Alathia Hayes

@alathiahayes | contributor
Super Contributor
Alathia is a young adult with a passion for writing, strong coffee, and raising awareness about chronic pain.
Alathia Hayes

20 Things People With Fibromyalgia Need on a Bad Day

As a woman living with fibromyalgia, I have found one of the greatest resources I have for managing my illness is other fibromyalgia warriors. The depth of knowledge and experience we can share with one another is a powerful tool. What works for you may not work for everyone, but I think we all have something we can learn from each other. We recently asked our Mighty readers with fibromyalgia what they need on a bad day. Maybe you have fibromyalgia yourself and are looking for new ideas to help manage your pain. Or maybe you’re trying to understand the needs of someone you love who has fibromyalgia. Either way, I think you’ll find these answers to be helpful in building community and understanding around fibromyalgia. Here’s what fellow fibro warriors need on a bad day: 1. “I need empathy, compassion and understanding. I need for other people to recognize my pain.” — Renée S. 2. “A mountain of pillows is necessary.” — Katrina J. 3. “Understanding and compassion. Also comfy clothes and something to take my mind off my symptoms (a book, film, game — whatever I can manage).” — Sharice H. 4. “My bed and my cats.” — Ashley T. 5. “I’ve found that ice packs, lots of pillows and the support my husband gives me helps a lot.” — Liz T. 6. “Heat! Whether it’s a bath or a hot water bottle. I find somewhere comfortable to lie down, like my bed or my couch, so I can curl up and try my best to relax my body and not stiffen up.” — Eden S. 7. “Compassion, especially if I have to cancel plans.” — Anne M. 8. “Removal of as much external stimuli as possible. Silence, darkness, solitude.” — Gabrielle M. 9. “Wheelchair and shower chair.” — Paula R. 10. “I need to listen to classical music to allow my mind to drift away from the pain.” — Pamela J. 11. “I use an acupressure mat and pillow. The initial pain is then followed by warmth and comfort.” — Cathy W. 12. “Ice, peppermint, fuzzy socks, mindless shows, stuffed animals and understanding.” — Leslie M. 13. “Comfy clothes, a weighted blanket and Netflix!” — Eloise K. 14. “On a really bad day, I stay in comfy lightweight cotton pj’s and soft fleece blankets. If I have the energy, I take epsom salt baths.” — Jorie P. 15. “Chocolate.” — Donna B. 16. “Empathy, compassion and ice cream.” — Tiffany H. 17. “My bed and prayer.” — Kathy M. 18. “Validation!” — Deb W. 19. “Elastic waist band pants, and someone to cook for me while reminding me I’m not a loser. And lots of water!” — Mel K. 20. “Kindness. That is all.” — Patricia W. What would you add? Let me know in the comments below. To see more from Alathia, visit alathiahayes.com

Alathia Hayes

We Need to Say 'No' and Set Boundaries for Our Mental Health

I’m a “yes” person. What I mean by that is, I like saying yes to people. I like falling under our society’s praise for compassionate people with big hearts. This has so often led me to burnout. Unchecked generosity with time, material wealth or emotions can lead to frustration and strain in relationships. Striving to be a compassionate and generous person is a really good thing. However, our society has embraced the idea of having a big heart, putting it on a pedestal without thinking through the possible repercussions. Sometimes, people may use having a “big heart” as an excuse to ignore boundaries for themselves and for others. And they may not even realize they’re doing it. Being busy and burned out is worn like a medal of honor. Giving constantly is praised even when it isn’t wise, safe or healthy. Our culture romanticizes and cheers on the “yes” people with big hearts and villainizes the “no” people, branding them as selfish. But is it really healthy to polarize things so harshly? Personally, I don’t think so. I think that big-hearted people can have healthy boundaries. I also think that people with healthy boundaries can be big-hearted. It’s critical that we start to change the societal narrative about boundaries. What Boundaries Are Boundaries within relationships are incredibly important. Boundaries lay the groundwork for protecting our emotional and physical energy. Boundaries also empower us to enjoy relationships more fully. When we accept our limitations, we can confidently help others without the fear of burning out. Boundaries are necessary to our well-being, but they are critically important for people with generous hearts. Saying “yes” to everything and everyone is tempting, but it’s also unhealthy, exhausting and potentially detrimental to relationships and mental health . Accepting limits is not a defeat. Learning how to allocate our energy, time and resources is a freeing, empowering thing. What Boundaries Aren’t Contrary to popular belief, boundaries are not selfish. In my experience with setting and keeping personal boundaries, I have been able to help people so much better than before. Boundaries may seem restricting, but they truly aren’t. They allow you to give of yourself relationally with confidence, knowing you have safeguards to protect your well-being. Boundaries and a Big Heart As much as we would love to be limitless, we are not. We cannot do everything we would like. We cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot help everyone with everything. Boundaries help us make the most of our limitations so we can take care of ourselves and help others with fearless confidence and compassion. I hope someday our society can see the value in boundaries, just like we see the value in being a compassionate, big-hearted, generous person. These are not mutually exclusive things. Both are good and both are possible. Changing the narrative around boundaries starts with each one of us. The world needs more big-hearted people with healthy boundaries.

