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How Life for People Struggling During COVID-19 Is Like Running Barefoot on Gravel

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I always like trying to come up with analogies to try to explain working or living with mental health issues or chronic pain/illnesses. It seems silly sometimes, but I truly think they help people who don’t have these “obstacles” or “barriers” to begin to understand what it’s like for us, in terms they can actually imagine. This next one I actually used a shortened version of in an email to my supervisor. I wanted to give her an explanation of myself so she could understand the burdens I experience. I took this huge leap of faith in opening up due to my anxiety more or less overcoming and overwhelming me recently with all of the life circumstance changes we are experiencing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system.

Imagine and think about running on gravel without shoes. It’s doable, but much harder and painful for those without shoes than for those who do have shoes. Sometimes, you may need to slow down to keep going, sometimes you need to take a break from the pain just to be able to get back up and start again. Every once in a while, the step is on an extremely sharp rock, causing the need to stop for a longer period of time so you can give your foot the time to heal before starting again. And sometimes that rock may be in the same exact place as the time before, causing the memories of the previous injury to come flooding back. It will always be harder for those without shoes to run the same distance as those with, but we do it because we must continue on.

I feel like that was a pretty good analogy for what day-to-day life is like for someone who has mental/emotional/physical struggles. Getting ready for the day can be overwhelming and exhausting. Finishing tasks at work can be exhausting. Sometimes, it’s harder than other days, sometimes you need a break or time away to try to center yourself and get back to the grind. People with mental health issues or chronic illnesses are not incapable people. People with mental health issues or chronic illnesses do not lack motivation, dedication or effort. It is truly the opposite. Every task, conversation, event or holiday, is exhausting because of the ball and chains shackled to both ankles, waist, chest and head. You drag these things around, and sometimes, depending on how tired they’ve made you, they feel like they’ve grown even heavier. Yet, there are days where, if we are lucky, we overcome that exhaustion. We are able to contain the overwhelming panic, fear, pain and turmoil.

Lastly, during this especially challenging time, be sensitive to the fact we are all struggling with having to social distance. Many are losing hours or jobs entirely, stuck at home. Parents are having to make sure their kids stay caught up on distance learning, and our children are having a difficult time as well. Imagine your entire life changing and not really truly understanding why. Being stuck inside, not being allowed to play with friends. There are some with weaker immune systems who have to be even more careful than the rest of us, or who have loved ones they have to worry themselves sick over. Some have lost family or friends to COVID-19, or currently are sick with it or have someone they know and love sick.

We are all having our own struggles, and tempers may be lost. We may be more irritable, frustrated, sad, overwhelmed and angry even. We are all entitled to our feelings and we all deserve a little extra love and patience. Check in with people, reach out, video chat, say hi in a quick text, send an email or letter, make a quick phone call. Stay connected not just for yourself, but for those who may be struggling silently and are feeling more alone than you could imagine. Maybe you’re one of those people, in which case, do yourself a favor and speak up for yourself. You have every right to every emotion, every breakdown, every tear.
We are all in this together, even though we are apart.

Struggling due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:

Getty image by spwidoff

Originally published: April 15, 2020
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