Over the last year, I’ve been graced with dozens of individuals, parents and grandparents who utilize their uninterrupted hour on my massage table to ponder the changes that have occurred in their lives since COVID first hit U.S. soil just over a year ago. 

It has given me a snapshot of perspectives and an opportunity to conduct an unofficial survey of the wellbeing of our community’s children, parents and family support systems. It is clear that more than ever, our population is drained and exhausted. The usual “how are you?” greeting is a loaded question that is often answered with a deep sigh. 

PISANI

Prior to the pandemic, when clients would come in speaking of their mental wellbeing, they spoke in hushed tones and shied away from sharing their symptoms regarding depression, anxiety or fatigue. 

Now, more than ever, clients stream through the doors, seemingly unafraid to voice what they are experiencing; knowing they aren’t alone. There’s confidence in looking around and seeing that these feelings of isolation, exhaustion, pressure and change aren’t just impacting them as individuals. They’re impacting almost everyone in some capacity. The impact is rooted in how well we can mentally handle change and isolation. Despite it all, it feels as though this pandemic has a silver lining. We are finally openly discussing mental health as a spoken truth and not something that we tuck away into the depths of our proverbial skeleton closet. It will take years to understand the depths of the impact this pandemic has had and will have on our families, communities and nation as a whole. But, I’m witnessing more people opening up and sharing their griefs as easily as their triumphs. It feels like a collective world-wide burden is unexpectedly peeling back the curtain and letting in a little light on our mental health. 

 We know many of our children have experienced drastic change in their lives. The support systems utilized by attending school, playing sports and having busy social lives shifted so dramatically that many children of all ages experienced the same symptoms of anxiety and depression the adults around them were experiencing. Our home has certainly witnessed a shift – some dynamically positive and some deeply worrisome from the heart of a parent. It has required us to encourage our children to verbalize their emotions. It can be difficult for children to find words for feeling something that most of us have never experienced. 

In our home, we haven’t been short on teenage door slamming that morphed into nurtured conversations while we folded laundry or made dinner together. The cracks in their resilient yet fragile emotional and mental development were revealed. This pandemic has required creativity and schedule juggling from already over-stretched parents and guardians. Many parents weren’t previously exposed to shifting mental health in their children. My husband and I count ourselves among that population. Many families and friends had never experienced such a life-altering shift in routine and isolation. We had to turn to other parents and friends for assurance, guidance – and frequently – a place to vent. As it turns out, we certainly weren’t ever alone. 

The days of mental health taking a back seat to physical health, career responsibilities and social construct are slowly finding their place in the rear-view mirror. I couldn’t be more grateful to the pandemic for shedding light and long overdue grace on such a deeply important and relevant matter. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who has pulled together and checked in – asking about the health of my business, boys, husband and me. And for continuing to trust me with the gravity of their stories. There is no shame in sharing your troubles, tribulations and frustration. There is no shame in seeking help through counseling, natural healing, making an appointment with a practitioner or simply setting aside some intentional time to share coffee with a friend. Now is the time for action. We must check on our friends, family, children and neighbors. 

 Although still a bit isolated, we are stronger together. And together, we can guide the most resilient and the most fragile members of our community toward attaining a healthy mind and body. We may even find ourselves healing, too. 

Chelsea Pisani is a Licensed Massage Therapist, owner of Creswell Wellness Center, born in Crow and is a longtime Creswell resident, wife and mom.