Easter Sunday is a time of resurrection, rebirth, and hope. Through her reflections, Dr. Dewey challenges us to rise up together in spirit, choose hope, happiness, and strength, for we are stronger together, and together we will rise, weather, and survive this pandemic.
Over my lifetime I have experienced stress, trauma, loss. I have felt the depths of depression, though at the time had yet to understand and be able to label what I was feeling. In the past I was lucky to have support. Those around me that rallied and realized my situation and helped me to help myself. To find my strength, my resilience, and help me crawl out of the pit to find joy and sunlight again.
Yesterday the darkness resurfaced. All of the stress from this pandemic, forced upon an already fragile, albeit also strong and resilient psyche, was too much. The feelings of anger, loss, vulnerability, helplessness, panic, and fear resurfaced. I lashed out. I blamed. I sobbed. I fell back into the pit of dread, darkness, what ifs, shackled and stuck in my swirling emotions set loose by COVID19.
I’ve experienced stress. In a sense I sometimes thrive on it. Some stress helps drive me to work harder, accomplish, plan, get things done, make decisions, meet deadlines, and empowers me as I feel needed, necessary, and certain of my course of action. I like to fix things, solve puzzles. I thrive on learning, gaining knowledge in order to chart and enact the best course of action. I love seeing my patients, listening, asking questions and interacting face to face to learn, to help, to teach, converse, understand, diagnose, and enact a course of treatment, a plan, an order to help patients heal and feel better. Even at times when there is no healing treatment or fixing, as death approaches, I am still able to be at the bedside, provide support, hold a hand, comfort, care as I was taught during my years of training and experience, in the way in which I want and need to do so.
This time, during this COVID19 pandemic, the stress is different. There is too much unknown. There is no plan, no deadline, no known course of action. There is no treatment or cure. Instead of rallying and rushing to the bedside, confronting a known enemy and exacting a learned plan, there is an unseen virus wreaking havoc, disrupting, killing, that has separated us from each other - distancing so as to survive - the exact opposite of our previously learned ways of defense.
Separated. Isolated. Alone. Dying alone physically and emotionally. Alone. Isolated. From each other. From our families, friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, therapists. We’ve not only lost our structure, routines, livelihoods, control, we’ve lost physical touch, closeness, the security of a hug, handshake, pat on the back, the reassurance of physical touch. So. Much. Loss.
Yesterday the loss was just too much, and my emotions erupted. Contained feelings from past traumas, losing my mom during my intern year of general surgery, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, the treatment of which leaves me immunocompromised and therefore more vulnerable to our invisible enemy of COVID19, the PTSD of being forced to leave my pediatric practice and patient panel of sixteen years, abruptly, and without being given the chance to tell my patients, explain, or say goodbye. The commonalities of my past traumas with our current one are strikingly similar in many ways: in the sense of loss, loss of control, loss of the ability to fix/change what’s happened; in feelings of pain, anger, despair; in the inability to change/alter the course of the inevitable truth of our present.
This COVID19 pandemic has changed all of our lives, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, forever.
So what now? Now that I’ve recognized and released my previously contained feelings, I begin again. I realize my new present “normal”. I accept it. I stop worrying about the what if’s, and act on what is, the now, the present. I act upon what I know and have learned from my past experiences: that I get to decide how best to proceed. I have a choice, and I alone hold the power of my future. We all do. We all hold within us the power of choice. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our attitude and how we react to whatever life throws at us. If I’ve learned anything in the past 50 years, it’s that our choices and our chosen attitude are ours alone.
So today, I choose to begin again. To rise to the challenges this pandemic has presented. To rise above my feelings of despair, fear, loss, worry, and to instead trust, hope, believe, and regain control of my own life and purpose. I choose to live for today, in the best way possible. To recognize what is and what might be, and to set the best course I am able in order to navigate through this pandemic.
I choose to fight, to learn, to adapt. To do all in my power to rise above my fears and face our current situation with strength, resolve, and purpose. Today I stop mourning what was, and create what might be. Today I crawl out of the pit, and begin again, with patience, with resolve, and with the knowledge that I can and will survive and make it through this massive life disruption.
Today I challenge myself to do and use what’s within my power to help others and myself weather this storm. Today I choose to believe in myself. Today I choose positivity, hope, love, joy, and to spread happiness and sunlight to others in this time of grief, unknown, stress and sorrow. I choose strength, resolve, and purpose. I choose to do whatever I can to help others, by adapting, creating, and embracing innovative and necessary change. I choose to be happy, spread hope, and survive COVID19 by embracing and participating in today. One day at a time. We will get through this pandemic. Together.