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From My Perspective: The Struggle for Mental Health in 2020
A brief reflection piece from a ZERO TO THREE member about her own struggle with finding mental health amidst professional and personal hardships.
I’m Jamie and I have been in the early care and education field for the better part of 20 years in varying capacities. My newest and most recent role is as an Early Head Start home educator. I had previously been an infant/toddler specialist and worked with other educators. While this position was rewarding, I felt a pull to work directly with young children and their families again. Four months after starting this job, we were quarantined and had to find a way to stay connected to the families that we were serving. There was a big scramble to figure out how to do our jobs with infants, toddlers, and their families virtually.
Families were losing jobs and child care, had limited access to food, and worried how they were going to pay their bills. Many of these problems were met head-on with the quick actions of various charities, state government actions, and other resources. The families I worked with directly felt secure and safe for the present. But, of course, the future held so many unknowns.
I found myself in the midst of a mental health whirlwind. Prior to COVID-19, I had already been suffering from crippling anxiety attacks. When my agency first went instituted quarantine, I could not see beyond the initial 4 weeks. I could not sleep. I would wake up with a sense of dread and this stifling feeling that I was going to die. When those 4 weeks were extended, I decided that I had to get some help. This help has come in the form of therapy and medication.
Then October 1st happened. My baby brother died of an accidental drug overdose. I received the call at 11:20 pm from my other brother. I called my dad to tell him, but I could not reach my mom. With my son in tow, I picked up my brother and drove to my mom’s house. The road seemed to stretch forever as we drove the hour to get there. The months that have followed have been wrought with pain and sorrow as we try to make sense of it all. Being the oldest child of divorced parents, I felt like I had to take control of things.
Since that date, I have struggled with my job. I dislike doing everything through videoconference. I just want to get back to doing what I do best. I want to share appropriate materials and toys with the families I work with and share with them what their child is learning and how they can further their child’s development through play.
I struggle every day to find the joy in my work because it is lacking so much right now. But there are constant reminders that I have support from others, and I do look forward to seeing the little faces of the children through the computer. But mostly I remind myself every day that this too shall pass.