Staying Home—Not by Choice

Most of us are staying home these days, and there’s no doubt it’s affecting our mental health. One Rochester woman has been at home for the past couple of years, and it wasn’t because she wanted to be. Thank you to Anne Scherer who shares some of her very personal thoughts and tips for what works for her here.

Photo by mikoto.raw from Pexels

Staying Home—Not by Choice
by Anne Scherer

Diagnoses

Before the Coronavirus was part of our lives, I stayed at home, but not by choice. I live with an invisible disability that can literally paralyze me. I have anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. I was formally diagnosed with anxiety 30 years ago, depression 42 years ago and PTSD 14 years ago. Some experiences I have had over the last 14 years have exacerbated the PTSD, while other experiences have helped the anxiety. Depression is just part of my life. A medical reason prevents me from taking anti-depressants. I believe in alternative therapies, acupressure, tapping and meditation. I’ve been in therapy for a long time. While I’ve learned many coping skills through the years, I experience depression in waves of intensity. I’ve learned how to ride the waves instead of going under and drowning (even when it feels like I’m drowning).

I do come up for air. Paced breathing has really helped. How does this breathing exercise help depression? It’s a reminder that my heart is beating, I am breathing, I am alive and I can hear my brain saying the words I’ve been told the last 14 years, “Your life matters.” I matter. Paced breathing means breathing in deeply to the count of 6, holding to the count of 4 and then exhaling to the count of 6.

Coping

I am still learning how to keep calm during times that bring on intense anxiety. Going to the grocery store is a nightmare! Before COVID19, I only went grocery shopping if I absolutely had to go. I had it down to a science.

  • Make a list.
  • Shop when less crowded.
  • Always use a shopping cart.
  • Get in and get out of the store quickly to avoid a panic attack.

Knowing my emotional limits and triggers* has helped me live my life throughout the years. Knowing boundaries is important.

*A trigger is a place, person or situation that brings up uncomfortable feelings or makes me feel vulnerable.

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder, in my experience, is an entirely different “roommate.” PTSD is unpredictable with strong feelings, pain and flashbacks that send you reeling back in time to the trauma(s). Here are some coping skills for PTSD that have helped me:

  • Wrap myself up in a blanket and rest.
  • Give myself permission to rest.
  • Keep a small booklet of photographs of people or places close by to look at in the midst of a PTSD experience. These photos help to ground me and to center my mind.
  • Forgive myself.
  • Get under a weighted blanket.
  • Practice understanding and patience.

What Am I Missing

These past two years things have deteriorated. There were many changes that impacted me deeply and my Center was thrown off-center. I won’t ever be able to work outside the home again at an office or anywhere. Yes, I miss working with other people outside the home; it’s simply no longer an option. I work at home on stories, poetry, art projects and my meditation practice.

I am a Human Book with the Human Library. The Human Library is a program with the Diversity Council and the Rochester Public Library. I do volunteer writing for NAMI’s newsletter and writing for Rochester Women Magazine is an honor. Doing an interview or being a Human Book and talking with people about my anxiety can be a challenge sometimes, but it is always interesting and fulfilling. If I can reach just one person, I feel I contribute in some small way. I’ve learned to adapt to staying home, but I am not always accepting of my situation. Acceptance is a daily practice.

Life on hold. Does it have to be?

We can still:

  • FaceTime and phone calls to friends we haven’t talked with in a long time.
  • Be with nature.
  • Connect to the community in some way.
  • Try something new. There are all kinds of how-to tutorials on YouTube.
  • Read.
  • Meditate.
  • Draw.
  • Write.
  • Keep active – yoga, walking, Tai Chi.
  • Watch a funny movie.
  • Listen to music.
  • Minimize the intake of news.
  • Take care of my companion animals (mine is a cat).
  • Keep life simple.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Set a goal each day.
  • Get a good night’s rest.

I am a survivor of physical and emotional traumas. I can survive living alone at home.