Direction, Less

By Liz Sharkey

It was a couple of weeks ago now that I first wrote about my COVID-19 roller-coaster. The wisdom of hindsight would indicate that back then I was functioning to some degree on adrenaline. A few weeks on, that initial adrenaline has worn of. I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I am struggling.

I know I’m doing the right thing for the community, for my family and for me by keeping my clinic closed.

But most days consists of me putting on a happy face.

I started out so positively. I was doing online workouts and watching online presentations for personal interest and professional development, the dog was getting walked 2-3 times per day (even in the rain) and it was kind of nice having everyone home for a family dinner every night.

The trips to the shops for bread, milk and enough food for 3 teenagers was the highlight of my day and, being a mum, my days were often focused on making sure the kids were OK.

Fast forward to now. I find it difficult to concentrate for much more than a 15-minute time block. I find myself easily triggered. The tears are never far from the surface and more than once I’ve had a good cry in the bathroom before taking a deep breath, squaring my shoulders and putting my chest out to go back out to face the family.

Deep down, I am scared.

Like so many of us, I feel like I have lost my identity and I am not sure when I will get it back. I was “Liz the Remedial Massage Therapist”. That’s what I did and it’s only now I realise how much my identity was wrapped up in that. My clients sought me out, they were happy to see me, and I could use my skills and knowledge to help them. Who or what am I now?

Part of what is contributing to my distress is that I like to plan. I like schedules, I like hard copy calendars and, yes, I will admit it, I can be a control freak. I don’t know how long this is going to go on. 6 weeks or 6 months. No one knows and that doesn’t sit well with my psyche.

I’m also starting to second guess my career choice and I’ve got a significant “0” birthday coming up later this year. I’m really struggling with applying for government assistance and the thought of needing that assistance for a prolonged period of time is difficult to come to terms with. I feel guilty applying for assistance. I’m not as badly off as many others out there because my husband’s still working, but I feel a little useless not contributing to the family finances. Maybe I need to get up off my butt and find a new job? Trouble is, I can’t see myself doing anything other than what I was doing 6 weeks ago.

So what now? This is where I’m supposed to make the grand statement about how I’m going to fix these things. I’m just not sure how. I’ve given plenty of advice to my kids to stay connected, stay focused and stay active but it’s much harder to practice what I preach.

All I can think of right now is to acknowledge what’s going on. Acknowledge that I am struggling. Stop hiding in the bathroom to have a cry. Let my family see that it is OK to not be OK. For all I know, they are doing the same thing as me. Let my friends and colleagues know if I’m having a bad day. I don’t have to explain it, don’t have to have a pity party, but say that I’m finding it bloody hard. Not all the time, but for an hour here and there or a night of tossing and turning.

I need to set myself a daily schedule so I have a reason to get out of bed before 9am. I need others in my household to hold me to account for that. If I’m the only one that knows what my daily schedule looks like, it’s easy to pretend I am sticking to it.

The Kübler-Ross model of grief tells us there are 5 stages (or 7 depending upon your reference). Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I’m really hoping this is a process I’m going though and that acceptance is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Until I get there though, I will try to follow the advice I have been giving to others: Be gentle to myself.

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If any of the issues that Liz has discussed in this article sound familiar and you’re not sure what to do, please re-read Tim Clark’s latest article here. It’s packed to the gills with useful information and resources.

About the Author

Liz Sharkey is currently a stay-at-home mum, trying to feed a house of teenagers without having to visit the supermarket 3 times a day. When school starts back, she will be trying her hand at being a teacher’s aide. Liz is spending her downtime watching massage training DVDs and wistfully dreaming of the day she may get to try these techniques on her clients.

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Comments

  1. Stephen Morris
    15/04/2020 - 9:28 am

    Very similar thoughts here. Thanks for posting

    • Sharon Livingstone
      15/04/2020 - 9:45 am

      Thanks for reading, Stephen. I found myself nodding at a lot of what Liz wrote. Stay well. Sharon

  2. Kristin Osborn
    15/04/2020 - 9:48 am

    Hi LIz, I definitely feel your pain as I am struggling also.

  3. Hi Liz, I think it very helpful to share these thoughts and feelings – helpful for others and, I hope, helpful to you. A couple of years ago, my wife and I moved from the NSW Central Coast to the ACT, to be closer to one of our sons an his family. At the time of our move, I was not ready to give up my practice of six years, so I continued to travel to the Coast twice monthly for compacted work periods of four days. After eight months, when I ‘suddenly’ stopped, and realised that I could not ‘re-create’ a personal services practice in the short term, or even the medium term, if at all within a survival timeframe. After a few weeks of becoming what I can only describe as ‘unhinged’ (in the most Trumpian of ways), I successfully applied for a job in remedial massage practice in Canberra (which has worked out well, by the way, except at the moment 😉 ). During that time of not working, I experienced all of the thoughts and emotions that you described, and a deep sense of grief and loss from having left behind many relationships with clients, some of whom I had been working with since I started my work as a therapist. The loss of identity that you describe rings true; in my case, it was accompanied catastrophic thinking that included questioning my skills and abilities to do anything at all. I mention this not as a prophesy, but as warning light about where our brains and minds will take us if we let them and do not reach out. I understand that many feel as uncomfortable seeking financial support as they do seeking help to support their mental wellbeing. I also understand how important it is to do it anyway, for yourself and for others who benefit from your being on this planet. Best wishes.

    • Sharon Livingstone
      15/04/2020 - 11:10 am

      Thanks for reading Greg, and for sharing your experience. Sharon.

  4. Katherine Potter
    15/04/2020 - 11:04 am

    Thank you for sharing, raw honesty at it’s best. I’m struggling too. My boys (6 & 8) and my beautiful dog (Gracie – a Cavoodle) make me accountable for getting out of bed, they are all early risers and 7am is a sleep in…lol Take care x

  5. Louella Jolly
    15/04/2020 - 11:43 am

    Thank you for sharing Liz.
    It is so important to know that you are not alone & to be able to step out & acknowledge what is happening & how you are feeling to yourself but also your family & friends.
    I have been in “that place” you talk about, feelings of worthlessness etc. We will all get through this as though as it may be.
    My thoughts & prayers going out to everyone.

  6. Thank you for your movingly reflective post and your willingness to share your experiences. There will be, I imagine, swathes of people for whom your experience is resonating.

  7. Chris Wheeler
    15/04/2020 - 1:55 pm

    I don’t know you, Liz, but I am able to answer your question. You are still the same kind, dedicated and talented person you were before.

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