Angie Elliott, 46, works at a small-town Ontario funeral home. A little less than four years ago, she started having what she thought was a heart attack. She ended up at the CAMH emergency department, where she was diagnosed with Severe Panic Disorder caused by untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It took her most of a year to return to good health. She attributes a large part of the success of her recovery to the ongoing support of her employer, which partnered with her on a gradual return to work program. A few weeks before the pandemic was declared, she took part in a CAMH panel discussion before a large live audience to promote a workplace mental health program in partnership with BMO.
Then the world changed.
It’s been challenging. My husband has an autoimmune disease so I have taken a leave from work and we have been on full home quarantine with our 12-year-old son since the pandemic began. On the bright side, I couldn’t ask for two better people to be quarantined with.
But that means I can’t take care of my elderly relatives or go shopping for the elderly people in my neighbourhood. Instead people have to shop for me. I try to be the kind one who actively helps those around me. So who am I now?
Some of the ghosts are back. I deal with them by going back to the tools I learned during my time in crisis when all the social workers and doctors were helping me. Have I eaten something healthy? Have I exercised? Am I getting a good night’s sleep?
I am a huge proponent of ‘what is’ thinking. ‘What if’ thinking can send my thoughts down the rabbit hole.
I thrive on routine and work is a form of therapy for me in its own way. It’s where I find meaning.
Personal Protective Equipment in the funeral industry is in very short supply, so one way I found meaning was to use some long-lost sewing skills to make washable masks for my colleagues on the front line, which quickly turned into making masks for my husband’s weekly clinic visits and family who had been reusing paper masks.