Alathia Hayes

COVID-19 Gift Guide for your Friends with Fibromyalgia

I am horrible at knowing what gifts to get for the people in my life. Some of my friends are so good at knowing just what to get people. They put time and thought into getting unique, meaningful gifts for people. I, on the other hand, am often too indecisive and oblivious to come up with good gifts. Maybe you can relate. In an attempt to help others like me who could use a little help knowing what to get people for the holidays, I wanted to share this list of 14 COVID-19 related holiday gift ideas to encourage the people with fibromyalgia in your life. As someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia, these are some of the most helpful, practical and thoughtful gifts I have received. 1. Blankets Blankets are on lists like this for a reason. I literally don’t know a single person who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a soft, fuzzy blanket and your friends with fibro are sure to appreciate the extra warmth and comfort. I’m obsessed with this buffalo plaid throw from amazon. 2. Notebooks Brain fog is a real and very frustrating symptom of fibromyalgia. To cope, I burn through notebooks writing notes to myself to help me remember important dates, appointments and details about daily life. I’m never disappointed to receive another cute notebook to help me combat brain fog. These nature themed notebooks from Target are too cute. 3. Massager The extra stress of COVID-19 and the holidays can cause a lot of tension to build up in our bodies right now. A shoulder and neck massager could be just the thing for your loved one to destress and prioritize self-care. This massager at amazon has amazing reviews! 4. Stuffed animal/heat pack Alright, hear me out. This lavender scented, microwaveable stuffed sloth is hands-down the best purchase I have ever made. You need one. Your friend needs one. Everyone needs one. 5. Entertainment subscriptions I can’t count the times Netflix and Hulu have come to my rescue on bad pain days and quarantine days alike. Sometimes, however, the extra monthly payment is just too much to handle. Consider giving your friend a few months of an entertainment subscription that can help them stay sane on the hard days. It could be a huge encouragement to them. 6. Candles Candles have a way of setting a relaxing mood no matter what. And trust me, your friends with fibromyalgia need all the peace and relaxing they can get. Candles make our houses feel less like prisons and more like homes. 7. Essential oils Aromatherapy is very helpful for some people with fibromyalgia. For others, it doesn’t help at all. But hey, at least it smells good, right? 8. Water bottles When you have a disorder that affects your muscles like fibromyalgia, hydration is incredibly important. Everyone knows it’s easier to stay hydrated when you have a cute water bottle to drink out of. These tumblers from amazon are adorable and functional. 9. Gratitude notebook This guided gratitude journal is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I firmly believe in the healing power of gratitude, and that has only been more important to hold onto in 2020. This humorous approach to the subject gets an A+ from me. 10. Socks/gloves/hats The cold weather really exacerbates my joint and muscle pain. I’m basically the Michelin man with my layers of clothes for the winter months. Because of that, I’m always thrilled to receive clothes that can help keep my body temperature regulated. 11. Massage therapy Massage therapy is something that many people with fibromyalgia find helpful, but often cannot afford. Look into local options about massage therapy gift cards, vouchers or treatment plans to find something that fits your friend’s needs. 12. Meal kits There is no such thing as a gift that’s too practical in my mind, especially right now as covid has been financially detrimental to so many. Making meals takes so much energy and often can’t be a priority for someone like me. Consider giving your friend meal kits or the ingredients for easy, ready-made, healthy meals. Nutrition is a critical part of managing any illness and food is an often overlooked, practical need that actually makes a great gift. 13. Motor disability-friendly makeup brushes For the makeup lover in your life, these brushes could help them regain independence. I experience loss of motor function due to fibromyalgia and that makes makeup application difficult. These brushes are designed to help make the application more comfortable from any angle. 14. Fibromyalgia awareness face mask I feel like a covid Christmas list wouldn’t be complete without a cute facemask! Hopefully this gave you some new ideas about what to get your friend with fibromyalgia this year. What would you add to this list?  

