Michelle Pugle

@michellepugle | contributor
| News and Narratives | Freelance writer as seen on Verywell Health & Healthline | Mental Health First Aider | Raising awareness about mental health and chronic illness | Author of the recovery memoir Ana, Mia & Me | #spoonie
Community Voices

For Parents Fighting School Anxiety During a Pandemic

Parenting during a pandemic brings unprecedented challenges that are being amplified as families transition from summer to school.

While the full impact is yet to be seen, experts are saying that we’re living in a state of constant anxiety fueled by uncertainty and fear — and this has inevitable consequences for our mental health.

www.drjen.com, nationally recognized child, adolescent, and family psychologist offers advice on how to manage the many complex, competing demands of this year’s back-to-school season.

‘Slow down’

Hartstein reminds parents of the old adage that when the oxygen mask drops on a plane, you need to secure yours first.

“Everybody is focusing on what we should do for kids, and my first and most important response is to slow down,” she says.

“We’re all rushing and rushing to make decisions and then we have to pivot to a new decision as things change,” says Hartstein. “Slow down. Everything can wait a couple minutes. Nothing is so urgent that it has to be decided yesterday.”

“Get yourself grounded,” she says.

“Then, think about what you need to do and what has to happen. Step one may be talking to your partner, if you have a partner, about who is going to be responsible for what and coming up with an old school chore wheel,” says Hartstein.

‘Talk to your employer’

If you’re a working parent, Hartstein says it’s a good idea to talk to your workplace about what kind of flexibility they can offer so you can be prepared.

“Things are changing,” she says. “Some are starting in school and then getting sent home from school. Some are doing a blend of in person and virtual, and some are only virtual.”

She says that as the school year progresses, parents should prepare for more changes, too.

“So ask your employer, for example, if you can start that meeting later so you can get your kids set up with their school projects first,” she says.

Of course, every parent’s situation will depend on various factors including children’s ages. Staying flexible and open to establishing and changing routines is important.

“As much as kids need routine, uncertainty and a lack of structure makes us all anxious,” she says.

Hartstein advises all parents to develop and maintain a healthy routine, and this includes making time for exercising, eating, and getting adequate sleep.

‘Find your pod’

While social distancing is a key factor in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this does not mean parenting should be done in total isolation. This is particularly crucial for single parents.

“If you have people in your life who you know are following the guidelines the way you follow the guidelines, include them,” says Hartstein.

For example, she says, “Maybe you have a little group of other single parents, and you want to work together to rotate houses where someone takes one day and someone else takes the next.”

“Open that pod a little bit so it’s not only on your shoulders, which can feel really overwhelming and shut you down,” says Hartstein.

‘Trust your gut’

When it comes to anxieties about whether or not to send your child to school, Harstein says you have to trust your gut and remember that just because someone else chooses one way, it doesn’t mean you need to follow.

“We want kids to be the best prepared and ready as they can in their lives and I understand the urge to send them back to school,” she says.

“We know that kids need social interaction and at the end of the day we want them to be around other people, and we understand the risks [of not sending them back.]”

“But in the end, if you’re emotional and you’re in an area where the numbers are high or you have someone you love who is immunocompromised, it might make sense not to send them back to school if it’s going to put other things at risk,” says Hartstein.

“If you’re going to be constantly in a state of fear, check yourself. Listen to your gut and think about what is best for your family rather than what is the norm,” she says.

