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How we can help ourselves right now

Apr 9, 2020

Last week, I wrote a twitter thread about some of the things I’m telling my clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve collected it below all in one place, so that as many people as possible can have access to it and get some benefit. 

Read on for the complete thread.

Hey everyone! I’m a therapist working with folks during this pandemic and I thought I would share some of the things I’m telling my clients so that if you can’t access a therapist, you can at least get a little bit of the benefit here.

This thread will go over the themes that are coming up in my clients and friends and family and then share what I would say or recommend for those having similar thoughts/experiences. Obviously, this isn’t a substitute for you having your own therapist or support network.

Theme 1: I feel so scared, what do I do?

Right now you feel scared because this is a genuinely scary time. It makes sense that you’re scared. It’s okay to be scared. There isn’t an easy answer here. It’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to put that away for a while

Be aware of what you’re doing to cope with this fear. Are you using alcohol/marijuana/other substances? How will you know if that use is becoming a problem for you? Are you still talking with friends and those you’re close with or isolating yourself?

How are you moderating your consumption of information? What’s the balance for you between staying informed and increasing your fear? What are you doing to take care of your body? What are you eating? When did you drink water last? Have you been sleeping? When did you shower?

Most of all, when it comes to this fear, we are at the start of what may be a year or two of dealing with this crisis, so remember that this is a marathon not a sprint. What do you need to keep yourself as healthy and happy as possible as this goes on?

Theme 2: I’m non-monogamous and what does that even mean during this pandemic?

I’ll be honest – dating is going to be really really different for the next 6/12/18/+ months. For those of us who are non-mono, this is going to be a very complicated time.

To be fully transparent, I’ve cried a few times in the last couple of weeks about the real possibility that my partner, and I for that matter, might not be able to date other folks for such a long time. I want my partner to have other people. I want to have other people!

Depending on how these things go, we may not be able to see new folks in “meat space,” and kiss them or hook up with them, in a way that manages COVID-19 transmission risk very well. Each of us has to figure out how we want to manage risk and what level of risk is okay for us. 

We also need to be mindful of how our risk management decisions impact the people already in our lives. What are we exposing them to? How do they feel about that risk? Is it a risk worth taking? How do we balance our desire to connect with our responsibility to those we love?

If you’re someone who tends to be really slutty or have lots of partners, this might be an especially tough time. What makes more sense to you, trying to find ways to broaden your connection base or pre-emptively working on acceptance that you won’t have new folks for a while?

How can you find creative solutions? Video sex dates with lovers? Phone calls? Sexting? How do you decide which in-person contacts are worth the risk for you? How do you cope with your disappointment when the risks are too large? What do you need to make the best choices you can? 

If you and your partner(s) are reducing how open your relationships are for a while, how will you adapt to them being more open again in the future? What resources might you need to transition out of what might be similar to monogamy or a closed triad for you during this time?

If one/both/many of you were struggling with non-monogamy before, how will you handle that when it’s a real possibility again for you/your partner(s) to date again? How will you determine how much closeness you need and how much space? Can you model that balance now too?

Theme 3: I’m an extravert and I’m DYING

Look, as an extravert, this is really fucking hard. I spent the last 2 weeks with my partner who I love and it was NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE. I did video chats and Netflix Parties and it’s just not the same.

What kinds of contact can you get now? What makes contacts better or worse for you? Do you prefer real time or asynchronous? Video or picture or text? How often do you need contact with folks? How often do you need space from the same folks you’ve been seeing?

There are some great apps that will help remind you to reach out to folks (which is great if, like me, you fall into the ADHD hole of forgetting people when they’re not in front of you). I use Fabriq, but there are tons of them. Who are your top 10-15 people to connect with?

What do you notice yourself doing or feeling when you need connection? What do you notice yourself doing or feeling when you need time alone? What do you notice yourself doing or feeling when you need in person connection? Make lists of these and post them somewhere!

Theme 4: I’m so lonely

Look y’all, even when we’re with people, this can be a hard or lonely time. Social distancing is rough on humans. We’re social creatures, we need touch, we need connection. Who knows when we’ll be able to just go to a club and dance and co-regulate again. 

Do you know what your love languages are? Knowing how you most receive and give love can help you start brainstorming ways to get those needs met during this time. Maybe you can start a letter writing chain in your neighborhood or building.

