Stuck at Home or Safe at Home? Dialectical Dilemmas in Quarantine

I saw this image show up on the feed of another therapist friend. (Shout out to Brian at @Welcome_connections in Collingswood!) I liked the image of course, because I could resonate with the need of a reframe.

When everyone asks how I’m doing amidst the coronavirus quarantine, I usually respond “doing okay”. I mean, I am doing okay. I’m at home and I’m safe. The practice is going on week three of telehealth, and I’m glad we can still be a support to our community, especially now. So in that regard, yes, I’m okay. I know things could be worse. Though what about the times when comparatively speaking, it IS worse? Seems like a global pandemic is worth the consideration.

The reality is I have a range of emotions throughout the day. The general pattern is waking up and turning on CNN to see if I missed anything I need to know. So the mornings aren’t the best. I feel anxiety, worry, sometimes panic. I go into problem solving scenarios in my brain for the worst-case scenarios. This is coping ahead, isn’t it? I learned that I needed to contain the news watching in the morning, and not have it on all day, because that oddly wasn’t decreasing my anxiety and feelings of doom and gloom.

The process of “tuning out” I suppose is helping me to “tune in”. Some days I forget we are on quarantine mode actually, and I feel quite happy, hopeful and grateful. I remember when I was wanting more maternity leave time with my husband, and wishing I had more help throughout the day-and right now I have both with him and my mom quarantined up in our space. I think of how much more of us my son is getting, and my dogs have waited so long for times like these. In these moments, I remember that THIS won’t last forever in both ways-the pandemic and the lack of normalcy feeling, that will go away, meaning this special time at home and the gratitude around that will go away as well.

Throughout the days I connect with friends, family, clients and co-workers. I learn about how they are being impacted. I am sad, angry and afraid when I hear they have lost their jobs, that they had to cancel their shower and postpone their wedding. Or that they had their baby without the support of their parents. Oh, and probably the toughest one was not being able to go hug my friend as her mom passed away, and she isn’t able to plan for her funeral. The social distancing felt really strong then.

And then there are the additional calls throughout the day, the Facetime calls that are regular that I never made before. Mostly to our parents so they can see the baby, but also with my siblings, my cousins, friends and other family members. I think of all of the times I was so busy and couldn’t get together with them for various reasons, and how simple it became to hop on a facetime call to connect. Last night my friends from high school and I had a virtual happy hour. We had been trying to schedule something in person for months, and then we were able to align all seven of our schedules in an instant-and from the comfort of our own couches. With enough time for me to still hang with my husband and watch a few shows together before bed. This doesn’t seem to happen in non-quarantine times.

So, this is where I sit. Somewhere in the middle of hunkering down on “end of days” planning and holding out on hope. Being pissed and being thankful and trying my best to embrace both of these sides with some patience and grace. This is what we mean when we (DBT therapists) talk about the dialectic of acceptance and change. Each day I’m working to plan and adjust, adapt as much as possible. That’s the change. At the same time, I’m aware of my need to take in the reality of each day. To accept the uncertainty that is hitting me each morning when I turn the news on and when my worries get the best of me. For now, this is the best I can do. And it’s ok if that’s the same for you, too.

Continued thoughts and prayers to you and your people in this time. Can’t wait until it’s safe to see you all again in person.

P.S.-In efforts to continue to find new ways to cope with COVID-19, we are hosting a list of tasks to do during the month of April. Follow us on Instagram @dbtofsouthjersey and join us. Tag us so we can follow along with you as well.

P.P.S. (I realize these are “extra” but the little things make me happy)-Here are some meditations that may help with the uncertainty and anxiety happening right now. Enjoy.

Paired Muscle Relaxation

Anxious AF – Grounding for Uncertainty

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