Alathia Hayes

COVID-19 Gift Guide for your Friends with Fibromyalgia

I am horrible at knowing what gifts to get for the people in my life. Some of my friends are so good at knowing just what to get people. They put time and thought into getting unique, meaningful gifts for people. I, on the other hand, am often too indecisive and oblivious to come up with good gifts. Maybe you can relate. In an attempt to help others like me who could use a little help knowing what to get people for the holidays, I wanted to share this list of 14 COVID-19 related holiday gift ideas to encourage the people with fibromyalgia in your life. As someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia, these are some of the most helpful, practical and thoughtful gifts I have received. 1. Blankets Blankets are on lists like this for a reason. I literally don’t know a single person who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a soft, fuzzy blanket and your friends with fibro are sure to appreciate the extra warmth and comfort. I’m obsessed with this buffalo plaid throw from amazon. 2. Notebooks Brain fog is a real and very frustrating symptom of fibromyalgia. To cope, I burn through notebooks writing notes to myself to help me remember important dates, appointments and details about daily life. I’m never disappointed to receive another cute notebook to help me combat brain fog. These nature themed notebooks from Target are too cute. 3. Massager The extra stress of COVID-19 and the holidays can cause a lot of tension to build up in our bodies right now. A shoulder and neck massager could be just the thing for your loved one to destress and prioritize self-care. This massager at amazon has amazing reviews! 4. Stuffed animal/heat pack Alright, hear me out. This lavender scented, microwaveable stuffed sloth is hands-down the best purchase I have ever made. You need one. Your friend needs one. Everyone needs one. 5. Entertainment subscriptions I can’t count the times Netflix and Hulu have come to my rescue on bad pain days and quarantine days alike. Sometimes, however, the extra monthly payment is just too much to handle. Consider giving your friend a few months of an entertainment subscription that can help them stay sane on the hard days. It could be a huge encouragement to them. 6. Candles Candles have a way of setting a relaxing mood no matter what. And trust me, your friends with fibromyalgia need all the peace and relaxing they can get. Candles make our houses feel less like prisons and more like homes. 7. Essential oils Aromatherapy is very helpful for some people with fibromyalgia. For others, it doesn’t help at all. But hey, at least it smells good, right? 8. Water bottles When you have a disorder that affects your muscles like fibromyalgia, hydration is incredibly important. Everyone knows it’s easier to stay hydrated when you have a cute water bottle to drink out of. These tumblers from amazon are adorable and functional. 9. Gratitude notebook This guided gratitude journal is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I firmly believe in the healing power of gratitude, and that has only been more important to hold onto in 2020. This humorous approach to the subject gets an A+ from me. 10. Socks/gloves/hats The cold weather really exacerbates my joint and muscle pain. I’m basically the Michelin man with my layers of clothes for the winter months. Because of that, I’m always thrilled to receive clothes that can help keep my body temperature regulated. 11. Massage therapy Massage therapy is something that many people with fibromyalgia find helpful, but often cannot afford. Look into local options about massage therapy gift cards, vouchers or treatment plans to find something that fits your friend’s needs. 12. Meal kits There is no such thing as a gift that’s too practical in my mind, especially right now as covid has been financially detrimental to so many. Making meals takes so much energy and often can’t be a priority for someone like me. Consider giving your friend meal kits or the ingredients for easy, ready-made, healthy meals. Nutrition is a critical part of managing any illness and food is an often overlooked, practical need that actually makes a great gift. 13. Motor disability-friendly makeup brushes For the makeup lover in your life, these brushes could help them regain independence. I experience loss of motor function due to fibromyalgia and that makes makeup application difficult. These brushes are designed to help make the application more comfortable from any angle. 14. Fibromyalgia awareness face mask I feel like a covid Christmas list wouldn’t be complete without a cute facemask! Hopefully this gave you some new ideas about what to get your friend with fibromyalgia this year. What would you add to this list?  

