When I began writing my middle grade novel, You Can Survive, I had no idea how relevant the main message would be. In the book, 13-year-old Carmen is acutely aware of all the injustices and
“tiny apocalypses” (her phrase, not mine) in the world. She frets about earthquakes in Chile, the bees dying, potential zombie outbreaks and, yes, super viruses.
Like Carmen, I am sensitive to the world’s troubles. I’ve been that way ever since I was a child, as evidenced by my scribble drawings of endangered species, and the captions that read, “This is a jacwar. It is undngrd.” “This is a bld igle. It is undngrd.”
Even as a first-grader, I was concerned about the state of the world. Every troubling statistic stuck in my brain (“Hey children! Did you know there are only a few thousand manatees left? Did you know diapers take 400 years to decompose? Did you know…?”)
How can a person go through life, feeling troubled and anxious about the state of the world?
It ain’t easy.
Like Carmen, I’ve had to steel my heart and reject some of my empathic tendencies (not empathetic. Empathic. As in “I’m an empath who feels things to my very core”). I’ve learned to cordon off some of my emotions and focus my attention on the here and now (forget about the Amazon Rainforest burning! It’s a sunny day, and you’re eating a piece of triple-berry pie. Life is good!).
In short, I’ve learned to survive and, when I can, thrive.
Today, many of us are resorting to survival mode. We’ve seen it through the panic-buying that is emptying grocery shelves and turning people into hoarders. We’ve seen it in the uptick of survival gear purchases (including bunkers). We’ve seen it in the array of people’s strange coping mechanisms.
If you’re one of the many TP-hoarding, daily temp-taking, coating your body in hand sanitizer folks out there, I want to let you know: I see you. I understand you. And You Can Survive.
You can survive, because quarantine (any survival situation, really) is a mental game for a healthy person, more than a physical one. And you have resources. You have the ability to connect with others through video chat (thank goodness this outbreak happened in the era of Zoom and Skype, amirite?).
If Carmen can survive eighth grade, you can survive extended periods on your couch and learning to cook new recipes.
You can survive the isolation and fear.
You can survive TP shortages (bidets are a more effective bum cleaner anyway!).
You can figure out how to connect with online communities.
You can tap into resources to keep yourself financially afloat (unemployment benefits, food assistance programs, emergency funds for artists (here are a few for writers)).
You can figure out how to keep yourself busy (take up crocheting! Learn to wood carve! Write that novel you’ve always wanted to write! Many online courses are free right now).
As someone who has spent much of her life fretting about the world’s troubles, I am familiar with this mental game.
BUT, I understand that these are unprecedented times. I understand that people might need more of a boost than normal. That’s why I’m going to try to send some regular doses of positivity through the interwebs.
I’d like to give whatever I can right now, and what I can give is essentially this:
- Writing tips and activities
- Survival tidbits (see past blog posts for some of this)
- Ample pictures of my pup
- Free “healthy distraction” resources
- Kind words and virtual hugs
If there’s anything else you’d like from me at the moment, please let me know. I can’t offer medical advice or develop a COVID vaccine, but I can offer a few tools and resources that will hopefully nurture your mental health and shore up your nerves.
You’ve got this. I believe in you.
You Can Survive.
Kate Bitters is a Minneapolis-based author and freelance writer. She is the author of Elmer Left, Ten Thousand Lines, and He Found Me. One of her proudest/nerdiest moments was when Neil Gaiman read one of her short stories on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater.