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Cassandra McCoy Mental Health

Can We Find Peace During a Pandemic?

by Cassandra McCoy MAT, ATC, LAT, RYT

Can we find peace during a pandemic??

Is it possible? Or was I just hopeful.

There were 15 seeds that we planted in tiny containers for our garden. This would be our second rotation into our tiny garden to extend it’s life expectancy. Weather had been harsh to our initial crops and we knew we needed a back up.

We tended them, planted them in the best soil with the best fertilizer, kept them at an appropriate temperature and water daily.

One week went by with no sprouts.

Two weeks went by with no sprouts.

Finally, at two and a half weeks, my husband checked out what was going under this beautiful soil and found the seeds were liquid. Literally melted. 

There went our second crop of seeds. Our back up plan. Our source of food to save money. We had hoped for a good crop this year, a crop that would last us all season long. But instead, we reused the dirt for our potted plants to give them more nutrients and protect them from the sun.

But in truth, that matches what has kept happening to me in 2020, so I guess it was fitting. I will tell you my personal story in hope it comforts you and let’s you know that you’re not alone in this crazy time and that peace can be found during a pandemic.

To understand it all, we have to go back to 2019. I had graduated with my Masters degree in May after having a baby during grad school and holding down a few teaching jobs at the same time. I have never not had a job, I usually have 3 to 4 incomes at a time, even during school. 

 I graduated from grad school, relieved and thankful that I had pushed myself through, as I knew I wouldn’t have finished otherwise. A job that I had always wanted, fell into my lap right as I was graduating. I thought it was going to be part time, which was perfect as I needed some time to recoup, love on my son, and take a breath while getting my career established.

But it was full time, so I dove into full time two weeks later.

It was perfect. The perfect mixture of patients, performance, movement, exercise, nerding out on new exercises and more. I started to slowly feel comfortable; however, it took me awhile to settle in for some reason (I didn’t know what it was at the time). By August, I was seeing patients on a regular basis, loved all the performance women I was able to work with, loved just quietly observing the professionals around me and just being in the setting. I didn’t try to bug people with questions; however, I tried to stay within earshot of conversations where I knew I could learn the most. 

Things were going pretty great, but then late October hit me like a ton of bricks.

We had a good friend watching our baby boy. Really it was the peace of knowing he was with someone I trusted that made the difference for me doing full time. But then they moved further away. We decided to stay with her watching our boy and just driving the extra distance to get him to her. It was too late to get him into daycare for various reasons and I just wasn’t sure financially and trust wise, if that was going to be an ok decision. I felt guilty for not being there for him, the least I could do was make sure he was with someone who loved him and that we could trust.

Well that meant we were driving over an hour and a half to drop him off and get to work. One of us would drop him off (usually me) and then the other would pick him up. Sometimes just due to our work schedules, one would do both.

Around this time as well, my husband had to start working later or be on call. I was used to him working a lot as he had a job right after our son was born where he was working 6 to 7 days per week. But now, with his work changing, it created a whole logistical nightmare. If he was sick, if I needed to go get him after work, if I had to teach or cover a game, the whole schedule was thrown off and it was like a snowball effect. Usually I love adapting to changes and improvising but something about all of this just drained me.

While this was going on, my childhood dog of 15 years started to have seizures and difficulty walking. Truthfully, it broke my heart when we had to start thinking about putting her down. I hadn’t expected it to affect me as much as it did. I started having panic attacks I hadn’t experienced panic attacks in well over 5 years and man did they come back with a vengeance. I will never forget the day I had to schedule her appointment I had the worst panic attacks of my life. I had started to walk during my lunch time to try and clear my head. I was having trouble sleeping, so getting out usually helped wake me up. I called my dad to let him know what was going on. Cried a bit with him as it was really hitting home as to how much this dog meant to me and had done for me over the years. I hung up with him and kept walking.

 I don’t remember how long after I hung up it was, but I suddenly started to have trouble breathing. Then my legs gave out. Then I start to see black spots in my vision. I knew what was going on and I knew my tools to help calm myself, but they weren’t working. Then the scariest moment happened. My hands curled up into a fist and I couldn’t move them. I was literally looking at my hands, trying to breathe and trying to get them to move, but they weren’t. I was saying “ move your left index finger” or “straighten your hand” but nothing would happen. It was like the connection was cut completely.

Well you can imagine what that did to my panic attack. Luckily, I still had my headphones in and was able to tap the recall button on the phone with my elbow. It called my dad. I spent 20 minutes on the phone with him until finally my thumb started to move, my breathing started to slow and my words didn’t slur. Then I had to walk back to work and try to act like nothing had happened.

