Dr. Fauci had een persoonlijke COVID-19-boodschap voor mij. Ontdek ook of je het moet horen.april 5, 2020
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I can tell you the minute I knew my mental health was spiraling down. I was streaming the end of Britney Runs A Marathon. As Britney crawls through the last miles of the race, sweaty, dangerously exhausted runners continue to push forward to the finish line. Britney falls to the ground. I’m still watching when I hear a voice in my head. I recognize it to be Dr. Anthony Fauci. Is he now narrating the movie? Or am I going nuts? His voice, gravelly and inescapably familiar, offers a sort of briefing. I imagine him saying. “Runners should be six feet apart. Yes, parks are open. But no gathering in groups larger than five. Yes, even that may change.”
Darn. I can now only see Britney, a lovely character in an uplifting movie, as a weapon of mass destruction. At that moment, it seems, Dr. Fauci truly does have a personal message for me: All of the basics you are dutifully using to manage your mental health are not enough.
You, too, may have tried all the basics: yoga, breathing deeply, taking a walk, journaling, cooking healthy food, helping others and connecting virtually. They’re great habits to adopt. Seriously, they work. Thank you, for all who have offered traditional mental health boosters. And thank you to everyone on the front lines who is risking their health for our own.
For those of you working from home, I’ve called in a different kind of expert with different ideas. These mental health tips are from people like me with ADHD or other mental health and learning disability diagnoses: from OCD to those on the autism spectrum and beyond.
This post, as are most of my posts, offer lived experience and give neurodiverse people a voice in mainstream media.
First, I hope this post illustrates how many neurodiverse people think and solve problems very successfully.
Second, and I think Dr. Fauci would agree here, during this unprecedented time, we’re going to need to consider every mental health tool imaginable.
Finally, after reading this, you may find that you trust, admire or understand the quirky people who offered them up more than ever. Now wouldn’t that be weird?
Let’s begin. If you are so stressed you can’t even read another health news story, bookmark this page for week 10, when time slows to a less than a Britney Runs A Marathon crawl.
If you are in the kind of head space where it feels like giant spikey tumbleweeds of coronavirus are blowing in and you can’t slam the door fast enough, begin right now in any order you like.
- Find Your Hyper Focus. Think about a memory that brings back a smile the minute it lands in your head. Got one? Great. It’s probably a time when you were intensely wrapped up doing an activity you love. The beauty of hyper-focus is that time flies and you enjoy the task at hand, even if its work. Here’s an example taken from my own life that actually illustrates the value of play and hyper focus. It’s about my son is who is 21. He lives hours from me. He’s alone with the exception of two friends, quarantined in a multi-family house. I just ordered a 1,000 piece kit for him. It used to be one of his favorite ways to zone out. To be fair, he would never ask me to buy him a Lego set—but it pleased me to no end to buy it for him. Ordering the 1,000 piece kit is like sending a memory, a hug and a serious time-sucker all in one. I suspect he won’t talk to anyone for days while he finishes it. The hyper-focus of an ADHD brain can be a beautiful thing. Not into building stuff? Find your hyper-focus elsewhere. Maybe the Smithsonian?
- Stop Going Outside! Ground Yourself For A Minute. Pull up Google Earth on your screen. Locate where you are right now. Zoom in, then blow up the map. Using your cursor, walk the streets in your neighborhood and a little farther—where you would never even think of going. Cool, right? Who knew there was a historic factory just a half mile away and that there’s a stone wall in the park near you that stretches between towns. Who built that thing, anyway? Now, go out and walk or bike. You will see your neighborhood from a completely different perspective. Knowledge is power. In this case, it has the power to make you feel more grounded and spark creative new questions to research.
- Redefine All Hands Meetings. Bring your kid with you to your ‘home office’ Zoom call. Ask a a few colleagues with a sense of humor to do the same thing. Give each kid a glass of water or a messy half of a bagel with cream cheese or even better, jelly. Before the meeting officially begins, prompt your child to ask other others on the call what they have in their hands. People without children will be out of their minds annoyed, nervous and weirded-out. You will laugh a lot. And you will never have to complain about what life with kids in your home office is like again—they’ve got the picture now. Make sure to move your keyboard out some distance before you risk having to call IT to tell them your kid spilled water all over your keyboard and you’re freaking out.
- Don’t Try Finding A Quiet Place To Read Alone. Absolutely not. Instead, bring your book to the table. Ask your partner or others to do the same thing. Why rehash the same dreary stuff over and again at dinner? Make a new ritual. Sit. Read. Do Not talk. Eat. Maybe wave hello when you finish a chapter. Finish by clearing the table and stowing your book away. I like doing this at mealtime because for people with ADHD, who are often overwhelmed by constant noise and chatter, it’s a way to get people to stop talking. Their mouths are full! I don’t suggest this for everyone with sensory issues—this could be the trigger of all triggers for some.
- Cancel Everyone And Go To An Unconcert. Music helps you to be more creative and manage stress. Log in to wherever you listen to music and search for live performances or acoustic sessions. Think Tiny Desk Concerts. Also, lots of musicians are performing uncancelled concerts and Billboard offers a weekly list of streams. For at least an hour if possible, listen while you cook, garden, stress clean the bathroom or print out your credit card bill summaries and highlight every single extra you can cut to save money. While listening, also shut off alerts. If done correctly, you will emerge feeling pretty chill. I did my own concert hall experiment last week. Never felt better. When my father called to ask if I had seen this news item or that Dr. Fauci snippet, I said, No, sorry, I’ve been at a Jackson Browne concert most of the day. I really did feel like that. And it felt great. This is also therapeutic for kids to do. Maybe revisit the soundtrack to Hamilton?
- Shout At The TV As If It Just Ran the Red Light Near Your Corner Store. Just do it—vocalize! You are social distancing. Nobody will see you or hear you. Or scream in bed. Or scream in the shower. Or scream in your make-shift office in the laundry room. You will, no doubt, feel healthier for it. Anxiety tends to build up and a panic attack presents similarly to shortness of breath associated with COVID-19, say new reports.
Thank you for considering alternative ideas. I have a feeling we will all be thinking differently at work when we return to whatever the new reality is. Don’t be surprised if someone who has never divulged that they have ADHD or OCD or GAD or PTSD or a learning disability says—oh, I love that idea! Or, I have tried something like that before! The not-so-hidden lesson there (hint, hint) is that there are neurodiverse people you work with who have exceptionally smart ideas and workarounds that you may have been ignoring. Now you can appreciate their ideas in a whole new way.
- Note: I am not a professional doctor and these suggestions are not meant as medical advice. No, I did not speak to Dr. Fauci for this story.
- If you need immediate mental health help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of more than 150 local crisis centers. Call 800-273-8255 (24/7).
- The Crisis Text Line is a free text messaging resource offering 24/7 support to anyone in crisis. Text HOME to 741741 (24/7)
- For information on COVID-19 in particular, get information from the CDC, here.