A couple weeks ago when I wrote the first of this three part series, I never would have thought the world would be in the situation it is today. I could not have imagined that all across the world, families and individuals are being told to stay home. We have this whole “social distancing” thing going on, we are asked to stay six to ten feet from others, and not gather in groups of more than ten individuals. How many of you, like me, had to go and get two separate beds for you and your significant other at night? Not really!
But in all seriousness, life has drastically changed for a lot of us over the past few weeks. What your routine looks like today is probably much different than it was pre-coronavirus. Moments like these can wreak havoc on someone who battles depression, loneliness, and anxiety. In the previous segments, I wrote about being in a crowded room, surrounded by friends and loved ones, yet feeling isolated and alone. Now imagine, being isolated and alone at this time, and what it is doing to those people. The outcome isn’t good at all. I’ve read all over social media, and have seen in numerous people, the temperature going up. They’re more irritated than before, they’re starting to lash out, and people have stated how the level of hostility within their homes has increased. Some people are at a breaking point. They’re scared, alone, unsure of the future, and their routine has been greatly disrupted.
As previously stated, I am definitely not a mental health expert. When I was in the Air Force and instructed many different training classes, I often taught suicide prevention; consisting of recognizing stressors in your own life, warning signs in others, and ways to cope with those things. How to get help!Like any of you reading this, I am no stranger to stress and life experiences that bring about a heightened level of stress and emotion. But please also realize that not every kind of stress is bad. Sometimes it actually makes us fight to survive. Stress can sometimes bring about new ideas and help you recognize a new passion!
In 2011, I personally went through what some may classify as one of the biggest negative stressors a person can go through. A divorce. It was quick, sudden, and came out of no where (at least for me). For several weeks I felt stunned, lost, and confused. It wasn’t the fact I was getting divorced that really hurt, as it may be for some, but it was being forced to change and adapt to a new life. At the time, I wasn’t one who particularly embraced change. I didn’t like trying new things. I liked the thought of security and the illusion things wouldn’t change. But here I was being forced to completely change my life, my outlook, and adapt. Instead of playing offense, I was now in defense mode and forced to do what I needed to in order to protect myself and my family. In short, this life experience that could have been devastating, is probably one of the greatest things to impact my adult life. I found new ways to occupy empty time, I learned to enjoy those quiet moments alone, be content, and focus on me. I went out and bought my first “real” camera. I began taking pictures, traveling around the area I lived in, and seeing beauty in a new way.
Through divorce, separation from family, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, having my sixteen year career in the Air Force cut four years shy of retirement and pension eligibility, and having to pack up and move somewhere with an unknown future, I’ve had my share of stressors. A couple of those started sending me on a downward spiral that I didn’t want to travel again. People ask me often, when hearing my story, how I survived or bounced back so quickly. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either. It came with some difficulty, but here is how.
First? A lot of prayer! A lot of time in self-reflection and thinking about who I wanted to be when I came out on the other end. What did I want the last page of the story to read like? Did I want my story to be one of defeat, or one of triumph and victory?
Secondly, I found something I loved and I dove head first into it! Picking up the camera, traveling around, or even just photographing a family, gave me an outlet to focus on. Patriot Images wasn’t founded upon the love for photography. Sure, I love taking photos and I love giving a family or person something that can be treasured for a lifetime and then some, but that’s not the driving factor. Photography was and continues to be an outlet in which I can focus and help make an impact. It was never about money. It was about connecting and healing.
Another area, although I’m not always that great with it, is exactly what I am doing right now. Writing. As a teenager and going through some of the tough challenges teens face, I learned that I could express myself through writing. Maybe someone would stumble across it and it could help them. If not, then at least I was putting my thoughts down on paper and sorting them out for myself.
Whatever you’re going through, there is something on the other side. The emptiness and loneliness that you’re feeling? It will not last forever. It can’t. I know what is happening around you doesn’t always match what’s going on inside you. I know that while you may be physically surrounded by love, you sometimes feel so deserted and alone inside. I do promise that it cannot and will not last forever. Every storm ends. Take these moments and decide how you want the last page of your book to read. Choose victory over defeat. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, how you want to feel, and what you think you could do to get you to that point. Maybe not immediately, but what are some steps you can take to move through the darkness?
Lastly, I am always available through email, FB Messenger, or by telephone. While I am no expert and I cannot promise to get you through those pits of despair in life, I will certainly walk with you through them and listen. It’s better than walking alone!