We put my dog down the following week. I didn’t sleep much. Felt like I was sleep walking through the day. I began to notice I didn’t like my job anymore around that time. There were several factors that led me to realize this. But I think mainly it was the health concerns that started to arise and a few other things that caused this shift. I was told the company was changing how ATs would function and the new direction just didn’t sit well with me on a moral standpoint. However, my husband and I had dreams of owning a small property of our own, saving up to getting financially reset after grad school, and so for that reason I knew it was best for me to push through this season.

In January, I noticed some more health concerns start to pop up. It seemed like every week I was noticing a new symptom, problem or getting sick. My hormones were all over the place. Missed periods. No motivation to exercise, teach class, or do my personal yoga practice.

My Grandma died in January. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral and it brought up a host of other issues and ghosts that I hadn’t had to deal with for years. I used talked to my grandma about everything. We talked weekly on my walks. She was the one I looked to for advice and consul and so much more. She was the only one I had told about my hormone struggles and how we had wanted another baby but it might not be possible. She was so sure everything was going to work out, she told me she was starting to sew another baby blanket. She told me it would happen, she just knew it. After she died, I was told I was being sent the blanket, only to find out a few days later that the unfinished blanket had somehow disappeared and there was no way to get it. I was heartbroken.  

Then in February, the crowning concern, I lost my appetite and I lost a total of 15 pounds in 4 weeks. I was getting sick almost every weekend, I had no energy. It was affecting the quality of my marriage, my ability to be a mom, and my jobs.

During all of this, I tried to stay positive. I mean, I own a small business called Positively Balanced. I was focused on helping other women have access to knowledge, resources and to be heard. I knew life wasn’t all sunshine and roses but I also knew I needed to look for the good and what could happen in the future and try to keep that in my focus. I founded Positively Balanced because I knew we don’t have to be positive all the time, we don’t have to be balanced, we can be positively balanced and thankful for the good when it comes. But instead of asking for help like Ii tell all my patients and trying to move forward that way, I decided to stay on the struggle bus all on my own. 

So, in turn I’m having panic attacks, not sleeping, hormones are crazy, constantly driving, lack of motivation, lack of connection, and decreased immune system.

I asked my boss if I could go part time or be relocated to an office closer to home. His answer translated into probably not. So my husband and I decided to start looking for a home closer to work and a daycare around there to help take off some of the driving and stress associated. My husband had just gotten a new job, so we knew everything would now be there and it made sense to move closer.

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Then enter COVID. 

At first I didn’t think anything of it. I was working four jobs but really, it didn’t affect me much. Then I felt sick on a Sunday afternoon. I went to work Monday and by that evening had chills. You can read more about my Unplanned Quarantine here.

The company furloughed me for a month. Then extended it for another. Then laid me off on June 1st. I had filed for unemployment as my income was our largest and supporting income. Unemployment hasn’t paid me since they extended my furlough, and even after calling every week, I still have over 2 months of unpaid unemployment. 

I was furloughed from every job except one. My position as an adjunct professor during the spring and fall.

I am not going to kid you. Those months off for furlough and now being laid off have been some of the best moments of my life. I have been able to be with my son and husband more than I ever have before. My husband and I have been able to reconnect, grow and have fun doing things that we never had the time or where in the same place to do in the past. I have been able to watch my son develop, learn and grow. He now says mama and cries out for my help, something he couldn’t do before, because I was rarely home.

We had a good savings built up and we don’t live crazy, just the basics. But even with that, we are now dipping into savings.

 I found out I was pregnant two days before being laid off.

When I was first put on furlough and then laid off, I told everyone this was a good thing. I could finally feel like a mom and spend time with my son. I could finally regain some strength, weight and improve my immune system. I could figure out what my new path looked like. 

But truthfully there has also been an underlying fear  ever since I was laid off. I have always had several jobs, even during college. But now I have nothing. I was worried about what others in my profession and friends would think. I was worried about the dreams we have been saving for would never become a reality.

We had put in for approval for a home loan, so we looked into what that would look like now. Unfortunately, we also found what was our dream home. Nothing fancy by any means, in fact it needed a lot of work, but it was perfect for what needed and had the potential for what we could make of it.  Only to find out with all the circumstances we now found ourselves in, it has become a whole lot harder.

I am currently trying to find peace again during this pandemic. I have found it here and there throughout the past few months, so I look for it where I can. In my son’s laugh. In the sunrise I see with my morning coffee. In the garden we planted that is still going strong despite the challenges it faced. In the fresh bread rising in the sun. The hope of getting out fixer dream home. The fresh meal I prepare for my family and little cleaning chores I do throughout the day. The opportunity to build and grow my business after differing it as a possibility for so long.

I am blessed. My story is not as severe as many in our world are experiencing, yet it is similar to what many are experiencing in their own way.

I tell you all of this because I want you to hear something. Some things happen in our lives that we just can’t control. All we can do is try to find our way as best as we can!

