By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
The coronavirus is changing the way we live our lives.
In my last post, I wrote about the macro issues, the big things we as a society need to grapple with as the coronavirus storm rages, people die, and our healthcare system strains to the breaking point. Today I wanted to share with you some of the micro issues, the challenges I faced in my own life, home, and relationships, as I try to cope with this changing situation. As you read this, please remember I am an old guy, born shortly after World War II and now in my seventies. Keeping up with new technology, changes in fashion, and an ever-evolving world has been a struggle for me even before the coronavirus. The changes now feel like a merry-go-round that has started to accelerate out of control.
What are my significant personal challenges?
Over the last two months, my life has changed more than I could ever imagine. I suspect it has for every one of you who is reading this blog. Now it a good time to share with all of you some of the changes I’ve been experiencing in my life and some thoughts for what the future holds.
Many counselors and therapists are reluctant to share about themselves. As my students, and probably most of you readers realize, I feel like I need to be more open and honest about my experiences. Here are a few of my experiences and observations on the way the coronavirus has changed my life.
Sheltering in place has changed everything.
I thought I had my schedule all worked out. Each week I have been spending part of one day at a local nonprofit doing clinical supervision. I had it down to a routine. Show up, run the group, sign the forms, and then go home. Because of the shelter in place order, the trainees and interns have had to learn to do therapy via telehealth. I’ve had to learn a whole new technology to do their supervision remotely. What had been a simple routine procedure has had a sharp learning curve.
Beyond the technical parts, every one of those therapists in training is also a person. It’s hard to think about your client when your life is in turmoil. The ever-present thought that by spending time in a small consulting room with the client, you’re putting your life in danger, must be reckoned with. Part of each training session now is devoted to having the therapist check-in and see how they are coping with the ominous threat of the coronavirus looming over them and their families.
Despite all the difficulties in shifting to an online way of life, I think the shelter in place was an enormously wise decision. I live in California, and we implemented the stay at home protocol early on. I also live in the Central Valley, a mostly rural and less densely populated area. Early action and sparse population have resulted in extremely low infection rates and even lower death rates. I have every reason to think the virus will get here eventually, but the slow spread has so far avoided overtaxing our medical system.
Shifting from teaching in-person classes to online classes has been traumatic.
I’ve been teaching classes at two different local colleges for over 12 years now. I had my system in place. I have created PowerPoints, quizzes, and tests; all the materials I need to run a class. Suddenly there were no in-person classes. The classes have all moved online. Fortunately, I’d taken a class and how to teach online courses back in the summer of 2016. My efforts to create videos for the counselorssoapbox YouTube Channel has turned out to be a significant blessing.
While it’s been a frantic pace of the last few weeks, I knew how to convert my lectures to videos and upload them to YouTube so that my students can watch them anytime they want from the relative safety of their home.
If only the transition had been that easy. This semester I’m teaching three separate classes. One is a 16-week long semester class. Another is an eight week, twice a week class. While the third class was a hybrid part in-class part online format, all three have a different start, midterm, and end date. Beyond that, the three classes are being conducted on two separate learning platforms. Over a couple of weeks, I’ve had to become considerably more familiar with both Moodle and Canvas.
Over the years, I’d accumulated quite a test bank of questions. It was easy to assort the questions, print out a copy, and make as many copies as needed for class. The process of turning these into online quizzes and tests turned out to be a whole lot more complicated.
Working from home requires confronting my age.
I’ve been retired from a full-time job for over two years now. Whenever I must enter my birthdate on anything, I am forced to recognize that I’m getting older. Despite having retired, I’ve been doing more part-time work and staying incredibly busy. Keeping busy and active, I suppose, is my way of avoiding admitting I’m not as young as I used to be.
Then, when I got the email from the college saying that anyone over a certain age was not to come on campus and I realized I was quite a few years past that age, I’ve been forced to admit to myself I’m now in that high risk older adult category. Furthermore, whatever I may think about taking risks with my own life, I have had to realize that I can’t take the risk of contracting something and bringing it home to others who are at an even higher risk.
I’ve had to transition my therapy clients to distance counseling.
A little over two months ago, I had never even considered using the technologies that today I use every day. I’ve had to learn to use Zoom, FaceTime, and several other online tools. Not only do I have to learn new technology, but I’ve also had to develop some new skills to do remote distance counseling. I remind myself that little over two years ago; I had to have one of my interns teach me how to answer a text message. And today I’m making videos and discussing them with people via Zoom, the process of technological change looks less like a gradual uphill climb and more like scaling a sheer vertical cliff.
Working from home has been exhausting.
When I first considered teaching an online class, I thought it would make my life so much easier. The amount of work that it has taken to prepare the curriculum and upload it to the various platforms has left me exhausted. Stress can be very tiring, even when it motivates you to produce something positive.
Sheltering in place increases isolation.
One of the things I loved about my busy mix of part-time jobs was that it got me out of the house and kept me socializing with a wide variety of friends, students, interns, and clients. I’ve come to feel that the coronavirus has made me a prisoner in my own home office.
One of my colleagues and I were in the graduate program together all those years ago and have made it a habit to keep in touch. We try to get together every month or two for lunch just to check in with each other. With the coronavirus lurking outside, and the restaurants we would generally eat at closed, that monthly lunch together isn’t likely to happen again for a long time.
This last week we had to improvise our monthly get together. We sat talking together over FaceTime while I ate my lunch. I suppose that, for me, is one of the visible aspects of this anxiety-producing situation. One after another, I have found ways to adapt. I continue to teach, albeit online. I still see clients via distance counseling technology. And while my physical contact with other humans has been extremely limited, we’ve created ways to stay in touch with those people who are most important to us.
That’s my story of adapting to the coronavirus threat.
While my life is different now, I’m slowly adapting to this new form of existence. Gradually I’m getting back to my writing. I’ve developed a whole new set of skills. Somehow, no matter what happens, we humans find a way to adapt.
How are you dealing with the changes the coronavirus forced upon you?
Please share a comment below or send me one through the contact me page. If you use the contact me form, please let me know if it’s okay for me to share your comment here on the blog. Take care of yourself and do everything you can to protect yourself and those who are close to you.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.
What if your family secrets put you in danger?
Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?
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