Alathia Hayes

We Need to Say 'No' and Set Boundaries for Our Mental Health

I’m a “yes” person. What I mean by that is, I like saying yes to people. I like falling under our society’s praise for compassionate people with big hearts. This has so often led me to burnout. Unchecked generosity with time, material wealth or emotions can lead to frustration and strain in relationships. Striving to be a compassionate and generous person is a really good thing. However, our society has embraced the idea of having a big heart, putting it on a pedestal without thinking through the possible repercussions. Sometimes, people may use having a “big heart” as an excuse to ignore boundaries for themselves and for others. And they may not even realize they’re doing it. Being busy and burned out is worn like a medal of honor. Giving constantly is praised even when it isn’t wise, safe or healthy. Our culture romanticizes and cheers on the “yes” people with big hearts and villainizes the “no” people, branding them as selfish. But is it really healthy to polarize things so harshly? Personally, I don’t think so. I think that big-hearted people can have healthy boundaries. I also think that people with healthy boundaries can be big-hearted. It’s critical that we start to change the societal narrative about boundaries. What Boundaries Are Boundaries within relationships are incredibly important. Boundaries lay the groundwork for protecting our emotional and physical energy. Boundaries also empower us to enjoy relationships more fully. When we accept our limitations, we can confidently help others without the fear of burning out. Boundaries are necessary to our well-being, but they are critically important for people with generous hearts. Saying “yes” to everything and everyone is tempting, but it’s also unhealthy, exhausting and potentially detrimental to relationships and mental health . Accepting limits is not a defeat. Learning how to allocate our energy, time and resources is a freeing, empowering thing. What Boundaries Aren’t Contrary to popular belief, boundaries are not selfish. In my experience with setting and keeping personal boundaries, I have been able to help people so much better than before. Boundaries may seem restricting, but they truly aren’t. They allow you to give of yourself relationally with confidence, knowing you have safeguards to protect your well-being. Boundaries and a Big Heart As much as we would love to be limitless, we are not. We cannot do everything we would like. We cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot help everyone with everything. Boundaries help us make the most of our limitations so we can take care of ourselves and help others with fearless confidence and compassion. I hope someday our society can see the value in boundaries, just like we see the value in being a compassionate, big-hearted, generous person. These are not mutually exclusive things. Both are good and both are possible. Changing the narrative around boundaries starts with each one of us. The world needs more big-hearted people with healthy boundaries.

Alathia Hayes

Letter of Support to People With Fibromyalgia

To The Person With Fibromyalgia Who Feels They Aren’t Being Believed Dear friend, I see you. I see your pain, I see your struggle and I desperately wish for you to know that you are not alone. I may not be familiar with your specific journey, but I can empathize with your pain. I vividly remember the first time I felt that my chronic pain had been misunderstood and minimized. I remember the impact it had on me as a 16-year-old who was just beginning the exhausting journey to a fibromyalgia diagnosis. I remember being questioned about my constant pain, and I remember the angry tears I cried when I started to realize no matter how hard I tried, some people would never understand what I was going through. That was an extremely bitter pill to swallow. A well-meaning family member had responded to my complaints of pain with this over-simplified solution. “If it hurts, then don’t do it.” The problem is, if I followed that advice, I would never do anything. Because everything hurts. That was the moment I realized that people who aren’t in constant pain often cannot wrap their minds around the concept of constant pain. Sixteen-year-old me felt so alone. I was isolated from my peers and questioned by adults who struggled to understand the invisible pain that ripped through my body daily. I was frustrated by the constant battle I fought to be seen and believed. Friend, can you relate to that today? You may not literally be a confused teenager curled up in bed and crying in anger at the ignorance of people around you, but maybe that’s how your heart feels. It’s a vulnerable and horrible place to be. I know. Friend, if you don’t feel like you are believed today, let me say this loud and clear. I believe you. I believe that you are in pain. I believe that it affects your life deeply, and I will never hold it against you that you can hide your pain with a smile. I will always believe you. Sixteen-year-old me desperately needed to be seen, heard and validated. If that’s what you need today, please let me be that for you. It doesn’t matter to me who won’t believe you. It doesn’t matter to me how many of your family members think you’re “lazy” or “sensitive.” It doesn’t matter to me how many doctors have gaslighted you. Friend, I see you and I believe your pain is real. No questions asked. You may feel alone today, but the beautiful truth is that there is an army of compassionate souls struggling with chronic pain and they are ready to fight alongside you. Facing the doubt alone is crushing. Together, we can validate and encourage each other. The pain of fibromyalgia is real, physical and life-altering, but you are not alone and as much as I believe in the pain I believe in the beauty of life that can coexist with pain. There will be people in your life who are determined to cast shadows of doubt on your experiences. That really sucks. Today I want you to focus on this simple, validating thought. You are seen and believed by the rest of this wonderful community. Let that give you the strength you need to keep fighting for today.   You can check out the contributor’s website here.

