There is Hope
Written by Zandalee Lieske
On March 12, it began for me. Everywhere I went, people were talking about coronavirus (COVID-19). My regular coffee shop, where it was often a battle to find a seat, was almost empty. Hand sanitizer stands were going up everywhere and my hands began to crack from the excessive hand washing. We made our first and last ice cream trip in an attempt at finding some joy and normalcy. Everyone was being so reassuring, saying this tightness in my chest was unnecessary, the government is doing what they can, the number of cases are low and we’re overly cautious beyond what is necessary—everything is going to be okay. But, COVID-19 wasn’t just on the other side of the world anymore, it was in my city.
On March 16, it all hit the fan. I left work on Friday thinking Monday was just going to be another day of excessive hand washing and treats in the office. But, I didn’t go back into work. The situation escalated in just four days, to the point where everyone who could work from home was asked to. People began stocking up on toilet paper, flour and canned goods. When you bumped into friends at the grocery store, you had to stay six feet away—no hello hugs or high fives.
We weren’t sure what the next few weeks would hold, but what I did know was that my anxiety about not only my own situation, but that of the world’s, was through the roof. I was overwhelmed with the economic fallout of this pandemic; the mental health of so many; the children who would not be receiving meals at schools that were now closed; the addictions of people who were working on overcoming them or will turn to them again. I did not realize how quickly my mental health could be affected by this virus and pandemic. And, maybe you felt the same.
This is why I am so excited to partner with Alberta Blue Cross to bring awareness to their Text4Hope program. Text4Hope provides mental health support using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy-Based (CBT) messages. CBT refers to short-term therapy that helps individuals identify negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours and shift them into healthy thoughts and behaviours when needed.
I know for me, it took some time to grieve the loss of what I thought my next few weeks would look like. I wouldn’t have one more week of work before my spring break. I certainly wouldn’t be able to fly to Florida for our family cruise that we were looking forward to for almost a year now. I wouldn’t be able to hang out with my friends, celebrate Easter or head to all my favourite stores and restaurants. But, Text4Hope is such a great resource to receive encouragement and daily help to handle these thoughts.
In partnership with Alberta Health Services, the Mental Health Foundation, Dr. Vincent Agyapong of the University of Alberta and other hospital foundations across the province, this program will help Albertans cope with heightened stress, anxiety or depression during this time.
As we enter into week four of self-isolation, I thought I had my anxiety under control. I had implemented some very healthy habits—I stuck to a schedule that I would decide the night before; I moved my body by walking or working out at home; I ate healthy and planed our meals so we could avoid grocery shopping too frequently; and I would give myself something to look forward to everyday. But then a few days ago, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I cried and cried all day. I even had a nap—something I hadn’t done throughout this entire time. It hit me that no one knows when this will be over. I needed some extra help, some extra encouragement and someone to help me cope and get through that day. So, I signed up for Text4Hope.
Over the next three months, you can also receive daily advice, support and suggested actions from mental health experts to help you build adaptive coping skills and resiliency.
If any of my story resonates with you, whether you are experiencing grief, anxiety, depression or increased stress I encourage you to text COVID19Hope to 393939 to subscribe free of charge. There is hope in this time. There are people who are doing their best to give their best during this time, so that we can survive and thrive in such an unprecedented moment in history.
This blog was written in partnership with Zandalee Lieske, a creative storyteller and traveller living in Calgary. To read and view more of her work, visit zandaleec.com.