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8 Things I Wish I Could Tell Pre-Pandemic Me

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I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since COVID-19 was announced in the United States.  Now, on this one-year lockdown-iversary as I am navigating life as a new dad, my partner and I will be celebrating our one-year anniversary, and I am coming to terms with the new relationship I have with myself that evolved over the past year– including having to relearn a variety of skills in a world that still looks unfamiliar and unpredictable.

When trying to figure out how to commemorate this one-year lockdown-iversary with all the emotions and memories of what this past year has held, I decided to write a letter to myself.

One year ago, your fiancé and you were celebrating her birthday when you got the news. I remember you were confused and anxious but had little knowledge of what anything related to COVID-19 meant or what it would turn into. In the meantime, you were preparing how to tell the family of the unexpected death of your uncle and attend the funeral– a funeral that would be canceled due to the COVID-19 related lockdown. You were proud to have finished your rehabilitative therapies following an acquired brain injury in 2017, and that your health was improving– not knowing how medical care or your regained skills would change over the course of the year. You were ecstatically preparing to marry your fiancé on March 26– with no idea that things would be canceled one by one, and plans would become a virtual backyard wedding. Life as everyone knew it would change in more ways than imaginable.

Even though you have struggled with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and self-harm for a large part of your life, I know you felt caught off guard at how you were struggling the further into the lockdown we went. I remember you had tools that helped you manage and cope before the pandemic, but you struggled to know how to transfer these tools to virtual life during lockdown. At the same time, you had to come to terms with the tools given to you during your rehabilitative therapies to compensate for your speech, cognitive and physical functioning due to other disabilities, which also did not transfer well to pandemic life, especially because you relied on routine and repetition. I am proud of you for working to let go of the shame and pressure you were putting on yourself by understanding that collectively. We were navigating scary uncharted waters, with information rolled out changing regularly and there was no guidebook.

You continue to re-learn how to interact with family members again, how to use your augmentative communication device virtually and in person, having to navigate public spaces like the grocery store, remember driving tools and all the other compensatory strategies before the pandemic all while working hard to be kind and gentle with yourself. It’s been a long year.

Looking back, you didn’t know it would be over a year (Thanksgiving 2019) since you’ve hugged and seen your grandmother. You had no idea the daughter you would be adopting with your partner would be born during the pandemic and you would become a dad for the first time. You were dealing with the emotions of being in lock-down and under travel bans while navigating paperwork, virtual visits and the uncertainty of not knowing when you would be able to fly to bring her home as she stayed in foster care due to the complications the COVID-19 pandemic created in the process. But when December came you both found a way to bring her home. I know that day brought huge relief, new parent uncertainty and excitement mixed with one of the best days of your life.

I still can’t believe during the COVID pandemic you ended up getting married, becoming a dad, and have spent a year navigating all the challenges, changes, unpredictability, emotions and experiences during a global pandemic. I also know you are still struggling, and some days progress feels slow, but remember to take it one moment at a time. And, as you commemorate the one-year lockdown-iversary mixed with your one-year wedding anniversary I hope you:

1. Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Collectively, we have been through a historic, challenging, life-changing year.

2. Give yourself space to grieve what was lost.

3. Remember that your experiences and emotions during the pandemic lockdown are valid.

4. Give yourself space to celebrate the love story that continues to feel like an untraditional spectacular adventure on your wedding anniversary and after.

5. Remember that it’s okay to be relearning skills.

6. Give yourself time to adjust as changes are still occurring.

7. Remember you are not alone.

8. Most of all, remember that I’m proud of you.


Image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: March 16, 2021
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