Hi everyone, this post may be more personal than what I am used to sharing on this blog. Yesterday, my little sister Linda texted me “please don’t freak out cuz I’m fine and home now.” She had tested positive for COVID two days before, was recovering, and then suddenly had to be taken to the ER because of pneumonia, high fever, and high blood pressure. She knew I was going to freak out so didn’t tell me she was in the ER. (I got her permission to share all this).
This year has been one unending series of awfulness. I have been trying to put on a brave face, but it’s been rough. I am supporting another family member who has been dealing with alcohol addiction, and others who have depression or other mental health challenges or who are experiencing severe isolation and loneliness.
Being a parent with small children, meanwhile, has been both wonderful and taxing. The kids keep me occupied and distracted, but it can take so much energy and patience that I sometimes do not have. I find myself snapping at them, then feeling like a really crappy parent. I worry about how this will affect them. At least twice a week, one or both of them wake up at 3 or 4am, wanting to snuggle. They can probably sense all the anxiety we adults are carrying. I haven’t slept more than five disjointed hours most nights for months.
Now I stay up, thinking of my baby sister all alone in her apartment, wondering if she might be one of the statistics of rare young people fatally affected by this virus. It is an unsettling feeling, the reminder that the people we love are not invulnerable, that they could be taken from us at any time. Despite the masks we constantly wear, despite the fact that we have restricted Thanksgiving to just me, my partner, and our two kids, this pandemic has felt somewhat unreal. Until now. I hear Linda’s raspy voice on the phone as I coordinate no-contact groceries drop-offs and my brain goes in horrible directions.
I am bringing all of this up because almost everyone I know is going through myriad difficulties. This week is when we in the US think about all the things that we’re thankful for, and to spend time with our friends and families. 2020 has seen so much destruction, though, that this Thanksgiving will likely be one of the worst we’ve ever seen. How do we find gratitude when so many have died, or lost their jobs, or have been alone for months, and there is no end in sight?
If you’re going through a rough time, I want to let you know that you are not alone, that I see you, that you matter, and that despite how terrible and scary everything is, we will make it through together.
If you are feeling isolated and lonely, specially if you’re spending Thanksgiving by yourself, please reach out to people who care about you. There are way more people who care about you than you realize. It’s just that everyone is dealing with their own issues too. Let’s all check in on one another.
If you are undergoing depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges, there is no shame in it. Please get help. See a counselor if you can. Talk to a friend. Even with everything going on, there is still a lot of stigma associated with mental health. This is especially true in many marginalized communities. I have started seeing a counselor and it’s been very helpful.
If you are experiencing challenges with addiction and recovery, or if you’re supporting someone who is, know that you are not alone. Many people are going through this. The increased stress, combined with support groups going virtual and other factors, makes it difficult for a lot of people. Please seek help.
If you’re a parent, especially if you have small children, give yourself and your kids a break. I have really struggled this year with trying to ensure the kids are caught up academically, not having too much screen time, not eating too much junk food, etc. It’s been stressing us all out. Things are not normal. TV and junk food from time to time may actually be what we all need right now.
If you have lost loved ones and are facing the holidays without them, give yourself time and space to process. I remember how difficult those days were. Around Thanksgiving, I think of my mother. She always basted a turkey with soy sauce, and it was the only time during the year that the family would eat turkey. Those first holidays after her death were heavy. Over time, the grief does lessen, I have learned, but it never fully goes away. If you are in mourning, I want to let you know that I see you.
There are many of you facing other challenges where nothing I say would be helpful—friends and colleagues who have lost their jobs, who are facing financial insecurity, evictions, and worse. I’m sorry. Please try not to lose hope.
This week, find some time to rest. Despite this year being so awful, or maybe because of it, I am so thankful for all of you. The past few months saw so many organizations and nonprofit folks rise to meet the significantly increased needs of our community. Our sector has been creative and adaptable. We have built community. We continue to provide healing and comfort for so many. We do all this while facing relentless personal and sector-wide challenges.
Please take care of yourself while you take care of others. As this crappy year comes to an end, I want to let you know that I am so glad that you exist, that your existence makes the world better, and that we will get through all this together.
Donate now to elect Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Senate run-off races in Georgia. Whoever controls the Senate will affect every single issue all of us are working on in this sector.