The world is changing. It can be disappointing. It can be scary. It can be heartbreaking. Just remember this: There is nothing we can do about it but try to find peace and stay as Positively Balanced as we can through it all.

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Andie M. Vasquez Mental Health Social Health

Positive Parenting Part 1: The 2 Needs

by Andie Vasquez

You are a parent, or about to become one, and you are still swimming through the multitudes of parenting advice not sure how you want to raise your kids. You want kind, brave kids who do the right thing and are grateful for what they have. You want kids that listen and obey, but you don’t want to crush them or destroy their spirit. How do you teach your kids to be well behaved without inadvertently harming them? It’s a hard balance. Are you being too firm? Or perhaps you are afraid you are being too lenient? I too struggled with these uncertainties.

Before I had babies, I had this grand idea of how I would raise my children and how magically perfect they would be. But all those ideas quickly shattered after I actually had children. I found a lot of anger deep inside me and being in public drove my anxiety through the roof. I was terrified of a stranger in public commenting on my child and had no clue how to react if they did. The parenting style I had modeled for me in my childhood, fueled my rage and made my anxieties larger. I hated the way it made me feel, and the way it made my child react. But I couldn’t let them run free. The uncertainty of what I was doing was giving me severe panic attacks and being so on edge meant any little thing they did might push me over the edge into another rage or attack. I knew I had to do something. I knew what I was doing was harmful to me and the more I learned, was also harmful to my kids. So I set out to find a solution. First thing I had to do was deal with this unknown rage that came out of nowhere and without warning. I learned it was not uncommon in mothers to experience this and not know what to do with it. I had to get help with the anxiety that was running rampant in my mind. Being so focused on fending off the dark corners of my mind, I was unable to focus on my children. I learned the rage and the anxiety were cohorts, feeding off of each other making the other bigger and stronger.

Then, I had to find a parenting style that was healthy for me, even forced me to improve myself, was effective, and caused no mental or physical damage to my children. I happened upon a method called Positive Parenting in my searching. Its psychological backing fascinated me, so I started to study it.

Positive Parenting was first conceived in the early 1900s. It was drawn from the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikers. Adler is most known for his work on Inferiority Complex, and is still cited and referred to even in modern psychology. Many people since have built upon the base he formed 100 years ago. Dreikers took Adlers work and applied it directly to classroom interactions and formed a method for teachers to use. Positive Parenting has taken these ideas and method and brought them into the home.

There are multiple resources out there for Positive Parenting; Websites, Facebook Groups, and Forums. I suggest the book Positive Parenting: an Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes. She also has pages on the major social media platforms you can follow for daily tips and encouragement. See link below:

So let’s define what Positive Parenting is and dispel the misconceptions first off. Some see it as a distant, lazy approach to parenting that just lets children do as they please. However, one of the major tenants of this style is that spoiling and coddling children causes misbehavior and entitlement. In fact, it demands both more parental involvement and child independence. It encourages a parent to be both compassionate and firm with their children. This forces an adult to control their own emotions and remain level headed with their children, which may sound simple on paper, but is far more difficult in reality.

What Adler and Dreikers proposed was that children were not bad by default and therefore didn’t need to have the bad trained out of them. Children, at their core, were good, there are no “bad children”. In their time, this was a revolutionary concept and not very popular. In today’s society even, this is one of the biggest objections with this parenting method. If you go back to one of the biggest opponents of Positive Parenting, you will see it is from the religious community because they believe that children are born sinful, whereas Adler stated children are born good. The difference comes from raising kids from opposite points of view. Religious groups that teach children are born sinful and from the start do things to be manipulative and deceptive, are teaching you to train the bad out of a child with sometimes hard discipline. Positive Parenting teaches that children are born good that have bad behaviors sometimes, but instead teach you to cultivate the goodness in them. What Positive Parenting is encouraging is proactive parenting as opposed to reactive parenting. Teaching good behaviors before the child acts out instead of reacting to the bad behavior when it happens. Even parents who intend the best, often parent reactively. Today, many people agree with Adler, however in the early 1900s it was rare and uncommon, so Adler and Driekers were working against the flow in their ideas.

But they stuck with it, suggesting that children act out because their needs were not met. In the classroom setting Dreikers was applying this to, he proposed that the kid who was always acting up and disrupting class wasn’t bad, he was perhaps starving for attention and getting it in any way he could, even if it meant he was receiving negative attention in the form of scolding from his teacher. If that child had his need for connection fulfilled, he wouldn’t act out. In the home setting Positive Parenting says that once a child’s basic needs are met, (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) there are two further needs each human has. These two needs are Belonging and Significance.

There are three main principles Positive Parenting follows that fall under the idea that kids are good and misbehave due to needs that aren’t met. Let’s discuss those in Part 2 coming to you on Thursday.