Tuesday, May 19 – Death, Isolation, Fear, Uncertainty, and Despair

By Dara Mac PEI, CANADA

How’s your mental health? How’s your day to day? I overheard two younger women chatting 6 feet away along the boardwalk in Charlottetown, “It’s hard to get up and get going. I mean, what’s the point?”

What’s the point? The point of what- living each day? It sounds kind of conditional like if I have somewhere, I need to be (work, school) then, I have a purpose otherwise if left to my own devices- there’s no point. I understand that thinking from a teenage mind. Rewards need to be immediate. The important things like friends, clothes, dating, sports, classes, dances, socials have gone underground in this pandemic. It is the rare artistic teen who might enjoy solitude to create or play games online. But this is typically an extroverted world where solitude, as my mom would say, ‘is for the birds.’

I’ve met many people who can’t stand being in nature because it’s just too quiet (or maybe their thoughts are too loud). I have always believed that children should be taught how to control their thoughts from a young age. I meet so many adults whose minds are like a wild horse crashing around with no rider in sight. Given that scenario, I can see how difficult it may be for some to self-isolate and may find it necessary to self medicate. Our CMO has commented on the increase of alcohol consumption on PEI since the lockdown began in mid-March. Also, accidental opiate overdoses on PEI are on the rise with fentanyl showing up in cocaine.

Yesterday, Captain Jenn Casey of Halifax died as a passenger in one of Canada’s renowned aero-acrobats, the Snowbirds. They were on their way to an air show in the Okanagan in their cross country tour, with the goal of offering hope, inspiration, and excitement at a time where isolation is filled with fear and grief for many. Tragically, the jet burst into flames shortly after take-off and landed on a house where one occupant was in the basement and the other in the back yard. A neighbor across the road watched in horror as the jet came within 15 feet of his house—unforeseeable risks. We cannot let them govern our every move and decision.

Some of my most risky behavior happened when I was training with the Ottawa Bicycle Club to cycle in the Vermont mountains. We had a one-day clinic in the Gatineau hills practicing our aerodynamic descents; I clocked 77 km/hr on my thin, high-pressure tires. While we were actually descending Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, my team mate’s bike framed suddenly split, causing him to crash in front of me. Luckily, no one was injured, but it spoke volumes regarding unforeseeable risks.

It takes just leaving the house for many to feel overwhelming anxiety; I have recently felt it myself at the grocery store. It all begins with a thought, “This is not safe.” My body responds with the freeze, flight, fight hormones, and off we go!

Here on PEI, 27 of 27 cases of Covid-19 have recovered, and there has been no evidence of community transmission. So I have decided to take certain precautions and to begin easing up on others. I remind myself that no one on PEI has needed to be hospitalized, and no one has died of Covid-19 (certainly not grocery shopping). The lobster fishers are back out in full force. “Nice to see something normal, isn’t it?” Said a fellow walker on the Rustico boardwalk. This Friday, PEI will enter Phase 2 of loosening restrictions, which will allow retail outlets to open, including greenhouses, car washes, and hairstylists. (More than ever, I am thankful for having given up hair coloring over a year ago!)

Through the years, I’ve learned that to find true joy; one must connect with our own gracious, gratitude. I begin my drumming practice each day with mindful meditation and a prayer. Thankful for the passion instilled in me for music, the desire to work steadily to improve my skills, and having the means to play each day uninterrupted.

What are you grateful for? Sometimes, it can be as simple as a breath. Smile. Be kind. Know that the spirit is strong, and love will overcome.