“What is COVID 19 anyway?” a close friend, Karen asked. “What is COVID 19?” I echoed back. “Are you kidding?” I asked. “We are 6 weeks into this and you don’t know what it is?!” She told me that she refuses to get into another energy and time waster. I reminded her that New York City has been hit hard and is experiencing a major crisis. There has also been a large death toll in a short amount of time. I demanded to know how she could describe a pandemic as an ‘energy waster.’
Karen said that I needed to understand where she is coming from and how burned out she is. She went on to say that she spent five years in a post 9/11 counseling assignment which included helping the employees who also were impacted by the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She said that she was laid off from her job in 2009, about a year after the 2008 recession started. She admitted that this wasn’t so terrible as she wanted to go out on her own anyway and being laid off pushed her along faster. She also said that her town was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in October 2014. Karen said that the worst of all of this is she cannot see anyone, do anything, and that her favorite shows are always interrupted by another politician’s news briefing.
I was a bit taken aback by Karen’s bluntness about the current crisis and her refusal to engage or have an understanding of how this impacts people.
What if a friend, colleague or client brings up a similar theme? How do we respond to this? Most people are so attached to the 24-hour news cycle that it is hard to respond to someone who is disinterested. As therapists, coaches and small business consultants, we live by the motto of “meeting people where they’re at.”
When Karen reminded me of all the things that she has dealt with professionally as well as the impact of those events on her community, I understood why she didn’t want to focus her time and attention on COVID 19. I tried to listen to where Karen was coming from and make sure that she was practicing the safety measures that are required of all New Yorkers such as masks and social distancing. She grumbled that she was taking appropriate safety precautions.
I also realized that Karen was going to her job every day in New York City and this was of great concern to me. Karen said she is the only one on her office and floor, but there are a few other people in the building as well as the security staff. Karen told me that she feels safe and secure in the office and all her files are there.
I hope everyone is safe during this time and that this blog has helped you be compassionate towards those that may handle a crisis in a different way.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.