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Michelle Pugle

My COVID-19 Fears as a Chronically Ill Person Are Valid

Yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry told British Columbians like me to create some holiday hacks around having a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic. She offered options spanning from virtual meet-ups to smaller guest lists to individually-plated meals. Not surprisingly, she was met with both misogyny and ableism, and not just from random strangers online, but from people who love me. You may love me, but you certainly do not see me. “Did you see the new recommendations?” I say to a family member traveling from one part of the province to another— something we have been told to avoid to help curb the spread. I want to ask them what their bubble is like, what precautions they are taking, and if they have been around anyone who has been potentially exposed. I want to tell them they will need to wear a mask inside my home and I want to tell them to wash up when entering. I want to tell them to remove their shoes. Cough into their sleeves. Keep social distance. I want to assure them this is not overreacting because I read a lot of news reports and did the research. I want to tell them I wish they’d be thinking of this stuff, too. “What the hell does Dr. Bonnie Henry know anyways… ha ha ha?” A single response cuts the conversation. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning me following her advice. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning COVID-19. Questioning Dr. Henry is a privilege I cannot afford. Thanks to self-work, I can tell these family members will not respect the boundaries I have created for my feelings of safety. Therefore, I cannot host them. I can carry that guilt and even set it aside for a while. I can offend and annoy and frustrate. This is nothing new, but owning it is. This is not a “personal choice” A life-long friend and mom of two tells me of a fight that happened after I canceled our Friday night-in. It’s not my fault, of course, it was only about me. Her common-law just got home from working away and thinks I’m “silly” for not coming over. She agrees. To be fair, I offered to come over so long as we wore masks while painting and sanitized our hands. Big ask, I know. In the past, she has said she’s perfectly fine to “accommodate.” Last night, she said it was OK if we wanted to postpone. Here’s where the fight started: Her spouse wanted to play poker and she didn’t agree with him doing so based upon COVID, so he essentially called her a hypocrite. If I am silly for staying home, he is justified in going out. Logic is so fun to play with, isn’t it? “I told him it is your personal choice,” she says. “And you don’t want to potentially expose my children if you get exposed over the weekend.” Is this what I told her? And where does the word “choice” come into play here? I am the only one making and taking precautionary decisions, but they are not fuelled by “choice.” Is it a choice to distance yourself during a pandemic because you live with chronic illness? Is it a choice that others see me as perfectly healthy and regard it as overreacting? Is it a choice to be acting like the only autonomous adult in the room? “‘Stupid’ Dr. Henry! I mean, she isn’t stupid, I know you… but this whole thing…” What whole thing, friend? The pandemic? She goes on without pause. “We know the facts. We know the virus is here, and we know it’s not going away, ever, and we know you’re going to be exposed at some point, and it’s gonna be like a mild cold and flu. You may as well get it over with. You do know only autoimmune and people with underlying conditions…” She’s on autopilot, like she’s heard this a few times too many. Does she forget? I don’t want to be the one to interject, but dammit I have to. A sick feeling rises in the pit of my stomach. Ugh. “People like me.” From the other end of the phone, I raise both of my arms. See me. Pause. I have said these very words to her at least twice already during this pandemic. Putting a face to the faceless doesn’t matter? It has to, I tell myself. It has to. “I just can’t even read or talk about it anymore,” she says. “Fear mongering.” Raise your expectations Repeat after me: It is OK to expect things from others. It has taken me long to learn this because I was unlearning avoiding expectations = avoiding disappointments. People who live with chronic illness, whether it is fibromyalgia, depression, or PTSD should have expectations of the people we share our time and energy with, but all too often we let self-stigma stop us from receiving what we deserve. Do you know how exhausting it is to be the only person trying to keep a bubble safe? Everyone should have each other’s best interests at heart rather than choosing the path of least resistance. It’s not only able-bodied persons, either. Some of the worst judgments come from those in the chronic illness community who are in such denial they lash out instead. If they can do X, Y, and Z and not get the coronavirus, dubbed “the rona,” then surely my safety precautions are baseless. I am overreacting. Avoiding. Making excuses. Being silly. Letting anxiety control my life… I am also trying to protect you. And your loved ones, too. In the beginning of the pandemic, I repeated the term “asymptomatic” more times than I can count. Those around me refuse to accept that which they cannot see. I am healthy. I am “clean.” I am safe. These words hold such powerful social connotations, don’t they? There is nothing “so complicated” or “so contradicting” other than our human desire to read into loopholes. We do not like rules. But rules are here for a reason. The rules of wearing a mask and not sharing plates and keeping a social distance are in our best benefits. Science shows it and deep down these people must know it too, no? Expect them to. If nothing else, read this I interview medical and health experts for a living, and still, some family members would rather talk about China’s connection to COVID. My friends still listen to their male counterparts who get their information from random websites and memes. They tell me they wish I wasn’t “freaking out” again. We are in a second wave and coming into flu season. Facts do not change minds. I cannot keep having the same conversations so many months into this. I cannot keep expending energy trying to convince you to care about someone outside yourself and step into their shoes for a single moment to see how this may affect them. “Only those with autoimmune and other conditions…” Do you realize how many people, including many of your loved ones, this includes? I do not think so. If your loved one tells you they do not feel comfortable, safe, or well enough to attend this holiday or any other, listen to them. Like, actually listen and hear them out and trying your hand at empathizing. Are they anxious? Depressed? Scared? Do they need some help? You love this person and care for them, do you not? Instead of dissing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s sound and science-backed advice, ask yourself what you can do to make things safer for everyone. Suggestions include asking them to show up to a virtual dinner, dropping off dinner at the door, or taking the necessary precautions as set forth by your province to reduce risk. Remind yourself of the compromised individuals in your own bubble — and be honest about how big those bubbles have become over the summer months. Remember that everyone in your bubble has a bubble and COVID is not the same as the flu. I can’t stress that enough. TLDR: People with chronic illnesses have valid reasons to be experiencing this pandemic in a different way than able-bodied persons. Trust us when we tell you what we need. Help us instead of mocking us for making responsible choices.

