SLICE OF LIFE: Counseling, reaching out to loved ones can help ease distress

First of all, thank you to many in the community who have said you appreciate my articles in the Gazette. I enjoy writing them, so I’m glad that you enjoy reading them!

Have you ever lost something and you thought you had lost your mind? Today is Thursday and I lost my set of keys for the van on Monday. I have pulled apart our house —I even cleaned out the deep freeze thinking they had fallen in there (plus, the lid would hardly close so I needed to do it). My last-ditch effort was to borrow my Dad’s metal detector. Nothing. So, that means one of my “essential” trips will need to be going to get another key made. Not really how I wanted to spend my time!

This pandemic has made me feel out of sorts, too. The uncertainty. The quarantining. The grieving over lost times together with other people and sometimes needing a break from the people in my house. Many of you live alone, and you have other heartaches—loneliness during these months, and maybe a caged in sort of feeling.
Of course, there have been good times, too. One of mine was a Zoom get together Thanksgiving Day with my sister’s family and my parents. We played JackBox games together online and got to see each other’s faces and laugh.

For this Slice of Life column, it seems that about a month of life needs to accumulate before I have enough material to snowball into an article.
However, this one has taken much of my life. When I was one year old, my grandfather died in a car accident. I never knew him, but I heard stories of him. I knew he could talk to anyone and would often talk to strangers in the store. I also knew that he had a mental breakdown and was shipped from Iowa to another Midwestern state for shock therapy. My grandma said his personality changed after that.

Several of my close relatives on both sides have struggled with their mental health. I have, too, experienced bouts of depression, postpartum depression, and seasons of life when I took various medications to combat it. And, I’m going to say it — I’ve gone to counseling in the past.

But, in my own life, until recently, I’ve always viewed counseling and mental health as a secretive problem. “Oh — she’s going to counseling” was whispered with sort of a “I can’t believe he/she has to succumb to that kind of help.” It seemed to be that if someone couldn’t figure out life on their own, something was really wrong with them. And married people going to counseling? Well, that was a sure sign that a marriage was on the brink of divorce.

I’m writing today to say that I think this mindset needs to change.

Personally, around the beginning of May 2020, the pandemic was hitting me. The kids were doing school at home. Month 2 of the Stay-At-Home Order. We kept on getting emails that the school counselor would be available to talk. At first, I thought they just meant the students, but I realized I was really the one struggling, so I contacted the school.
After several phone calls over the spring and summer, and a sad life experience, the school counselor and another friend of mine recommended more consistent counseling. I realized that I was waking up in the night, thinking. At first, because of my previous mindset, I thought, oh — I don’t need to go to counseling, do I? But, after some checking around anyhow (thanks Google) and I started to talk to a counselor at SpringHaven.

For me, it’s been helpful to have someone to process all these life changes out loud with, whether on the phone or in person. She’s helped me think through some conflicts with my family and just listened with a third-party perspective. She and I are working together to help me heal from some hurts from the past.

I picked up a flyer at Springhaven this past week that mentions these difficult times during the pandemic. Some common symptoms of distress are listed, and I’ll note some of them here:
* Feeling hopeless;
* Changes in appetite and energy;
* Difficulty sleeping;
* Anger or short-temper;
* Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

I don’t know–maybe counseling is something that could help you, too?
I get it, counseling isn’t for everyone. And, you can’t always find someone you really “click” with. Or, if your insurance doesn’t help pay for it, it can be expensive!
If you feel that you are having mental health issues, but counseling isn’t for you, here are some ways, besides counseling, that have helped me during this time: walking and talking with friends; going to bed early or having a nap when I’m tired; trying to eat healthy (which is getting harder with Christmas approaching!); being tickled by my youngest who ‘likes to hear me laugh each day’; and reading my Bible and praying daily. These are some things I have done to keep myself balanced.

As readers of this column, I want to make sure that you are OK during this unprecedented time.
So, if you feel like you are losing your mind, give a friend a call, or send me an email. If you’ve also lost your keys or something else and can’t find them, I hope you can. And, if you happen to find my keys, please send me an email ASAP!

Jacqui L. Hershberger lives in Sugarcreek Township and can be reached by emailing [email protected]

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