It is Mental Health week and we’ve been encouraged to #GetReal about our feelings. I was brought up to believe that feelings were best left bottled-up, particularly if they might make someone else feel uncomfortable. This applied both to loudly expressing joy and to shedding disappointed tears. Neither were considered polite when I was growing up. Expressing my feelings to others is still not something that comes to me naturally. And, I have learned that there is a healthy and constructive way to do this. As the CEO of a hospital it’s also important during Mental Health week to say that this pandemic has been hard on everyone, including me.
As the first wave of the pandemic was abating last spring, I felt that I wanted to mark that time in some permanent way. The impact of the pandemic to our hospital and community has been significant; and, I also need to acknowledge that it has deeply affected me personally. I decided that a piece of art to remind me of this time and to inspire hope for the future was what I needed.
I reached out to a local artist that I admire, Elizabeth Downey Sunnen, to see what works she might have available. She had a painting that spoke to me. When I first saw it I was drawn to the colours that I find both soothing and energizing. The abstract geometric patterns reminded me that amid chaos and uncertainty, we can find deep meaning. Then I learned the title of the piece is “Ain’t Got No Tears Left To Cry.” This moved me in ways that I find difficult to describe. Through this pandemic I have shed tears: some in despair, some in gratitude, some in hope and some in laughter. I thank my family, friends and colleagues for sometimes sharing in those tears and always telling me that it’s OK that I’m feeling that way. I brought that painting home and when I see it, I am reminded both of the impact of this pandemic to so many and the resilience that I see around me.
It has been suggested that the “Fourth Wave” of the pandemic will be emerging poor mental health and wellbeing among our population. Indeed, at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance we are already seeing signs of this in the numbers of individuals seeking care. Help and resources are out there.
Here is a link to some wonderful resources from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Please join me in talking more about this. Ask people how they are feeling…really feeling. Avoid responding yourself with “fine” when you are asked. It is time for us all to #GetReal. Our collective health and wellbeing depends on it