Michelle Pugle

My COVID-19 Fears as a Chronically Ill Person Are Valid

Yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry told British Columbians like me to create some holiday hacks around having a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic. She offered options spanning from virtual meet-ups to smaller guest lists to individually-plated meals. Not surprisingly, she was met with both misogyny and ableism, and not just from random strangers online, but from people who love me. You may love me, but you certainly do not see me. “Did you see the new recommendations?” I say to a family member traveling from one part of the province to another— something we have been told to avoid to help curb the spread. I want to ask them what their bubble is like, what precautions they are taking, and if they have been around anyone who has been potentially exposed. I want to tell them they will need to wear a mask inside my home and I want to tell them to wash up when entering. I want to tell them to remove their shoes. Cough into their sleeves. Keep social distance. I want to assure them this is not overreacting because I read a lot of news reports and did the research. I want to tell them I wish they’d be thinking of this stuff, too. “What the hell does Dr. Bonnie Henry know anyways… ha ha ha?” A single response cuts the conversation. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning me following her advice. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning COVID-19. Questioning Dr. Henry is a privilege I cannot afford. Thanks to self-work, I can tell these family members will not respect the boundaries I have created for my feelings of safety. Therefore, I cannot host them. I can carry that guilt and even set it aside for a while. I can offend and annoy and frustrate. This is nothing new, but owning it is. This is not a “personal choice” A life-long friend and mom of two tells me of a fight that happened after I canceled our Friday night-in. It’s not my fault, of course, it was only about me. Her common-law just got home from working away and thinks I’m “silly” for not coming over. She agrees. To be fair, I offered to come over so long as we wore masks while painting and sanitized our hands. Big ask, I know. In the past, she has said she’s perfectly fine to “accommodate.” Last night, she said it was OK if we wanted to postpone. Here’s where the fight started: Her spouse wanted to play poker and she didn’t agree with him doing so based upon COVID, so he essentially called her a hypocrite. If I am silly for staying home, he is justified in going out. Logic is so fun to play with, isn’t it? “I told him it is your personal choice,” she says. “And you don’t want to potentially expose my children if you get exposed over the weekend.” Is this what I told her? And where does the word “choice” come into play here? I am the only one making and taking precautionary decisions, but they are not fuelled by “choice.” Is it a choice to distance yourself during a pandemic because you live with chronic illness? Is it a choice that others see me as perfectly healthy and regard it as overreacting? Is it a choice to be acting like the only autonomous adult in the room? “‘Stupid’ Dr. Henry! I mean, she isn’t stupid, I know you… but this whole thing…” What whole thing, friend? The pandemic? She goes on without pause. “We know the facts. We know the virus is here, and we know it’s not going away, ever, and we know you’re going to be exposed at some point, and it’s gonna be like a mild cold and flu. You may as well get it over with. You do know only autoimmune and people with underlying conditions…” She’s on autopilot, like she’s heard this a few times too many. Does she forget? I don’t want to be the one to interject, but dammit I have to. A sick feeling rises in the pit of my stomach. Ugh. “People like me.” From the other end of the phone, I raise both of my arms. See me. Pause. I have said these very words to her at least twice already during this pandemic. Putting a face to the faceless doesn’t matter? It has to, I tell myself. It has to. “I just can’t even read or talk about it anymore,” she says. “Fear mongering.” Raise your expectations Repeat after me: It is OK to expect things from others. It has taken me long to learn this because I was unlearning avoiding expectations = avoiding disappointments. People who live with chronic illness, whether it is fibromyalgia, depression, or PTSD should have expectations of the people we share our time and energy with, but all too often we let self-stigma stop us from receiving what we deserve. Do you know how exhausting it is to be the only person trying to keep a bubble safe? Everyone should have each other’s best interests at heart rather than choosing the path of least resistance. It’s not only able-bodied persons, either. Some of the worst judgments come from those in the chronic illness community who are in such denial they lash out instead. If they can do X, Y, and Z and not get the coronavirus, dubbed “the rona,” then surely my safety precautions are baseless. I am overreacting. Avoiding. Making excuses. Being silly. Letting anxiety control my life… I am also trying to protect you. And your loved ones, too. In the beginning of the pandemic, I repeated the term “asymptomatic” more times than I can count. Those around me refuse to accept that which they cannot see. I am healthy. I am “clean.” I am safe. These words hold such powerful social connotations, don’t they? There is nothing “so complicated” or “so contradicting” other than our human desire to read into loopholes. We do not like rules. But rules are here for a reason. The rules of wearing a mask and not sharing plates and keeping a social distance are in our best benefits. Science shows it and deep down these people must know it too, no? Expect them to. If nothing else, read this I interview medical and health experts for a living, and still, some family members would rather talk about China’s connection to COVID. My friends still listen to their male counterparts who get their information from random websites and memes. They tell me they wish I wasn’t “freaking out” again. We are in a second wave and coming into flu season. Facts do not change minds. I cannot keep having the same conversations so many months into this. I cannot keep expending energy trying to convince you to care about someone outside yourself and step into their shoes for a single moment to see how this may affect them. “Only those with autoimmune and other conditions…” Do you realize how many people, including many of your loved ones, this includes? I do not think so. If your loved one tells you they do not feel comfortable, safe, or well enough to attend this holiday or any other, listen to them. Like, actually listen and hear them out and trying your hand at empathizing. Are they anxious? Depressed? Scared? Do they need some help? You love this person and care for them, do you not? Instead of dissing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s sound and science-backed advice, ask yourself what you can do to make things safer for everyone. Suggestions include asking them to show up to a virtual dinner, dropping off dinner at the door, or taking the necessary precautions as set forth by your province to reduce risk. Remind yourself of the compromised individuals in your own bubble — and be honest about how big those bubbles have become over the summer months. Remember that everyone in your bubble has a bubble and COVID is not the same as the flu. I can’t stress that enough. TLDR: People with chronic illnesses have valid reasons to be experiencing this pandemic in a different way than able-bodied persons. Trust us when we tell you what we need. Help us instead of mocking us for making responsible choices.