Alathia Hayes

20 Things People With Fibromyalgia Need on a Bad Day

As a woman living with fibromyalgia, I have found one of the greatest resources I have for managing my illness is other fibromyalgia warriors. The depth of knowledge and experience we can share with one another is a powerful tool. What works for you may not work for everyone, but I think we all have something we can learn from each other. We recently asked our Mighty readers with fibromyalgia what they need on a bad day. Maybe you have fibromyalgia yourself and are looking for new ideas to help manage your pain. Or maybe you’re trying to understand the needs of someone you love who has fibromyalgia. Either way, I think you’ll find these answers to be helpful in building community and understanding around fibromyalgia. Here’s what fellow fibro warriors need on a bad day: 1. “I need empathy, compassion and understanding. I need for other people to recognize my pain.” — Renée S. 2. “A mountain of pillows is necessary.” — Katrina J. 3. “Understanding and compassion. Also comfy clothes and something to take my mind off my symptoms (a book, film, game — whatever I can manage).” — Sharice H. 4. “My bed and my cats.” — Ashley T. 5. “I’ve found that ice packs, lots of pillows and the support my husband gives me helps a lot.” — Liz T. 6. “Heat! Whether it’s a bath or a hot water bottle. I find somewhere comfortable to lie down, like my bed or my couch, so I can curl up and try my best to relax my body and not stiffen up.” — Eden S. 7. “Compassion, especially if I have to cancel plans.” — Anne M. 8. “Removal of as much external stimuli as possible. Silence, darkness, solitude.” — Gabrielle M. 9. “Wheelchair and shower chair.” — Paula R. 10. “I need to listen to classical music to allow my mind to drift away from the pain.” — Pamela J. 11. “I use an acupressure mat and pillow. The initial pain is then followed by warmth and comfort.” — Cathy W. 12. “Ice, peppermint, fuzzy socks, mindless shows, stuffed animals and understanding.” — Leslie M. 13. “Comfy clothes, a weighted blanket and Netflix!” — Eloise K. 14. “On a really bad day, I stay in comfy lightweight cotton pj’s and soft fleece blankets. If I have the energy, I take epsom salt baths.” — Jorie P. 15. “Chocolate.” — Donna B. 16. “Empathy, compassion and ice cream.” — Tiffany H. 17. “My bed and prayer.” — Kathy M. 18. “Validation!” — Deb W. 19. “Elastic waist band pants, and someone to cook for me while reminding me I’m not a loser. And lots of water!” — Mel K. 20. “Kindness. That is all.” — Patricia W. What would you add? Let me know in the comments below. To see more from Alathia, visit alathiahayes.com

Alathia Hayes

17 Mantras for People With Chronic Illness

In our darkest hours, we often cling to simplicity. A few simple words can hold incredible depth and meaning. Sometimes we don’t need to read another self-help book or an article about chronic pain. We just need to boil what we know down into a simple phrase that can help us find the strength to get through the day. We asked our Mighty readers with chronic illnesses to share one mantra or quote that helps them cope when they’re having a bad day — physically, emotionally or both. The responses radiate the strength of the chronic illness community. If you find yourself needing some encouragement and community today, take a look at these quotes. 1. “Let whatever you do today be enough.” — submitted by Jenell F. 2. “It’s OK to lament all of it… but also remind myself to not stay stuck in the lament. Tomorrow will be a new day.” — submitted by Kim M. 3. “I am strong enough.” — submitted by Emily H. 4. “Recovery isn’t being lazy. We are all human and need to rest.” — submitted by Amelia G. 5. “This too shall pass.” — s ubmitted by Donna G. 6. “One foot in front of the other.” — submitted by Monica W. 7. “The morning will come again because no darkness, no season, can last forever.” — from “Spring Day” by BTS, submitted by Sage G. 8. “You’ve survived 100% of the trials and hardships you’ve been through so far. You can survive this!” — submitted by Michelle R. 9. “I might have lost today’s battle, but tomorrow is a new day.” — submitted by Emma L. 10. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” — Vivian Green, submitted by Nicole D. 11. “You have survived 100% of your worst days.” — submitted by Betsy K. 12. “Not every day is a good day, but there is something good in every day.” — Alice Morse Earle, submitted by Cindy G. 13. “It is what it is… but that doesn’t mean you can’t work at being better and creating change.” — submitted by Sara H. 14. “I repeat the names of those I fight for: my goddaughter, my nieces and nephews.” — submitted by Anna C. 15. “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius, submitted by Lindsey W. 16. “Stay focused on gratitude. Shifting my focus to the things I’m already grateful for helps shift my attitude.” — submitted by Katy R. 17. “Just breathe.” — submitted by Tara U. What would you add? Tell us some words you turn to in the comments below.

