If you find yourself requiring stories of hope right now, I 100% understand and recommend just clicking the “X” in the top right corner. What I am sharing is a sentiment that I feel strongly about. I generally feel hopeful and have remained positive throughout the past 6 weeks. I am aware of the reasons we have decided to close our economy and social lives as we know them. I am not here to debate that importance. But I am questioning the unspoken cost of those decisions and whether all costs have really been considered. The lives of those who have/will contract Covid 19 matter. So do the lives of those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse, whose conditions will be exasperated by social isolation. The effects of a nationwide shutdown will permeate deeper still into the lives of many who feel hopeless and defeated. I argue that their lives matter as well. Additionally, there is a whole subset that isn’t getting much airtime: our kids.
We frequently hear that “children are resilient”, but is that really accurate? What if it is something we tell ourselves to minimize the impact of our action or inaction? Ask any therapist, social worker, or counselor treating an adult and I believe you will find that adults carry their childhood baggage into adulthood. I certainly carry mine. It stands to reason that children aren’t as resilient as we want to package them up to be. Perhaps, they lack the vocabulary and perspective to let us know of their struggles. This has never been more apparent to me than now, in this pandemic, when our lives have been turned upside down. Our children are no longer spending the majority of their day surrounded by and engaged with their peers. Instead, they are experiencing a myriad of realities and exposures that range from stressed out parents; the news media loop; isolation from their friends; and their teachers replaced with the same stressed out parents who, let’s face it, are not educators (myself included). There are no more sporting events, birthday parties or playdates. If we think this isn’t affecting them, we are surely mistaken. For my kids, it comes out in bursts of anger or sadness. They miss their friends and family. They do not understand why I cannot plan their birthday parties or a playdate for them in the summer. They are looking forward to our family vacation that I cannot promise will happen. They can sense the uncertainty and they are feeling it. I let them feel it, I encourage it and sympathize. I explain the rationale but in the next breath relay the importance of being ok with feeling and sitting with our feelings. The ramifications of the recent governmental decisions are far reaching, and children are often overlooked. Perhaps it will be years before we understand the trauma they are experiencing.
I implore you to think before you share that post implying that wanting life to resume equates to a lack of compassion for humanity. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for one to want people to be able to return to work and school in some capacity AND care about public health. Covid-19 isn’t the only crisis we are facing right now. Let’s be kind with each other: we all are doing our best.
I, like many of you, am actually enjoying parts of this new world. The slower pace and family time has been a blessing. I am not diminishing that point. But to ignore the human impact of forced isolation and unemployment is irresponsible. It feels like we are playing a game of risk/benefit, while ignoring a very real cost: mental health. I wish I could wrap my thoughts up in a pretty bow and say it will all be fine and we will all be alright. Until we prioritize the mental health crisis that is coming as a direct result of the decisions being made for us today, I am afraid the collective “we” will not be alright.