Michelle Pugle

My COVID-19 Fears as a Chronically Ill Person Are Valid

Yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry told British Columbians like me to create some holiday hacks around having a safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic. She offered options spanning from virtual meet-ups to smaller guest lists to individually-plated meals. Not surprisingly, she was met with both misogyny and ableism, and not just from random strangers online, but from people who love me. You may love me, but you certainly do not see me. “Did you see the new recommendations?” I say to a family member traveling from one part of the province to another— something we have been told to avoid to help curb the spread. I want to ask them what their bubble is like, what precautions they are taking, and if they have been around anyone who has been potentially exposed. I want to tell them they will need to wear a mask inside my home and I want to tell them to wash up when entering. I want to tell them to remove their shoes. Cough into their sleeves. Keep social distance. I want to assure them this is not overreacting because I read a lot of news reports and did the research. I want to tell them I wish they’d be thinking of this stuff, too. “What the hell does Dr. Bonnie Henry know anyways… ha ha ha?” A single response cuts the conversation. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning me following her advice. Questioning Dr. Henry is also questioning COVID-19. Questioning Dr. Henry is a privilege I cannot afford. Thanks to self-work, I can tell these family members will not respect the boundaries I have created for my feelings of safety. Therefore, I cannot host them. I can carry that guilt and even set it aside for a while. I can offend and annoy and frustrate. This is nothing new, but owning it is. This is not a “personal choice” A life-long friend and mom of two tells me of a fight that happened after I canceled our Friday night-in. It’s not my fault, of course, it was only about me. Her common-law just got home from working away and thinks I’m “silly” for not coming over. She agrees. To be fair, I offered to come over so long as we wore masks while painting and sanitized our hands. Big ask, I know. In the past, she has said she’s perfectly fine to “accommodate.” Last night, she said it was OK if we wanted to postpone. Here’s where the fight started: Her spouse wanted to play poker and she didn’t agree with him doing so based upon COVID, so he essentially called her a hypocrite. If I am silly for staying home, he is justified in going out. Logic is so fun to play with, isn’t it? “I told him it is your personal choice,” she says. “And you don’t want to potentially expose my children if you get exposed over the weekend.” Is this what I told her? And where does the word “choice” come into play here? I am the only one making and taking precautionary decisions, but they are not fuelled by “choice.” Is it a choice to distance yourself during a pandemic because you live with chronic illness? Is it a choice that others see me as perfectly healthy and regard it as overreacting? Is it a choice to be acting like the only autonomous adult in the room? “‘Stupid’ Dr. Henry! I mean, she isn’t stupid, I know you… but this whole thing…” What whole thing, friend? The pandemic? She goes on without pause. “We know the facts. We know the virus is here, and we know it’s not going away, ever, and we know you’re going to be exposed at some point, and it’s gonna be like a mild cold and flu. You may as well get it over with. You do know only autoimmune and people with underlying conditions…” She’s on autopilot, like she’s heard this a few times too many. Does she forget? I don’t want to be the one to interject, but dammit I have to. A sick feeling rises in the pit of my stomach. Ugh. “People like me.” From the other end of the phone, I raise both of my arms. See me. Pause. I have said these very words to her at least twice already during this pandemic. Putting a face to the faceless doesn’t matter? It has to, I tell myself. It has to. “I just can’t even read or talk about it anymore,” she says. “Fear mongering.” Raise your expectations Repeat after me: It is OK to expect things from others. It has taken me long to learn this because I was unlearning avoiding expectations = avoiding disappointments. People who live with chronic illness, whether it is fibromyalgia, depression, or PTSD should have expectations of the people we share our time and energy with, but all too often we let self-stigma stop us from receiving what we deserve. Do you know how exhausting it is to be the only person trying to keep a bubble safe? Everyone should have each other’s best interests at heart rather than choosing the path of least resistance. It’s not only able-bodied persons, either. Some of the worst judgments come from those in the chronic illness community who are in such denial they lash out instead. If they can do X, Y, and Z and not get the coronavirus, dubbed “the rona,” then surely my safety precautions are baseless. I am overreacting. Avoiding. Making excuses. Being silly. Letting anxiety control my life… I am also trying to protect you. And your loved ones, too. In the beginning of the pandemic, I repeated the term “asymptomatic” more times than I can count. Those around me refuse to accept that which they cannot see. I am healthy. I am “clean.” I am safe. These words hold such powerful social connotations, don’t they? There is nothing “so complicated” or “so contradicting” other than our human desire to read into loopholes. We do not like rules. But rules are here for a reason. The rules of wearing a mask and not sharing plates and keeping a social distance are in our best benefits. Science shows it and deep down these people must know it too, no? Expect them to. If nothing else, read this I interview medical and health experts for a living, and still, some family members would rather talk about China’s connection to COVID. My friends still listen to their male counterparts who get their information from random websites and memes. They tell me they wish I wasn’t “freaking out” again. We are in a second wave and coming into flu season. Facts do not change minds. I cannot keep having the same conversations so many months into this. I cannot keep expending energy trying to convince you to care about someone outside yourself and step into their shoes for a single moment to see how this may affect them. “Only those with autoimmune and other conditions…” Do you realize how many people, including many of your loved ones, this includes? I do not think so. If your loved one tells you they do not feel comfortable, safe, or well enough to attend this holiday or any other, listen to them. Like, actually listen and hear them out and trying your hand at empathizing. Are they anxious? Depressed? Scared? Do they need some help? You love this person and care for them, do you not? Instead of dissing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s sound and science-backed advice, ask yourself what you can do to make things safer for everyone. Suggestions include asking them to show up to a virtual dinner, dropping off dinner at the door, or taking the necessary precautions as set forth by your province to reduce risk. Remind yourself of the compromised individuals in your own bubble — and be honest about how big those bubbles have become over the summer months. Remember that everyone in your bubble has a bubble and COVID is not the same as the flu. I can’t stress that enough. TLDR: People with chronic illnesses have valid reasons to be experiencing this pandemic in a different way than able-bodied persons. Trust us when we tell you what we need. Help us instead of mocking us for making responsible choices.