Community Voices
Alathia Hayes

COVID-19: What It's Like in Grand Island, Nebraska

What’s happening in Grand Island, Nebraska: Hi there! My name is Alathia. I’m just a 20-something woman from Grand Island, Nebraska. Life is usually predictable and uneventful in our little town. As our state’s official travel slogan aptly suggests, “honestly, it’s not for everyone.” But I love it here. The wide open plains are a writer’s dream space for brainstorming. However, COVID-19 hit our community extremely hard. It has been heartbreaking to see our peaceful town struggle so much with the effects of the pandemic. I was working as a library assistant when I was laid off due to COVID-19 Thankfully, we seem to have seen the worst of the pandemic and we are beginning to recover as a community. The Central District Health Department reported 1,743 confirmed cases, 59 deaths, and 1,600 recoveries in Hall, Merrick and Hamilton counties. Both positive cases and death statistics have been steadily falling for weeks . Hall County, where Grand Island is located, was consistently making headlines as a “hot spot” for COVID-19 back in April and May. At one point, our cases were doubling every four days. Mayor of Grand Island Roger Steele offered a possible explanation for this when he said, “Grand Island stands on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 because we have many people employed in necessary jobs — manufacturing, food processing, agricultural equipment.” My observations about masks: People in Grand Island are generally compliant and gracious regarding rules about masks. Our community realizes it is important to do whatever we can to protect not only ourselves, but those around us who may be immune deficient and vulnerable to the virus. One thing I have found surprising, however, is the compliance of my own age group. Young people like me seem to have gained this reputation of being reckless regarding the virus. Personally, I have seen many more middle-aged folks refuse to wear masks than college-age young people. My experience out of the house: Churches, restaurants, bars and other businesses are slowly reopening again. At the height of the virus, the emptiness of our town was profound. The streets and the stores were just dead. Now, it’s encouraging to see our town come back to life and regain some sense of normalcy. There are people in the restaurants and there is toilet paper on the shelves. My favorite local coffee shop, Barista’s, is open again and happens to be where I’m writing this article from. These signs of life make my heart happy and hopeful. My health: Living with a chronic health condition during a pandemic isn’t something I ever thought I would experience. My amazing team of doctors made it as simple as possible for me to continue to receive care and medication for my fibromyalgia. Active Family Chiropractic did a particularly incredible job protecting their clients health and providing care throughout the pandemic. I was impressed with their flexibility and commitment to their clients. My quality of life: Living through a pandemic has affected me deeply and personally. Like many others, I lost my job. This was difficult because it was a job I loved and losing the stability of that was hard. That along with not seeing any of my friends for months was incredibly isolating and scary. I definitely had to pay more attention to my mental health during the last few months. I have my church family and therapy to thank for the sanity I retained. I continued therapy via telehealth and watched church services online to stay connected with my congregation during the worst parts of the pandemic. These two things helped stabilize my mental health during a time where everything else felt unstable. My unique COVID-19 moment: My church is a small church that is more like a family, and being apart for so long was incredibly difficult. While we were apart, my pastor and his wife came up with a unique way to encourage us. They wrote the names of church members on pieces of paper and taped them to the pews where we all usually sat. There was even a short news interview about it! Those names stayed taped to the pews until just a few weeks ago. I am happy to report that after many weeks of online and outdoor services, we are finally back together for worship! (With appropriate measures of social distancing, of course.) My hopes for the future: I am proud of my community. Their response to this tragic pandemic has reminded me that the people of Nebraska are incredibly resilient. Going forward, I am only hopeful for my community. We are strong, we are recovering, and we will continue to grow. Honestly, Nebraska really isn’t for everyone. But, I wouldn’t have wanted to live through a pandemic anywhere else. Local resources: Central District Health Department Nebraska Coronavirus Map and Case Count United Way – COVID-19 Community Response Information COVID-19 Business Resources