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Pushing Forward and Feeling Useful During COVID-19

This is the third week I have been working from home. We are doing psychotherapy over video chat and often just plain, old phone. People are either settling in or freaking out or sometimes alternating between the two on a regular basis. People in all three of those categories have shared they feel useless. COVID-19 and the dilemmas it is causing are taking an emotional toll.

Feeling useless with vision loss

As I pondered that, I started to think about how vision loss can make some people feel useless. One day you are gainfully employed, driving to work, keeping a house, reading, and what seems like the next day, you are not able to do any of those things. Definitely a blow to the ego.

How you feel about yourself matters

In the March 23, 2017 Goodtherapy article, Keeping Self-Worth Intact Amid Significant Life Change, Nancy Warkentin-Houdek points out how our measure of self-worth is an integral part of mental health. How you feel about yourself and your worth paves the roads you will take in life.1

A life-crisis detour

Just like driving down a familiar, well-paved road and suddenly finding yourself detoured onto a rutted, strange cowpath can be a jarring experience that has you questioning exactly where you are going now - and if you have enough savvy to get yourself there! - a life crisis can be off-putting and make you wonder if you have the “right stuff” to ever get back to your way again let alone find your destination.

How do you talk to yourself?

Warmertin-Houdek suggests it is important to watch your self-talk in times like these. I would agree. I say things to myself I would never say to someone else. Would you tell a friend what a dumb donkey she is? Would you do that repeatedly? I have been known to tell myself that and even worse. Not good for the relationship I have with myself.1

Check the facts

Warkentin-Houdek suggests listening to your inner critic, not to open yourself to the negative evaluation, but to find the weaknesses in its argument. Check the negative self-talk against the facts and you often find the negative stuff is just plain wrong.1

Use positive statements

Nancy - May I call you Nancy? That name is sort of long - also suggests positive statements about your situation. Things like: I am frightened, but I am looking forward to learning what this crisis can teach me about myself. This is frightening but I believe I have the skills I need to get through it. These statements don’t sugar-coat the mess you may be in, but they do express belief in yourself and a curious, forward-looking attitude.

A tough older generation

Speaking with my own voice, I also want to tell you we are a tough lot. We, as the older generation, bring perspective and experience to both the pandemic and vision loss. We had (mostly) fathers and uncles who fought in World War 2 or Korea. Either we or friends and family were in Vietnam. We saw the Twin Towers fall. We know we have what it takes to get through. Pandemic or vision loss, for most of us, the world is not going to end tomorrow. We got this. We have dealt with problems before.

And so we go on. We can go on by silencing our inner critics. Acknowledging it is scary and believing we are up to it anyway. And that feeling useless stuff? Lend others your perspective and strength. They need us.

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