Maybe you find a special stuffed animal or blanket or sweater or robe or something that you can cuddle for your touch needs. Maybe you get groceries for those in your area who can’t do it for themselves. Maybe you set up regular weekly calls with your beloveds.

If you’re lonely, I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. This is a lonely time. We have to keep ourselves away from others to try to flatten the curve. I wish there was something else to tell you. Make the connections you can, and know that my heart is going out to you.

Theme 5: I don’t know what to do

None of us do. There is almost no one alive who has experienced a global pandemic before, and no one alive who has, before this one, lived through a global pandemic in the age of social media and 24hr news. This is a new thing.

In general, right now most of us probably need to FEEL more and DO less. Definitely do help others as you can, take good care of yourself, and support those striking for better conditions. But for the majority of us, the best thing we can do is love and live and get through.

It’s okay to be less productive right now. It’s okay to spend more time watching TV. You don’t need to be working on saving the world all of the time. Saving you is a big part of saving the world. Loving the people around you is a big part of saving the world.

Capitalism tells us that our value is our productivity – that’s a lie. Your worth is in you, it is that there is no one else who is you or who is like you. If you never work again, you are still worthy. Your number one task right now is to care for yourself.

After you care for yourself, then you can work on caring for others. Give what you can, give as freely as you can. Give from a full cup, not an empty one. Beware of burnout, and beware of the voices that tell you that you, the individual, are responsible for making things work

You’re responsible for you and for helping those around you as much as you can. No one person will solve this crisis. If you’re a researcher or medical provider or you work at a grocery store or do delivery, you’re already doing a ton. Take care of yourself. Please.

We are all able to give more when we feel well resourced. Resources are more than just money or food or housing, they’re also our emotional health, sexual fulfillment, and love we’re receiving. We have to share as freely as possible, so we have to make sure we’re full too.

Be generous, don’t be a martyr. Find your own balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others. This goes extra for those in the kinds of work right now supporting others during this pandemic. I’m saying this to me too. If you’re giving to others, find balance

Theme 6: Death and mourning

Right now, lots of us are starting to experience anticipatory grief. This is the feeling you have when you’re getting ready for someone(s) you know to die. If you haven’t really lost people close to you before, this can be much harder.

None of us know who might die of this virus. It is likely that all of us will lose folks who are close to us. Grief is so hard. And when you’re new to it, it can feel like an unbearable weight. We will get through this, and those who survive will be changed deeply by it. 

Not all change is bad! More folks experience post-traumatic growth than PTSD. That doesn’t make the trauma easier at the time. Give yourself space to grieve. Grieve the loss of the life you had. Grieve the events that were cancelled. Grieve the loss of time with others.

Grieve lost jobs, lost opportunities, lost potential, lost hope. Grieve. Grieve and grieve again. Those of us in the states in particular have terrible cultural ideas about grief – we basically ignore it or deny it. Look instead to traditions that honor death and grief. 

In the Victorian era, you could grieve for YEARS. You could wear the black and be exempted from much of the societal expectations for as long as you needed to. There’s no time limit on grief, and there’s no wrong thing to grieve. If you’re grieving, you’re grieving and it’s valid.

Give yourself space to feel your feelings, and give yourself space to live even if others don’t. Find the joy you can, find the connection you can with those who understand. If anyone tells you that you shouldn’t grieve something or you’ve been grieving too long, they’re wrong

How you feel is how you feel. And the world keeps going too. So find the balance for you there. Your balance will be your own and may not look like anyone else’s. Remember that there will always be grief, and there will always be joy, and we will always need to be open to both.

Final Notes & Additional Suggestions: 

  • Find media that helps you with where you are right now. I’ve been loving Frozen 2 for this time, as well as Madam Secretary.
  • Fall apart! It’s okay! You can always get back together another day. 
  • Ask for help when you need it! Give as much help as you can!
  • Get your affairs in order! Put together a will, and advance directive for medical care, or any other legal matters. I put info about that here –
  • Figure out who you would want contacted if you get sick and make sure that list is shared with others.

Helping Others:

Over the last few weeks I’ve donated over 1,000 dollars to various share cares for individuals that work in the sex sphere. This is especially important as government funds and direct payments often exclude individuals that offer these types of services or work in this field. On this twitter thread there were a lot of suggestions for individuals and groups you can donate to if you have extra resources. I’ve included some below as well.

If you know of others, comment below!

Be well,

Dr. Liz

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