in stress as there is a pull between opposing energies of hope and futility at the same time.
Quite often suicidality and other mental health behaviors increase as more energy is needed to follow through with actions. With energy and lethargy caught in a tug-of-war, this is a time to reach out for support, have self-care and find ways to get support in the four quadrants of health: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. During this lap of hope, we can head into new beginnings and freedoms slowly and safely, re-entering the world to be able to safely reconnect and break a collective isolation that has engulfed the world for over a year. This is a time to work together, try to be there for one another, and find ways to sustain independently and as a community, as we find a new baseline in order to rebuild a malleable foundation that can endure while building a better future. Let's be there for one another during this time of transition.
Until next week, I wish you health, healing and love.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com