We're all back to normal, so things are great, right? Well, they're supposed to be, aren't they?
I really don't want to be the one to bring it up. I, like most of you I'm guessing, want nothing more than to forget about the two and half years of madness and sickness and fear and yet more madness.
But it happened. A lot happened.
We were afraid and had to wear masks and do or not do things against our will and better judgment. We disagreed with each other. Sometimes heatedly. We were isolated for long stretches of time. We were polarized. We lost loved ones, and so many of us didn't get to say goodbye. It strained our relationships, and the strain on our own selves is undeniable.
It sounds a lot like a recipe for PTSD or, to be more accurate, PCSD.
So, how are we supposed to go back to normal? What does "normal" even mean? The way things were is no longer applicable. The world was changed, and so were we, even if we've failed to notice it.
This became clear as I sat in a meeting at my daughters' school, where we discussed the meaning of community and why ours might have changed. So many of us seem less willing to participate in group events. Maybe we're still scared. Maybe we've forgotten how.
It became clearer as I've sat at work and with clients to find that so many people would rather live online still. Feeling it's easier to be on our own than face up to the fact that we're lonely, scared, or completely uncertain.
It's clear when acquaintances and other members of my community pass each other and smile awkwardly, unsure of how to proceed in a conversation after two years of not seeing each other and all of us being pushed so far down paths that it seems impossible to find common ground.
But the real signals for me are from the kids, my kids especially. One daughter suffers from anxiety that only worsened during the ups and downs and the unpredictability and unreliability of her school and community during the pandemic. Recently, due to inclement weather (a rarity here in the UAE), there was a chance the school would be closed and learning would take place online. How my other daughter suddenly relived a few incidents during the pandemic and cried and cried as she recounted them really stunned me.
We're not alone. I hear similar stories from parents and clients alike.
Yet, they keep saying kids are resilient; they're fine. I know they're resilient...we all are to some degree. But they're not fine, and neither are we.
And we won't be if we carry on with "normal" without addressing the huge effing elephant in every room. I don't know how that happens. All I know is that we all have to learn to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. We have to have hard conversations. It starts amongst us, the adults, the parents. The kids don't even know what lies under their surface, but not knowing doesn't mean it's not actively affecting and/or hindering them. That's how trauma works. We must keep this in mind so that we can keep moving forward, progressing, and growing from the madness we all had to experience. So we can help our kids do the same.
I usually write about food, lifestyle, and nutrition, all of which contribute to our overall wellness and mental wellness. I rarely get to write about relationships. But this, too, plays a huge role in our wellness. Connection. Actual, real human-to-human connection, not the kind you can get via WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Meet, or any of the other platforms we all managed to scrape by on during the pandemic. I'm talking about eye contact, touch, and the genuine connection you get from human interaction, even amongst strangers. There's no substitute; right now, it's what we need to heal globally.
Surely there is much to be grateful for. We learned that change could happen quickly, actually. We also learned that we CAN operate virtually, do school online, and work remotely. But we should learn that just because we can doesn't mean we should. We're NOT OK holed up at home and away from each other. Surely, we learned that much. So if it feels like the world is a lot to cope with as we continue to emerge and everyone around us seems to be "back to normal," know that they're just trying to cope, too. The uncertainty is real, the threat of the next thing lingers, the grief for what we've lost is real, and since this is new to all of us, we don't know what to do or how to be. That's what we need to acknowledge. That's what we need to voice.
We don't break that silence because we don't want to be the one who breaks anything, the one who disrupted the status quo. But this is one of those things that can't be fixed if it isn't broken first.
Get good sleep. (Read this for more on why you NEED good sleep and how to get it.)
Remember to breathe. (Listen to this!* Actually, listen to everything on @hubermanlab.) Listen.
Know that you're not alone. The world not only misses you but needs you, too. So, family, let's get healing. We got through the pandemic together. We can get through this next bit together. And we have to, each of us has to, so we all can.
*This is the longer version on Dr. Andrew Huberman's podcast and is well worth the listen.