The UUCM interim ministry team will now be sharing a weekly pastoral message on Wednesdays. Rev. Meg, Rev. Terri and Arif will take turns writing or recording a video. This replaces Friday’s “In the Interim” post from the troika. The Friday Update email will continue to go out with events, announcements, news, and board updates. This week’s post is offered by Rev. Meg.
How are you? I mean, really, how are you? It’s easy to say, “Fine.” It’s easy to remind ourselves how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, food to eat, toilet paper, no violence in our home, enough money that we’re not scared about surviving. (If these descriptors are not true for you, please reach out to a minister immediately for help!)
But really, we’re not. We’re under a huge amount of stress, as this physical isolation becomes a new normal, and we read the news about the thousands of people dying, and we watch many government officials who are dangerously out of touch with science, as we watch business people who prioritize money over human life, as we watch unsafe practices from our neighbors and loved ones, as we understand the disproportionate share of the burden which, once more, poor people and people of color are bearing for us all. We’re not fine.
Monday I had my first complete day off from both churches for over a month. To my surprise, despite my to do list, I didn’t get out of bed till 3 PM! I feel fine now, but my body needed to collapse from the weight of the grief and stress of this time. I encourage you to respect your body’s needs similarly in this time.
Recently I read a list of descriptions of life under stress which gave me pause. A facebook post from a colleague asked, Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
And then offered this list…
- confusion and brain fog (and even slight dizziness and balance issues as well)
- sleeping too much or too little
- feeling nauseous all the time/not being interested in food even if you’re hungry
- “forgetting” to eat or shower or use the toilet etc. This is in quotes because what’s really happening isn’t a memory issue: instead, you’re not getting the cues from your body asking for food or water or hygiene or the bathroom. Your brain is so busy processing the fight/flight/freeze instinct that you can’t “hear” your body asking for its basic needs.
- the “bell jar” feeling, or as it’s otherwise known, dissociation, where you feel like somehow there’s glass between you and everything and everyone else in the whole world, and it takes a lot of effort to engage with anything outside yourself. It’s not a sad feeling in and of itself- it has no flavor, it’s just exhausting.
- intrusive thoughts. These are thought loops you get stuck in, usually bad ones, and they’re easy to miss the signs of in traumatic times. If you notice yourself continually cycling through a sequence of bad thoughts that you don’t want to have, that’s an intrusive thought pattern.
- inability to make decisions, even small ones (resulting in disproportionately intense distress if you try to force yourself). Here is a good article on decision fatigue.
- shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
- auditory processing issues- staring at someone for a good 10 seconds after they speak just trying to make your brain decipher what they said
- being unable to separate a conversation you’re having from the background noise of a television in the other room, sometimes to the point where you can’t finish your own sentences because the combination of sounds is distracting you.
- finding sounds, silence, and sensations more annoying and intolerable than usual- forks scraping, plastic bags rustling in the breeze from a fan, birds outside, etc.
These are experiences which many of us are having now which we have not had before! So it is very important to be super kind to ourselves and others, to give each other a wide berth not only on sidewalks but emotionally.
And, please know that you are not alone! If any of these symptoms, or others, are troubling you, please reach out to one of the ministers, a member of the care team, or anyone at UUCM who you trust to share yourself with. You’ll soon know you’re not alone!