We're starting to hear about COVID-19 "long haulers." These are people who have ongoing symptoms many months after contracting the virus. I wrote a blog post for Global Lyme Alliance about how those of us with chronic Lyme disease are also "long haulers," just with a different infection. Medicine may be years away from finding help for COVID long haulers, so I wanted to write a post showing support from one group of long haulers to another.
You can read the full post here:
COVID-19 Long Haulers, We See You
Do you think the existence of COVID-19 long haulers will change anything for other people with chronic and complex illnesses?
"Empathy is finding echoes of another person in yourself." - Moshin Hamid
Somatics is the practice of experiencing the internal sensations and signals of the body. Modern psychotherapists recognized this as a way to regulate the nervous system and ease symptoms of mental health issues. This modality is practiced in the right hemisphere of the brain where perception and sensation are located. The left hemisphere is responsible for cognitive processing and sequential thinking. Basically, feeling versus thinking. So much of language is cognitive; however, there are many phrases that speak more to right hemisphere processing than left.
Here are some examples of somatic phrases we use on a regular basis:
1. "Gut Feeling"
We often hear people speak of their gut feeling as a sensation that informs them whether or not to do something. This phrase puts language to what we innately know. That our feelings, not our thoughts are our most attuned guide when making decisions.
The curious thing about a gut feeling is that if we are feeling "dysregulated" (some level of anxious or depressed) we are not as in tune with the feelings of our gut and it becomes more difficult to make decisions.
We can learn to “trust our gut,” by learning to trust our body.
2. "Shouldering the responsibility"
One of the first places people notice muscle tension from the fixed action patterns of the autonomic nervous system is in their shoulders. Often people notice tension in their shoulders when they are carrying too many responsibilities or are feeling responsible for others.
In letting go of some of the responsibility we can allow our shoulders to release.
3. "Heart to heart"
In somatic therapy the space between client and therapist (or any dynamic between two people) is known as the intersubjective field. The magic is that our two hearts are talking without needing to say a word.
In everyday life when we have a "heart to heart: conversation, we are usually referring to a conversation about our feelings. We feel connection in our heart space which allows us to be open and vulnerable with each other. You may even remember leaving a "heart to heart" conversation feeling more connected to the other person.
5. "Having a backbone"
Our backbone is our somatic powerhouse. The back of the body holds what the viscera are not able to hold. As a saying, "having a backbone" means to be strong in your convictions and have the ability to stand up for yourself. In trauma sometimes that ability is lost, but it we can be regained through fostering a connection with our backbone and using it as a source of strength.
6. "Reconnect," "Remember," & "Realign"
Imagine the word as two parts—"re-connect,” "re-member," "re-align." To remember who you are is to come back to your body. Reconnecting and realigning with your whole self—mind and body. All these words have a deeper meaning if you associate it with body.
Again imagine the word as two parts—"in-sight." To look within. In therapy, I often ask if there is any "insight" into the issue at hand. This is a powerful word that can evoke a meaningful response.
What insights do you have about your somatic (physiological rather than psychological) experience?
These phrases didn't come about by chance. They arose through the right hemisphere of perception. We also understand them, because we have an awareness of these feelings. It is the way in which we are all connected. Each of our lives is made up of different experiences, but it is our shared sense of interconnectedness that bonds us together.
"The human body is not an instrument to be used, but a realm of one's being to be experienced, explored, enriched, and, thereby, educated." - Thomas Hanna
As we approach the 2020 election, maybe you'd like to up your activism efforts. You may have noticed that sometimes ADHD and activism don't mix. For example, you are often asked to simply, "pick up the phone and call your representative." But this action is far from simple for someone with ADHD. It would require finding your representative, obtaining their contact information, carving out time to reach out to them, and then, the most difficult step of all, call them on the phone.
What may take a neurotypical activist five minutes and trigger no stress response, would be an entire afternoon filled with stress for someone with ADHD.
What if you want to make change, but find yourself paralyzed when it comes to the action steps.
Let’s remember the 5 things that activate people with ADHD:
Activism may be one of your interests and passions, it is certainly challenging, and may be new to you...but usually there is no hard deadline. This is likely why it gets put in the "later" category and as you deal with the other 'to dos' in life.