Michelle Pugle

What It's Like to Experience a 'Depression Attacks'

This afternoon, I was in a grocery store looking at produce prices and a sharp voice came into my head that said, “You should just kill yourself.” This voice is a real bitch at times, let me tell you. She’s the same voice saying I’m too privileged to be depressed, despite having been clinically diagnosed as such at age 11. But yeah, she’s right. I’m much too “functional” to be sick. I feel the blood rush through my arms and legs, making me hyper-focus on the fact that they are attached to my body. I want to throw my limbs at the man standing too close behind me. I want to dig my fingernails into my arm and bite my lip until it swells. A cold sweat ensues as my mind digs into suppressed details of my story. I want to cry. I grasp the cart handle and squeeze. I cry. Fuck. Faker, she says. You don’t really want to die. You’re just drawing attention to yourself, and it’s ugly. You are ugly. There are people in this world who are so much worse… I need to get home, but I’m scared to go to the till, to leave the store, to drive. I stand there, wiping fast-paced tears and trying to take a full breath. Calling it what it is: a depression attack No one tells you what to do when you have a depression attack because no one talks about such moments as “attacks,” but that’s what they are. They’re a surge in your sickness that can happen whenever, wherever. They can dip you down lower than you felt before, making it harder to combat the potentially dangerous nature of depression. We have a name for when our anxiety spills from our spines and rises from our feet and we can label it and call it what it is: a panic attack. With a name, we have a categorization. With categorization, we have a place to put other names that signify things we can then understand by association. For example, we know the “tight ball feeling” that billows in our chests as a possible symptom of a panic attack. We know of other symptoms such as shaking, sweating, interrupted breathing and heart racing. We understand these as responses to a certain stimuli, or triggers. Since we can make these connections, we can go a step further and discuss how to avoid and remedy panic attacks. For instance, it’s widely known that deep breathing exercises may be useful in states of onset and sudden panic. Over the years, I’ve been able to use deep breathing to slow and still panic attacks since I understand what’s happening because it has been named. Naming gives us this power, but we haven’t used it to our advantage when it comes to cases of chronic depression. When you have chronic depression, you may experience persistent low moods, oftentimes accompanied by physical pain and disbelief in your diagnosis. So no, I’m not talking about, “I had a really rough week,” or, “Everything is blah today” kinda low moods. I’m talking about underlying darkness that dulls the light of life everyone else sees. For many of us with chronic depression, this lower-than-average state of mood can be considered our “normal” or baseline mood. It goes largely unnoticed, which is why depression is considered an invisible illness. There are times, though, when our low mood dips even further into a state of temporary, but dangerous, despair. During such moments, it’s both helpful and reassuring to know that you are having a depression attack. Prepare for a possible disheveling and emotionally and physically draining experience. Know that while everyone’s attack will look unique, these moments of intense heave-crying or silent screaming or thoughts of self-harming need to be named and addressed in the same manner as we have with panic attacks. Depression attacks should be followed by medical professionals; they require treatment and coping strategies, and they are survivable. Remember, when you’re having a depression attack, it is caused by your illness going into overdrive. Breathe. Touch base with your depression or suicide prevention kit. Call someone. Book an appointment with your mental health doctor. Have some water. Rest. This too shall pass. You’re doing a great job of being alive.

