When will things return to normal?

A question for Mental Health Awareness Month

| 16 May 2022 | 02:59

    It is a question we’ve all heard and probably asked. The last few years have been challenging to say the least. Our conflicted world, our national divide, familial discord, and individual uncertainties have left us wishing for something else. Among many of us, there is a longing for the former quieter days, when things were more predictable, secure and less stressful. We remember those days as “normal”.

    It is not easy or comfortable feeling so unsettled. We become distressed at the lack of perceived security and it often has a negative impact on our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. In fact, research shows that, as a nation, we are at record levels of anxiety disorders and mood disorders among almost all age groups, even children. What we forget while under such distress, is that the normalcy we so longingly hope will return, can not come back.

    A large piece of that unsettled feeling is due to the fact that over the last few years we all have lost much. Many of us have tragically lost loved ones. Others of us have lost jobs. Our children have lost educational opportunities. Many of us have lost our dreams. Our culture seems to have lost the ability to have civil dialogue. Hopes, aspirations, and optimism have taken a back seat to just getting through the next day. We are a society in grief. Not just bereavement, but deep, complex grief. That which reaches into our core and makes us question who we even are; as individuals or as a community. When loss impacts our identity, it is so much more powerful than when it impacts our possessions. When perceived through the lens of grief, it is no wonder we are plagued with anger, polarization, suspicion, sadness, denial, anxiety and depression.

    The human spirit is incredibly resilient, however. Our brains are designed to be super adapters. When confronted with new stimulus, the brain quickly finds a route that connects to a similar experience stored in our memory and creates a response that is informed by history and shaped by the present. We are constantly learning, adjusting, and accommodating to the new situations that confront us. Seen in this way, change is not the cause of distress but of positive adaptation. That is why we cannot go back...we’re different than we were before the pandemic, even different than yesterday. We’ve learned so much, even if it hurt. This resilient nature is the very thing that allows us to bounce back in the midst of adversity- especially during times of grief.

    We are on a journey together. My journey is not yours, nor yours, mine. But we walk together none-the-less. Perhaps, rather than seeing each other as strangers, or even contenders, we can experience each other as mutual travelers; sharing our journey together from that which was, to that which is yet to be. Tell each other how the journey has been, how much we’ve lost, and what allows us to put one foot in front of the other. Perhaps that is the best “normal” that will serve as our guide moving forward.

    Rev. Jim Knol, LCSW

    Writing on behalf of We the People Warwick