It should have come as no surprise. 2020 had been a prodigious year. The world had been stricken by a global COVID pandemic. Restrictions were imposed on travel, restaurants, and even personal social gatherings. Masks became the new required accessory, and social distancing the modern mandate. Shops and businesses were closed, grocery shelves emptied, and countless were unemployed. Political rhetoric rose to a fever pitch, racial injustice and unrest took center stage. People struggled to do what was asked of them and make the best of a bad situation. Friends joked, “If you are not a little depressed, you are not paying attention to what is going on in the world.” I believed I had clung valiantly to my optimism as the months continued to pass. Yet, as the year ended, my struggle became more difficult. I had developed painful headaches, loss of mobility in my neck and shoulder, and overwhelming fatigue. As I sat in my doctor’s office for my annual physical, it became crystal clear. I had allowed myself to succumb to the crum.
I am not certain that I would have recognized the signs on my own. Seated with my physician I answered a myriad of questions. We brainstormed the likely culprit behind my uncharacteristic lengthening list of ailments. An EKG was done, extensive bloodwork ordered, and physical and massage therapy prescribed. If no culprit could be discovered, an MRI would be scheduled. Test after test returned negative. PT and massage improved my range of motion, reduced my pain, and increased my ability to move comfortably through daily activities. Yet, at the follow up appointment, I was still experiencing unbearable headaches and acute fatigue. Another long discussion, the MRI slated, and a deepening realization that I had indeed permitted myself to succumb to the crum.
I drove home replaying the conversation with my doctor in my head. The listlessness and feeling of melancholy I had been experiencing were not unusual in the existing social environment. People in all walks of life were suffering similar debilitating reactions. Celebrities and average folks everywhere were struggling to maneuver through extraordinary challenge. All endeavored to maintain endurance and remain a feeling of resiliency. I was encouraged to accept my feelings without judgment and to consider small adjustments that I could make to ease my stress and enhance my outlook.
I walked into the house with a renewed sense of optimism. Reaching for my journal and my pen I scribbled thoughts that rapidly tumbled from my head to my paper. I realized that my fatal mistake had been allowing myself to become reactive rather than proactive. In addition to the pandemic, nature had dealt a cruel winter blow with historic record lows, ice, snow, and rain throughout the country. The dreariness I had felt in my heart engulfed the world at large. I could not change the weather, but I could alter my mindset. Every day that the rain held off, I would spend increased amounts of time outdoors. Lucy and I extended our walking time and expanded our routine to incorporate our time with other dogs and pet owners. I increased my intake of water to help offset the fatigue. Exercise routines were expanded and became increasingly varied. I severely limited my time on social media and resumed my routine of reading and recommending a variety of books. As the days began to warm and the sunshine return, I spent increasing amounts of time out of my home – alone, or with friends where we could distance.
Most importantly, I accepted my situation and allowed myself to experience each moment – the good as well as the bad. My path has not always been easy. There are still days that I struggle. However, the COVID vaccine becomes increasingly available, and the weather continues to improve. Many challenges remain. I will permit myself occasions to succumb to crum. Yet I will embrace my commitment to positively impact my own life and the world around me. I will acknowledge the hardship of what I, and others, are experiencing. I will accept that we are all doing the best we can. We must each find our own path and do whatever is necessary to discover what is best for our own individual wellbeing. And I will take comfort in the knowledge that we are all in this together. Join me in allowing yourself to occasionally succumb to crum – and to uncover how best to facilitate your journey to the other side.