Michelle Pugle

What It's Like to Experience a 'Depression Attacks'

This afternoon, I was in a grocery store looking at produce prices and a sharp voice came into my head that said, “You should just kill yourself.” This voice is a real bitch at times, let me tell you. She’s the same voice saying I’m too privileged to be depressed, despite having been clinically diagnosed as such at age 11. But yeah, she’s right. I’m much too “functional” to be sick. I feel the blood rush through my arms and legs, making me hyper-focus on the fact that they are attached to my body. I want to throw my limbs at the man standing too close behind me. I want to dig my fingernails into my arm and bite my lip until it swells. A cold sweat ensues as my mind digs into suppressed details of my story. I want to cry. I grasp the cart handle and squeeze. I cry. Fuck. Faker, she says. You don’t really want to die. You’re just drawing attention to yourself, and it’s ugly. You are ugly. There are people in this world who are so much worse… I need to get home, but I’m scared to go to the till, to leave the store, to drive. I stand there, wiping fast-paced tears and trying to take a full breath. Calling it what it is: a depression attack No one tells you what to do when you have a depression attack because no one talks about such moments as “attacks,” but that’s what they are. They’re a surge in your sickness that can happen whenever, wherever. They can dip you down lower than you felt before, making it harder to combat the potentially dangerous nature of depression. We have a name for when our anxiety spills from our spines and rises from our feet and we can label it and call it what it is: a panic attack. With a name, we have a categorization. With categorization, we have a place to put other names that signify things we can then understand by association. For example, we know the “tight ball feeling” that billows in our chests as a possible symptom of a panic attack. We know of other symptoms such as shaking, sweating, interrupted breathing and heart racing. We understand these as responses to a certain stimuli, or triggers. Since we can make these connections, we can go a step further and discuss how to avoid and remedy panic attacks. For instance, it’s widely known that deep breathing exercises may be useful in states of onset and sudden panic. Over the years, I’ve been able to use deep breathing to slow and still panic attacks since I understand what’s happening because it has been named. Naming gives us this power, but we haven’t used it to our advantage when it comes to cases of chronic depression. When you have chronic depression, you may experience persistent low moods, oftentimes accompanied by physical pain and disbelief in your diagnosis. So no, I’m not talking about, “I had a really rough week,” or, “Everything is blah today” kinda low moods. I’m talking about underlying darkness that dulls the light of life everyone else sees. For many of us with chronic depression, this lower-than-average state of mood can be considered our “normal” or baseline mood. It goes largely unnoticed, which is why depression is considered an invisible illness. There are times, though, when our low mood dips even further into a state of temporary, but dangerous, despair. During such moments, it’s both helpful and reassuring to know that you are having a depression attack. Prepare for a possible disheveling and emotionally and physically draining experience. Know that while everyone’s attack will look unique, these moments of intense heave-crying or silent screaming or thoughts of self-harming need to be named and addressed in the same manner as we have with panic attacks. Depression attacks should be followed by medical professionals; they require treatment and coping strategies, and they are survivable. Remember, when you’re having a depression attack, it is caused by your illness going into overdrive. Breathe. Touch base with your depression or suicide prevention kit. Call someone. Book an appointment with your mental health doctor. Have some water. Rest. This too shall pass. You’re doing a great job of being alive.

