Although some things are easier said than done…
Cecilia and Ben have been working remotely since March 2020, so they both work in their home. They’ve faced the challenge of setting up work spaces in their home so they both have privacy for their online meetings. It took some doing, moving furniture, opening up areas and storing what they could when they’d rather be relaxing on the weekend. It’s all been about reduced stress and staying safe and healthy.
So they’ve adapted. And have designed their lives around working remotely in their own spaces. For their own wellbeing and for everyone else.
They’re very careful about avoiding exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Twice a month trips to grocery store with gloves and masks. Very cautious.
Cecilia also has concerns about managing her bipolar disorder. With the help of medication, she manages fairly well. But she and Ben are careful about avoiding stressful situations to help with her stability.
They were invited to share Thanksgiving with Jake and Robin, Cecilia’s brother and sister-in-law…so they discussed–again, at length–how careful Jake and Robin were about isolation and precautions, and were assured they were extremely cautious. Both couples agreed to a COVID test the week before the holiday. All four tests came back negative.
Halfway through the day on Thanksgiving, they were enjoying a quiet time together chatting as they prepared the meal.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. Jake and Robin looked at each other puzzled as if to say, Are you expecting anyone? No… are you?
When they answered the door, a jovial group of 8 more people roared Happy Thanksgiving!!! and charged through the door. The eight people included the Robin’s cousin, his wife, their 5 children, and Cecilia’s elderly mother.
Jake and Robin stepped out of the way, baffled, shocked, and horrified; Ben and Cecilia were equally horrified. Grandma came in with her walker. Four children ran through the house, and a baby in a carseat wailed from her position on the floor.
After quick greetings, and well-intended but strained smiles, Jake asked the parents of the wild offspring if they’d had recent COVID tests and they laughed and said, “No, of COURSE not!! Don’t you believe that whole COVID propaganda, Jake!! Relax! It’s Thanksgiving and it’s time for family!!!”
The new arrivals then commenced to talk about a party at another cousin’s house a few days before and what a great time they had.
“A party? How many were there?”
They held their breath.
“Aww, I don’t know… 30 or so. You should see Tom’s oldest. She is really grown up!”
So Robin said, “You know what? We love you guys and it’s great to see you…but we take this pandemic pretty seriously. We each got a COVID test last week to be sure we didn’t have the virus to expose to each other.
“We don’t want to hurt your feelings but until this COVID thing is resolved, we’re not letting anyone be here in the house who isn’t carefully isolating, using precautions, and can show a negative test result. We’re really concerned about Mom, too, because she’s high risk–she’s vulnerable to the virus and all kinds of complications. And she’s being exposed to you guys today. You’ve been with at least 30 people who may or may not have COVID, so now she has been exposed to those 30 people, too.
“To tell you the truth, you should all put on masks, and you should take her home. We can see that you don’t feel as cautious as we do, but we just have to protect our health and others the best we can.”
With bruised feelings, the cousins and Grandma all accepted masks to wear and loaded back into the car. They weren’t happy about being sent away without welcome. To say they took it personally would be an understatement.
The following week, Callie got a phone call from her mom. Her mom had not been feeling well for a couple days, so she went to the ER. With a history of heart trouble and asthma, she was worried. The hospital COVID test was positive, and Grandma was admitted to the ICU. Within 4 days, her breathing had deteriorated, and become very difficult, so her diagnosis was upgraded to COVID and pneumonia. Doctors said it was grave.
About the same time, Ben started feeling symptoms of severe fatigue, shortness of breath, and intestinal cramping. Cecilia drove him to a drive through testing center for another test. It came back in two days — positive.
Ben was the sickest he’d ever been. So weak he could barely walk to the bathroom. Cecilia tried to keep him quarantined in the bedroom. And she wore a mask and gloves and washed her hands often. After about 16 days, Ben began to improve. And Cecilia was weary and discouraged.
Cecilia’s daily calls to the hospital to check on her mom were frightening. Heartbreaking. Her mom was now on a ventilator. And her cousin’s wife was also sick with COVID.
After taking every precaution, Ben and Cecilia still found themselves exposed to COVID and were facing the possible loss of her mother. Their fear and grief were only surpassed by their profound frustration and powerlessness. They really thought they could reduce stress and stay safe for Thanksgiving.
You just never know, do you?
But all the more difficult, Cecilia’s bipolar depression symptoms were rearing up in the face of the deep frustration she felt. First frustration, then anger, then rage…at her cousin who ignored all the warnings and put her mom and everyone else at risk.
