The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s lives drastically, usually in ways they couldn’t have predicted and often in ways they wouldn’t have wanted. But help is available for people who are struggling with those changes and the emotions they bring.
Grand Lake Mental Health Center offers a 24/7 crisis line at 1-800-722-3611.
For people who don’t feel they’re in a crisis or in need of professional help but would still like someone to talk to, there’s the Peer-to-Peer Listening Project.
Stillwater’s Vice-mayor Pat Darlington is a licensed psychologist who has been identifying and organizing resources to help residents with their mental and emotional health during the COVID-19 crisis.
She organized the Peer-to-Peer Listening Project as a pilot program using volunteers who are trained to be good listeners.
Darlington says people may not be sure exactly what they’re feeling; they just know it feels bad.
“Perhaps you have noticed that the people with whom you are staying at home, are beginning to be a little irritable, impatient, or just plain grumpy. You may even be recognizing this in yourself. Maybe you’re not with other people (or you are) and you’re feeling lonely, out-of-touch, super distractible, frustrated and even angry. And all of these reactions and feelings are, for the most part, expected and normal. And, yet, every once in awhile you worry, “Am I okay?” or “Does anyone else feel like this?” “I wonder if anyone else is...?” she wrote when announcing the pilot program.
No matter how it manifests, it often boils down to grief, a natural but complicated emotion.
“Whatever you feel is normal,” Darlington told the News Press. “This is grief … This is a loss. This is not how you pictured your life.”
Almost everyone has lost something, whether it’s their job, contact with friends and family or their sense of safety, and that loss is something to mourn.
People may be familiar with the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but they may not realize those aren’t neat stages, she said. People can move between the stages, feeling different ways on any given day.
Just being able to name it for yourself and not fight it is helpful.
“I have a great, long list of normal responses to grief,” Darlington said. “It impacts people cognitively, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Darlington likens suffering a traumatic loss to being knocked off a raft by a wave. It’s disorienting, it’s frightening and you many not know how you’ll get out of it.
“But if you don’t fight it, don’t fight it, you will come up,” she said. “Probably in a different place on the beach, but you’ll come up.”
Darlington says people have two questions to answer while processing a loss: “Who am I?” and “How do I connect?”
“It could be “Who am I if I don’t have my job?’” she said. “’It could be how do I connect with my loved ones?’
People should know they can simply say “I feel sad” or “I feel lonely” and put a period at the end of the sentence, she said. You don’t need to rationalize how you feel or apologize for it.
You don’t have to feel ashamed.
“It’s helpful to be kind to yourself,” Darlington said. “We can feel a lot of different things at one time and it’s all OK.”
Grand Lake Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Line
Peer-to-Peer Listening Project
Call 405-880-3703 or email Patriciadarlington@gmail.com to request a free 20 minute listening session. Leave your name and contact information along with a good two-hour block of time when you’re available.