Michelle Pugle

What It's Like to Experience a 'Depression Attacks'

This afternoon, I was in a grocery store looking at produce prices and a sharp voice came into my head that said, “You should just kill yourself.” This voice is a real bitch at times, let me tell you. She’s the same voice saying I’m too privileged to be depressed, despite having been clinically diagnosed as such at age 11. But yeah, she’s right. I’m much too “functional” to be sick. I feel the blood rush through my arms and legs, making me hyper-focus on the fact that they are attached to my body. I want to throw my limbs at the man standing too close behind me. I want to dig my fingernails into my arm and bite my lip until it swells. A cold sweat ensues as my mind digs into suppressed details of my story. I want to cry. I grasp the cart handle and squeeze. I cry. Fuck. Faker, she says. You don’t really want to die. You’re just drawing attention to yourself, and it’s ugly. You are ugly. There are people in this world who are so much worse… I need to get home, but I’m scared to go to the till, to leave the store, to drive. I stand there, wiping fast-paced tears and trying to take a full breath. Calling it what it is: a depression attack No one tells you what to do when you have a depression attack because no one talks about such moments as “attacks,” but that’s what they are. They’re a surge in your sickness that can happen whenever, wherever. They can dip you down lower than you felt before, making it harder to combat the potentially dangerous nature of depression. We have a name for when our anxiety spills from our spines and rises from our feet and we can label it and call it what it is: a panic attack. With a name, we have a categorization. With categorization, we have a place to put other names that signify things we can then understand by association. For example, we know the “tight ball feeling” that billows in our chests as a possible symptom of a panic attack. We know of other symptoms such as shaking, sweating, interrupted breathing and heart racing. We understand these as responses to a certain stimuli, or triggers. Since we can make these connections, we can go a step further and discuss how to avoid and remedy panic attacks. For instance, it’s widely known that deep breathing exercises may be useful in states of onset and sudden panic. Over the years, I’ve been able to use deep breathing to slow and still panic attacks since I understand what’s happening because it has been named. Naming gives us this power, but we haven’t used it to our advantage when it comes to cases of chronic depression. When you have chronic depression, you may experience persistent low moods, oftentimes accompanied by physical pain and disbelief in your diagnosis. So no, I’m not talking about, “I had a really rough week,” or, “Everything is blah today” kinda low moods. I’m talking about underlying darkness that dulls the light of life everyone else sees. For many of us with chronic depression, this lower-than-average state of mood can be considered our “normal” or baseline mood. It goes largely unnoticed, which is why depression is considered an invisible illness. There are times, though, when our low mood dips even further into a state of temporary, but dangerous, despair. During such moments, it’s both helpful and reassuring to know that you are having a depression attack. Prepare for a possible disheveling and emotionally and physically draining experience. Know that while everyone’s attack will look unique, these moments of intense heave-crying or silent screaming or thoughts of self-harming need to be named and addressed in the same manner as we have with panic attacks. Depression attacks should be followed by medical professionals; they require treatment and coping strategies, and they are survivable. Remember, when you’re having a depression attack, it is caused by your illness going into overdrive. Breathe. Touch base with your depression or suicide prevention kit. Call someone. Book an appointment with your mental health doctor. Have some water. Rest. This too shall pass. You’re doing a great job of being alive.

Michelle Pugle

COVID-19: Don't Feel Guilty If Your Self-Isolation Isn't Productive

I am writing this because I feel guilty. It started with a positive comment that had nothing to do with me. A Facebook connection mentioned they have made more art in the past four days than the past few years. It is beautiful art. Their comment thread was littered with snip-its of other works that have been created in the name of the coronavirus crisis. Videos. Memes. Jewelry. Drawings. Instant self-evaluation with a side of anxiety rushed in. So far, I cannot say I have felt creatively inclined after hours. In fact, I am laser-focusing on my professional writing work to maintain a sense of normalcy for myself and my clients. I have been watching reality TV and stretching and tending to houseplants and phone calls from friends who are panicking about the pandemic. I am painting less. Editing my passion project less. Caring less. Spoonies with mental health conditions know what these signs mean. We also know what’s going on in the world today is hard to watch and adds to whatever pains we were already experiencing. We also know how easily we become portals for other people’s problems because helping them is possible, whereas we’ve likely tried everything on ourselves. Yes, even yoga. It is still a chronic illness. It is still a pandemic. I have been trying to remain positive and yet cautious and yet sane. My body-focused repetitive disorder is in overdrive, which really means I am catching myself tearing pieces from my thumb nail beds and fingertips even as I write this. I keep telling myself to secure more paint and canvases and beads and pens and books, and also remind myself that things are going to be OK, and OK is still chronically ill. Create at whatever pace you can. Create when inspired. Create when driven. Quarantine and self-isolation are not competitions. For those who will fight themselves on this later, say it with me: Quarantine is not a competition with other spoonies or able-bodies or neurotypicals online or offline. I wrote this because I know I am not the only one seeing these posts about deep cleaning and Marie Kondo-ing and learning new languages. All of those things are amazing things. They are. But it’s also OK if nothing changes for you. It’s also OK if you’re not inspired or motivated or productive. It’s OK if you need more rest. There is a lot going on in the world right now. Let’s not judge ourselves for how we feel experience it. Of course, you know your mental health better than anyone else. If you’re experiencing increased symptoms or are concerned for your well-being, please seek medical support. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Michelle Pugle