She could feel her mood moving from neutral to a dark melancholy… bipolar depression was looming… she could feel it coming on.
Oh no. How would she get through this and when her mom was in ICU? What if her mom died? It was all just too much. Her hope was dwindling. She felt both agitated and defeated… Even though she didn’t contract COVID, those around her who did played a role in her own condition worsening.
Reduce Stress and Stay Safe at the SAME Time
We’ve talked about how stress has become a traditional element of the holiday season, as we’ve allowed our traditions to become obligations. And how the stress that results from all those insurmountable obligations actually creates misery, sickness, and destructive conditions like depression and anxiety symptoms. So that to reduce that stress we need to make some hard decisions that put relationships and our own peace before the race to “get it all done.”
We’ve also talked about how this holiday season 2020 is unique because COVID cases are increasing so fast that we’ve been asked not to travel, and to limit the gathering in our homes to those who live there–and possibly one or two who’ve tested for COVID and received a negative result, and who are extremely careful about isolation and protection.
Of course, this appeal ricocheted around the internet and news media before Thanksgiving, and some heeded it. Many others ignored it.
Aside from the precautions for limiting spread of the virus that is causing the COVID pandemic, there is another issue that deserves attention. That’s the tension, anxiety, and depression symptoms that can be relegated to the ongoing news about the virus and the damage it can cause.
Add to that the conflict that arises when individuals hold opposing opinions about their decisions for celebrating the holiday… and the disagreements that erupt. Yikes.
This time of year is celebrated as a time of giving and receiving love and connection with friends and family. To worship true to your conscience, and hopefully be refreshed. Don’t you agree?
So what can you do when friends and family stir up conflict?
We all know someone who stirs up conflict wherever they go. The Button Pusher.
Then there are those who find their fuel by subtly inflicting guilt. We love them but we hate the guilt trips.
And every group has someone looking to push the crowd into doing something they don’t want to do…
Yours isn’t the only family with these delightful people.
Aren’t you glad?
The Good News. Disconnect your buttons before you have contact with the Button Pushers… Turn off your guilt switch and let the guilt purveyors buzz away while you walk away. And those Mr. Pushy types? Just say NO.
More good news: This is the pandemic year and it’s not recommended that you travel or join other households for the celebration. So contact could be limited to a ZOOM meeting. When it’s over, it’s over…!
This is a year to consider fewer gifts and more emails, cards, letters, especially those cards with pictures enclosed or attached. Share your news without exposing yourself, your family, or the vulnerable family members to potential illness.
Let the pandemic die down. Give the vaccinations some months to do their job. And let’s save Winter 2021 to hopefully move around the country and spend time with those we love.
Reduce Stress and Stay Safe — Enjoy the Holidays and Enter 2021 Healthy and Happy
And… if your efforts to reduce stress and stay safe are undermined like Cecilia’s and Ben’s were, you have options. They may be as simple as isolating and watching Christmas movies together, with popcorn and mugs of hot chocolate. But if you symptoms rise and intensify, if your medications aren’t effective in managing your symptoms of depression, bipolar depression, PTSD, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder… IV ketamine treatment may be a very real and lasting help for you. It doesn’t work for everyone — because nothing works for everyone — but it can be extraordinarily effective even when everything else has failed.
With a series of titrated ketamine infusions personalized specifically for you and your response, you can feel like your best self again. Think back to the last time in your life when you were at your best self for a good stretch. Ketamine treatment can help you feel like that again.
It can be amazing, and has a remarkable effect on the structures in your brain. You can feel restored, with the energy to give your best on your job and in your relationships, with improved creativity. And hope.
At Innovative Psychiatry, people with these conditions and more come through every week. We have an atmosphere we keep safe from the spread of COVID due to 21st century plasma cell technology we’ve installed that destroys the COVID virus in the air and on surfaces. With the technology available anywhere to keep our air and surfaces COVID-free, and meticulous procedures in our office, you can come for treatment with confidence, and relax in a quiet private treatment room with reduced stress where you can stay safe.
Above all, take very good care of yourself, your health, your outlook, and the wellbeing of your family.
We care about you, and we’re here to help you experience relief of symptoms and the power to enjoy this time of year by enjoying what you love and those dear to you.
If you want to see what IV ketamine treatment can do for you, call us.
We understand and can help.
To the restoration of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.