Our mandatory work from home started Monday. But my anxiety started weeks ago. I watched the frenzy build and my heart started to sink. What were my families going to do?
I am a child welfare crisis counselor. I work with our society’s most vulnerable children and families. Four weeks ago I was already having conversations with my clients about what they were going to do if the United States ended up in a situation like Italy.
While some were at the grocery store fighting over the last packet of chicken despite having all cart full of meat, I was talking to the single mother of four who is unemployed and has no transportation. She wanted to know how to make her food last. The children normally eat free breakfast and lunch at school, so she only has to provide dinner. Now I was explaining to her what foods are most filling and how she can ration protein. This woman barely makes it with food stamps and food bank assistance. How is she supposed to stockpile enough food for two weeks, or longer?
While some were on social media complaining about concerts/sporting events/races being cancelled, I was talking to a mom with a third grade education and helping her figure out how she is going to keep her middle schoolers on track, without a laptop, tablet, or internet.
And worst of all, while some were (and are) complaining about being stuck at home and not being allowed to go to beaches, malls, or bars, I am literally losing sleep over those children stuck at home with someone who is abusing or neglecting them. I’m losing sleep over the mothers who are being beaten by men who have no sports to watch, no jobs to go to and no other outlets for their displaced aggression.
I’m normally good at compartmentalizing, but being in isolation all day has given me levels of anxiety I haven’t experienced in years. I can’t go visit clients right now, everything is done via video apps. How do I know a parent isn’t hiding something? How do I know all “my” kids are really okay? I’m not worried about myself or my family – we have enough and we have support. My biggest personal fear to this point has been getting my son home from college safely.
I realized I couldn’t go on with this level of anxiety. So, on the second day of the work-imposed quarantine, I wrote my schedule out for the things I needed to do: video calls, telephone calls, notes, reports. Adding to that, every hour on the hour, I would ruck a half mile. I carry a heavy load mentally, so I choose to carry a heavy load physically to balance it.
I would not think about what was out of my control at all during these times. I would focus on being outside, on the trees and on the hawks that are plentiful where I live. I would wave at the neighbors from a distance and ask if they needed anything. But I would not think about my families and their pressing needs. I would focus on the physical load and release myself from the mental.
For now, this is how I am dealing with the brutal facts that we as humans are being faced with right now. I can’t control what is happening in our nation. I can’t control the restrictions imposed by my employer, and as much as it breaks my heart to say, I can’t control what happens in every home where a child is not being properly loved and cared for right now. But, what I can control is my own response to it. And for me, that includes rucking, not just during my isolated work day, but all the time, and it includes being outside. Thankfully, the two go together perfectly.
About the Author
Tina Streeter is a child welfare crisis counselor, former law enforcement officer and Army Veteran. She enjoys hunting and exploring the wilds of Florida with a ruck on her back.