So how do we move from idea to action?
1. Take an inventory of your interests.
What gets your blood pumping. The environment? Anti-racism? Voting rights? Homelessness? Mental health? There are so many problems in the world, limiting ourselves to one or two issues is challenging for everyone, especially those with ADHD. The smaller our scope, the bigger impact we can make by choosing one issue and puting all of our energy toward it.
Start by identifying your core issue and then imagine ways in which you can help. If you choose the environment, could you get involved with a group that works to elect politicians who advocate for sustainability, cleans trash from waterways, or promotes recycling?
Don't try to reinvent the wheel. There are likely already people doing the work, which makes starting easier.
2. Start small and work your way up.
People with ADHD often have a more limited capacity to what they can fit in a day, so it is best to start with the smallest task possible. Notice if the small task causes too much stress before you add on.
There are websites where with just a few clicks of the mouse you can do some good. The website Greater Good has a "Click to Give" program where you are sent a daily reminder to click on their website, which allows you to provide a free donation to the cause of the day. Free Rice and Free Kibble are websites that allow you to fight hunger and provide food for shelter pets, respectively, by answering trivia questions.
Spreading awareness about your cause on social media is another small place to start. Social media trends and hashtags drive the conversation. Political campaigns urge you to have conversations with your friends and relatives and posting on social media is one way to start the conversation.
Another small way to engage in activism is to sign petitions. You may see these petitions come across your social media feed. Research the platform where the petition originates to determine if it is safe to add your information. The platform change.org is generally safe, while other lesser known sites should be vetted.
Move from these smaller actions to slightly bigger ones, like joining an online group for the cause you are interested in or going to a one time event.
3. Be aware of what triggers your Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD).
If the only opportunities for activism come with a high probability of rejections, you may avoid any action at all.
Actions that may trigger your RSD are phone banking and canvassing. Being hung up on or a door closing in your face may feel personal. If you want to engage in phone banking or canvassing, practice positive self-talk beforehand. Remind yourself that it is not personal and that these forms of activism are cornerstones of our democracy. Awkward interactions are just that, they are not life threatening and are inevitable.
Sometimes we need to push the edges of RSD to gain evidence that small rejections are not as bad as you have built it up to be, but if that doesn’t feel possible consider options that avoid triggering RSD: donating, signing petitions, sending texts and emails, or attending a protest.
4. Create systems for activism.
Living with ADHD is all about experimenting with different systems until you find the ones that work for you. ADHD and activism is no different. If you want to be an activist, you will need a system.
Consider creating a document with all the contact information for your local, state, and National representatives for where you live. That way you don’t have to look up the information every time you want to reach out to them to voice a concern.
Sign up for the email newsletter from an organization that you care about. This is a good way to stay up to date about opportunities and keep activism in front of mind.
Consider recurring events, such as volunteering once a month on the same day every month or choose an hour or two the same time every week for a week for activism.
5. Enlist others to join you.
If you notice you are having difficulty moving from ideas to action, enlist social support. Having ADHD sometimes requires backup in order to cross the finish line.
Ask a friend to volunteer at the food bank with you or schedule a time when you both can write postcards or send texts together, even if you live in different places. Just knowing there is someone out there working with you will help fuel your motivation.
Talk to your friends and family about the activism you are doing. This provides accountability and motivation to continue the work.
6. Make sure you are registered to vote.
Above all, our most important form of activism is voting. Select times of year, you have the opportunity to vote for elected officials who will represent your values and beliefs.
There are often barriers to register and stay registered to vote. When people with ADHD are faced with a complicated, multi-step process, they often give up before completing the task.
Overcome these barriers by giving yourself plenty of time to complete the task, reminding yourself of the importance of registering to vote or voting, and enlisting support if you hit a roadblock.
You can register to vote or verify your voting registration at vote.org.
Once you verify your voting registration, make a plan to vote. Use the same process you used to get registered. Your voice matters.
Making change isn’t easy for people with ADHD, but with a few tweaks you can make a big impact.
"If things are wrong and there is a lack of justice and an inequality, someone needs to say something and why can't it be you?" - Megan Markle
I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of suffering.