COVID-19: Don't Feel Guilty If Your Self-Isolation Isn't Productive

I am writing this because I feel guilty. It started with a positive comment that had nothing to do with me. A Facebook connection mentioned they have made more art in the past four days than the past few years. It is beautiful art. Their comment thread was littered with snip-its of other works that have been created in the name of the coronavirus crisis. Videos. Memes. Jewelry. Drawings. Instant self-evaluation with a side of anxiety rushed in. So far, I cannot say I have felt creatively inclined after hours. In fact, I am laser-focusing on my professional writing work to maintain a sense of normalcy for myself and my clients. I have been watching reality TV and stretching and tending to houseplants and phone calls from friends who are panicking about the pandemic. I am painting less. Editing my passion project less. Caring less. Spoonies with mental health conditions know what these signs mean. We also know what’s going on in the world today is hard to watch and adds to whatever pains we were already experiencing. We also know how easily we become portals for other people’s problems because helping them is possible, whereas we’ve likely tried everything on ourselves. Yes, even yoga. It is still a chronic illness. It is still a pandemic. I have been trying to remain positive and yet cautious and yet sane. My body-focused repetitive disorder is in overdrive, which really means I am catching myself tearing pieces from my thumb nail beds and fingertips even as I write this. I keep telling myself to secure more paint and canvases and beads and pens and books, and also remind myself that things are going to be OK, and OK is still chronically ill. Create at whatever pace you can. Create when inspired. Create when driven. Quarantine and self-isolation are not competitions. For those who will fight themselves on this later, say it with me: Quarantine is not a competition with other spoonies or able-bodies or neurotypicals online or offline. I wrote this because I know I am not the only one seeing these posts about deep cleaning and Marie Kondo-ing and learning new languages. All of those things are amazing things. They are. But it’s also OK if nothing changes for you. It’s also OK if you’re not inspired or motivated or productive. It’s OK if you need more rest. There is a lot going on in the world right now. Let’s not judge ourselves for how we feel experience it. Of course, you know your mental health better than anyone else. If you’re experiencing increased symptoms or are concerned for your well-being, please seek medical support. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Michelle Pugle

COVID-19: Don't Feel Guilty If Your Self-Isolation Isn't Productive

I am writing this because I feel guilty. It started with a positive comment that had nothing to do with me. A Facebook connection mentioned they have made more art in the past four days than the past few years. It is beautiful art. Their comment thread was littered with snip-its of other works that have been created in the name of the coronavirus crisis. Videos. Memes. Jewelry. Drawings. Instant self-evaluation with a side of anxiety rushed in. So far, I cannot say I have felt creatively inclined after hours. In fact, I am laser-focusing on my professional writing work to maintain a sense of normalcy for myself and my clients. I have been watching reality TV and stretching and tending to houseplants and phone calls from friends who are panicking about the pandemic. I am painting less. Editing my passion project less. Caring less. Spoonies with mental health conditions know what these signs mean. We also know what’s going on in the world today is hard to watch and adds to whatever pains we were already experiencing. We also know how easily we become portals for other people’s problems because helping them is possible, whereas we’ve likely tried everything on ourselves. Yes, even yoga. It is still a chronic illness. It is still a pandemic. I have been trying to remain positive and yet cautious and yet sane. My body-focused repetitive disorder is in overdrive, which really means I am catching myself tearing pieces from my thumb nail beds and fingertips even as I write this. I keep telling myself to secure more paint and canvases and beads and pens and books, and also remind myself that things are going to be OK, and OK is still chronically ill. Create at whatever pace you can. Create when inspired. Create when driven. Quarantine and self-isolation are not competitions. For those who will fight themselves on this later, say it with me: Quarantine is not a competition with other spoonies or able-bodies or neurotypicals online or offline. I wrote this because I know I am not the only one seeing these posts about deep cleaning and Marie Kondo-ing and learning new languages. All of those things are amazing things. They are. But it’s also OK if nothing changes for you. It’s also OK if you’re not inspired or motivated or productive. It’s OK if you need more rest. There is a lot going on in the world right now. Let’s not judge ourselves for how we feel experience it. Of course, you know your mental health better than anyone else. If you’re experiencing increased symptoms or are concerned for your well-being, please seek medical support. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness Coronavirus and Chronic Illness: What You Need to Know 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend