(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Welcoming Peace in Uncertainty
By Joy Wilson
I hope and I pray that this message encourages you to stay calm through the storm, no matter what storm you are in. I hope that this message allows some of you to feel less lonely, especially if you are struggling or know someone who is struggling with mental illness, addiction, or self-harm. When you are struggling with a mental illness or addiction, health professionals advise you to not isolate and to reach out to others. While we practice social distancing, we need to remember this advice and be creative in how we communicate and connect with others. With the support of technology, people can avoid isolation and feel a sense of connection to their community. Because of the severe anxiety that I have felt this week during social distancing, I am so grateful that there is technology available that can help me stay connected to my community.
The crisis that our world is facing is a lot to handle, but it’s comforting to know that we are not alone and that we are all in this together. The whole world is battling together to stay strong and save lives. No matter where our faith falls, the fight we are fighting is the same. It’s hard during a time like this to remind others and to also remember ourselves that “God’s got this,” and “Let His will be done.” The news refers to the Coronavirus crisis as a silent enemy that snuck up on us. Even if your faith is strong, it can be difficult to not be afraid of this sneaky and silent enemy. Trusting God can be so hard to do when our whole world has been shaken. I don’t think any of us had a clue what our lives would be like today or the uncertainty of what our lives will look like tomorrow. The information we are receiving is changing everyday and we are expected to “roll with the punches” more than ever. After my first week of social distancing and self-quarantine, I had to refocus my eyes on Jesus and trust that only He can take this crisis and turn it around for good. My first week of social distancing was filled with anxiety and constant changes that distracted me more than ever from the promises that only He can provide. With a little help from my mother, a little text message was all it took to remind me that “the God of peace will be with you.”
Before March 13th, I hadn’t been watching the news much. My mother was the first one to share with me the concern that household essentials were running low in our local markets. My mom came to my house a few mornings to help my kids get ready for school. For two weeks, each morning she came to help, she brought me toilet paper. She’d walk in my house with two rolls of toilet paper in her hands and say, “this is worth gold.” I thought she was just being nice. She knew that our family of 5 ran out of toilet paper quite often. Testing her theory that toilet paper was worth gold, I tried to purchase toilet paper from Amazon.com the morning of March 13th. I could not do so. “How is this possible?” I thought to myself. For some reason, that initial realization that toilet paper was unavailable caused me to realize that I needed to take this crazy Coronavirus extra seriously.
On March 13th, the students and staff at the high school I teach at were notified that our school would be closed until April 6th and that all other schools in our district would be closing too. My immediate response to the news was to feel relief in knowing that I could be home to protect my youngest son who had been sick since January. Knowing that my youngest son had been so sick for so long, and that there was another ugly virus lurking in our communities, I was having a really hard time going to work. Within seconds of feeling relief when I heard the news, I begin to feel a sense of panic. It was a panic I hadn’t felt in a long time. Our school administration recently made our staff aware that the Coronavirus was a concern and that teachers needed to be extra careful to wash their hands and to not touch their faces. We knew that the virus was a concern, but we had no idea that our school would be closed. I’ve worked as a teacher in California for 19 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this. Even with other recent national concerns, it has never been an option to close schools.
Within minutes of being told that our school would be closed for 3 weeks I said, “See you later,” to my students, packed up my classroom, turned-in 3rd quarter grades, and grabbed my personal belongings. I did all of this while thinking that I would see my students again very soon. “Focus on your health and stay inspired,” I told them. During the day of March 13th, I had set-up a way to communicate lessons with my students. Because I had done this, I was not concerned about providing lessons online if I needed to. After a brief staff meeting, I left campus and headed to the mini market across the street from our school. I was able to purchase their last 12 rolls of toilet paper, 3 rolls of paper towels, 2 cans of spam, and 4 cans of tuna. I spent almost $50 on these items that I thought were so important. After my purchase from the mini mart, I still felt extremely concerned about toilet paper. I resumed my online shopping in the mini market’s parking lot and managed to purchase 18 packages. Knowing that my youngest son had been so sick and that we would be stuck at home, I searched for children’s Tylenol and Motrin on Amazon. Children’s Tylenol and Motrin was out of stock, so I ordered some infants’ Tylenol. It felt good to just order anything I thought would help. I didn’t even know what to order, but I knew ordering something useful would ease me nerves. Both products were scheduled to arrive on March 23rd, so I knew I had to be patient. I was willing to be patient in exchange for the security of having toilet paper and children’s medicine. While sitting in the mini market parking lot I again asked myself, “how is this possible?”
After I left the market, I called my husband and told him that I was headed to the grocery to stock up on whatever items I could grab. By this time, I was starting to feel very anxious and frantic about how to prepare for the situation. When I arrived at the grocery store, I saw many more frantic people. I knew toilet paper was “worth gold” and felt afraid that someone would break into my car to steal the toilet paper I had purchased from the mini market. I hid the toilet paper under a jacket behind the front passenger seat. As I entered the grocery store, I could immediately see that the lines were long, the shelves were empty, carts were full, and a few people were panicking. Rather than filling a cart, I decided to fill a small basket. I filled it with rice, cereal, apple sauce, canned soup, apples, and cucumber. No toilet paper, no meat, no milk, and no water. While waiting in line, an older man in front of me offered for me to use his cart if my basket got too heavy. His generosity was appreciated. On my way out of the store, I saw a few other people leaving in tears and empty handed. I called my mom and told her, “I see people leaving the store crying and I think it’s because they couldn’t get toilet paper.” This was just the start to a week that was filled with anxiety.
That weekend was my first weekend of social distancing and taking care of my kids at home. My husband had to work at the fire station all weekend, so it was just me and my kids. I have a 3-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 10 year old. I tried to balance our time with chores, meals/snacks, arts and crafts, free time, board games, and movies. Because I had done this plenty of times before, I told myself, “this will be easy.” What I didn’t consider in my equation for balance was the amount of time I was going to spend watching the news and the importance of keeping my mental health in check.
For almost two years, I haven’t experienced any panic attacks, depression, PTSD symptoms, or OCD symptoms. I’ve had some anxiety, but I’ve been able to decrease my anxiety under control through prayer and living a healthy life-style. Even while dealing with recent grief, I’ve been able to keep my depression in check by staying connected with my doctors and keeping my heart aligned with God’s will. I thought I was physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy enough to handle anything. During my first week of social distancing, my mind and body soon proved to me that I am still susceptible to extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and uncontrollable depression.
By the third day of social distancing, I had been watching the news non-stop and put unattainable high expectations on myself as a mother and wife. This state of mind caused me to become paralyzed with fear. By the time my husband came home that Monday morning, I was physically feeling the effects of my anxiety. For the next five days, I was glued to my couch and obsessed with the news. I continued to care for my kids by feeding them and picking up after them, but mentally I was checked out as a mom. My mind was preoccupied with the world news and it was taking a toll on my health. I started throwing up a lot and couldn’t keep any food down. My body ached, my legs felt weak, my head was light, and my chest was heavy. Somehow, I was able to make the connection to how I was feeling to me watching the news. My mom knew that I had been struggling and sent me a text that changed my whole perspective. Her text helped me to unplug from my phone, not watch the news, focus on my kids, and focus on my home. I was able to take the power away from the news channels and gave it back to myself and my God.
“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praise worthy- meditate on these things… the God of peace will be with you.”
– Philippians 4:4
After receiving this text, I was reminded of my city of light. The man in the grocery store that offered his cart, my mom who brought me toilet paper, and the school administration that protected my family. Through all the chaos, there has been a light that shines brighter than bright. “If there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
I’m still worried about my son, my husband while he serves our community as a firefighter, everyone that is affected by the Coronavirus, and the uncertainty of what’s to come. Through God’s love and grace, I’m able to pass my burdens on to Him and trust that He knows my path. Since my mom’s text, I’ve been able to feel gratitude, contentment, and a sense of peace. After much thought and prayer, I’m able to be present with my children and be a light for them during this confusing time. Prayer helps me to be completely selfless and care for others. Simple accomplishments like making pancakes that aren’t burnt and playing charades with my kids are helping me to stay focused on the simplicity of life. My kids are happy being home, my puppy is thrilled to have company 100% of the time, and my husband has a wife that can hold down the fort while he serves as a first responder. I’m finding simple pleasures in playing board games, reading, bird watching, gardening, calling friends and family, and catching up with Netflix.
Through all the chaos, I’m noticing little sparks of light that are leading me to contentment. As I face the coming weeks of being home with the kids, I plan to fill my time with getting to know my kids more and creating memories. More than ever, I am realizing that tomorrow is uncertain. As longs as I’m able to keep my eyes on Jesus, tomorrow’s certainties are not so important. I want to be like a bird and not worry about my next meal and where the wind will take me. From Philippians 4:4, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praise worthy- meditate on these things… the God of peace will be with you.” This verse helps me to acknowledge God’s peace that surpasses my understanding. I hope that it helps you too. Your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health matters. Your health is your magic carpet to help you stay calm through the storm, no matter what storm you are in. If you trust Him, God will provide you with the magic carpet.
If you are struggling with mental illness, addiction, or self-harm, please reach out to someone. You are not alone. If you know someone that is struggling with mental illness, addiction, or self-harm, please reach out to them. You are also not alone. There are resources online to help you feel supported in any situation that you are facing.