The challenges of the pandemic have taken a toll and limited the spoonfuls of energy we have left, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Column: Coping with COVID-19 is stealing away my spoons

Since the pandemic began, 40 per cent of Canadians have experienced a decline in their mental health

Since the pandemic began, 40 per cent of Canadians have experienced a decline in their mental health.

This number is staggering. Perhaps not unexpected, but staggering nonetheless. This means that of the 10 people you normally socialize with, four may have experienced worsening anxiety or depression, fears around meeting their family’s needs, domestic violence or their health.

What does this look like in real life? Mental health is such a multifaceted topic that it’s impossible to speak to everyone’s experiences. All I can speak to is my own, and I’d certainly count myself among that four in 10.

Struggling to get out of bed this morning, I reminded myself of Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory. Attempting to explain what living with lupus was like to her college friend, Miserandino handed her a handful of spoons. She then asked her friend to list all the tasks she would accomplish on a given day, even the most mundane like brushing her teeth or getting to the office. As her friend went through her proverbial day, Miserandino began removing spoons.

The point was this: When you experience chronic pain or mental health challenges, you simply don’t have enough spoons – units of energy, essentially – to start off with, or tasks take more spoons for you than they would for others.

Pre-COVID-19, I would classify myself as a productive person – if you don’t count hours-long Netflix binges – my days were full from the moment I woke up to the time my head hit the pillow. The simple to-dos of personal care, feeding myself and paperwork always seemed to get done without a conscious thought, leaving room for the more important life stuff like studies or relationships.

Yet after months and months of isolation and uncertainty, even the simplest of tasks can some days feel monumental. My capacity to do, at home and at work, is drastically diminished. I simply have far fewer spoons when I wake up each day, thanks to this pandemic.

At first this came with a lot of shame and questioning of my own self-worth. If I couldn’t be the productive, sharp and engaged journalist I always had been, who the heck was I anyways?

And living in North America, where ‘do’ is the operative word, doesn’t help much. Our culture worships the to-do list. Even our standard ‘What did you get up to this weekend?’ exposes our need to constantly do and accomplish. Most of us certainly don’t engage in, let alone understand, the Italian art of doing nothing – Il Dolce Far Niente.

But what I realized is this – the pandemic has taken its toll, it’s silly to pretend otherwise. This is my reality right now and that is OK. It’s OK not to be the person I was before 10 months of mental, emotional and financial hardship.

So while I, and maybe you too, might not have the same amount of spoons you had when we were unexpectedly thrust into this mess, this does not mean that you are unworthy. Get up, with however many spoons you have, and do your very best, without judgment and with love, with those spoons.

Note: If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please do not keep this to yourself. Reach out to someone you trust, to your doctor or to people on the phone – 310-6789 for mental health support or 1-800-784-2433 for concerns around suicide.

Emelie Peacock is a reporter with the Hope Standard, a Black Press publication.

Nanaimo News Bulletin