By NAJMA F. HAMDANI, MD
I had my first full day of telemedicine today. Telemedicine is my happy place. For the last two years, I have provided telepsychiatry for a rural facility in my home state. I had the privilege of talking to my patients in their homes today. I was beyond humbled that my patients embraced the change with me and invited me into their homes. As I saw them in their homes with their lives around them, it became even more evident that we are treading uncharted waters. We are all anxious, vulnerable, and want answers, yet there are no simple answers.
I recognized today that we are all going through grief and all of its stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is evident by varying degrees of difficulty in our communities, in adopting social distancing. It’s scary to let go of what we have always had but taken for granted—losing our routine, our traditional ways of conducting life at work or at home and dealing with losing our social connections. Some are in denial that spring has rolled around without the usual burst of life and activity. We are angry and sad that we are losing our celebrations, graduations, usual joyful transitions from winter to spring, and that too without a deadline for when we can have them back? We are struggling with losing the joy of gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and eating together. Many of us are already bargaining and accepting this pandemic by adapting technology to wait this out until we come out on the other side.
I have struggled with my mental health more than usual this past year. My anxiety has been higher than usual and I changed providers for my medication since my last doc just didn't really listen to me. Many of my students say they are lonely. Their parents are working, they cannot see their friends, and some of them join my google meets even though I don't provide services to them (I'm a special educator). I miss my work friends and the daily interaction I had at school. I keep telling myself that this is temporary and it will get better. I do some kind of meditation and walk every day. It helps me stay centered.
Imagine what life was like in 1918. The medical field had no idea how to deal with this pandemic and we did not have the social infrastructures we have today. Hell, even radio was not available to the masses. Yes, life is rough but it could be a lot worse. Sometimes I think one major problem is the social networks we have today. They have become a polarizer instead of a uniter.
One of my favorite quips is: We swim in a sea of ignorance. But equally troubling is that many people regard psychology & psychiatry as hokey bullshit. The combination of ignorance with the attitude that mental illness is imaginary, worsened by the attitude of the oaf in the White House for the past 4 years, who is BOTH ignorant and mentally ill, has created this sick situation in American society. And now, the bastard is trying--REALLY trying to start a revolution.
"One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide."
If this isn't a pandemic i don't know what is.