Getting Back to Life As We Once Knew It

By Pamela Mairs, MA, LLP

This week I ventured back into the workplace after 13 months of working from home. As a therapist pre-COVID, I was used to sitting down with people face-to-face in my cozy office. It felt like a sanctuary to my clients who could come in, talk about their struggles and stresses and leave it with me until next time.  And then COVID struck. All of the sudden, I was learning how to use Zoom, downloading software I had never heard of, trying to create a space within my home that would feel like that cozy, sanctuary-like place where my clients, both old and new, would be able to see me virtually for therapy as they too struggled with COVID.

I felt fortunate that I could still do my work using technology, but it wasn’t the same. I missed being able to sit with people, to see their body language and facial expressions, to offer a tissue if needed and so much more. I looked forward to the day I could once again be in that experience.

I pretty much hadn’t left my home in over a year. Like many of you, I did not see my family members in person for holidays or birthday celebrations. There were no summer parties in the yard last year. I went out once a week to the grocery store and got home as fast as I could. There was no separation between work and home. The 20-minute drive I used to have to clear my head became an exercise in opening my home office door and yelling, “Honey, I’m home.” If I had a spare hour in between appointments, I would clean or cook or do laundry, but I often felt guilty for not getting more done around the house when my schedule was busy. My sleep was disturbed and I was sometimes moody and even pessimistic.

I got my vaccines as soon as I qualified to get them and shed a few tears of my own when given that first injection. What a relief. Maybe you can relate to that. Getting out to a restaurant recently to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary left me almost giddy, and I had been so deprived of my love for shopping that I drove to Troy to shop the Somerset Collections from the time it opened until the time it closed.

But the past year has changed things. I still have some skepticism about COVID. I am not as comfortable with strangers, and I worry about the so-called variants of the virus. I haven’t taken a vacation and despite being home, I am tired and weary. We have a parrot and a dog who have had “mom” home every day for an extended period; little did I know that both would have separation anxiety when I started leaving the house again. So, in an effort to keep my shoes from being chewed by a poodle and to keep Grady the African Grey from pulling all of his feathers in a panic, I am now carting them to work with me.

I am not certain that life will ever be the same even when this pandemic is behind us. Scientists tell us to expect more pandemics, but I sure hope that’s not the case. As we all begin this transition to a post-COVID reality, it’s reasonable to expect that most if not all of us will have some trauma to cope with. Trauma is the experience of living through an event that is almost unbelievable, scary, out of our control and outside the realm of most experiences. It leaves us feeling raw, anxious, sad, restless, irritable, tearful, hyper-vigilant and sometimes sleepless. It can cause us to act in ways that we never would have seen ourselves doing just 13 months ago. It can feel like we should just “snap out of it,” but if only it were that simple.

So, if you find yourself feeling stressed as life gets back to the new normal, please know that you are not alone and your feelings about it are completely normal given what we have all just been through.  There’s nothing normal about surviving a pandemic.  Try treating yourself and those you love with a little extra tender loving care.  We certainly all deserve it.