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By SARA ARTHURS
All right, so you’re social distancing. But everyone should remember: “They do not have to be alone.”
That’s what Ellyn Schmiesing, executive director of the nonprofit recovery center Focus, had to say about these times.
Focus, which offers support for people in recovery from mental health, addiction and trauma issues, has been trying to get creative in getting its message out online and helping connect people with other support systems they might need.
Seven days a week, at noon, Schmiesing offers a “recovery check-in” video on Focus’ Facebook page.
She said in the midst of uncertainty, the agency wants to continue to offer its clients structure, stability and “a way to connect.” Schmiesing said the videos also serve as a good way to disseminate information, like support group meetings that are now being held virtually. Many of the community’s 12-step meetings, for instance, stopped meeting suddenly amid the pandemic, but people still need that support.
The Hancock Helps website, run through Focus, includes a list of resources to help during the pandemic, including many online support group meetings.
She said she does “listen a lot” and tries to get a sense what recovery topics others want to hear about. For example, on Sunday, the day it was announced that Hancock County had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, Schmiesing chose to focus on serenity. (Her video at noon came shortly before the 1 p.m. press conference held by Hancock Public Health.)
In other videos, she’s talked about acceptance, and sitting with uncomfortable feelings.
And while both a pandemic and mental health/addiction recovery are serious issues, Schmiesing uses humor in communicating her message. One recent video, for instance, opened with her snacking while waiting for viewers to get settled, and she announced that the recovery check-in was “brought to you with the power of Swedish fish.”
Schmiesing said “being real” helps, and clients have told her it’s relatable.
“If you’re scared, your brain cannot take in new information,” she said. And, she said, “We can’t forget to laugh.”
In another recent video, Schmiesing talked about gratitude and said, “There’s always lots to be grateful for.”
And she talked about having self-compassion and looking at what you are holding onto — whether fear, anxiety, frustration or resentment — what is keeping you from showing up “as the human being that you want to be?” She advised you might need to sit with this feeling and identify it, then let it go.
“When I let go of that pain, I can respond out of a place of love,” she said. “And when I respond out of a place of love, I am the best human being that I can be.”
She said you might need to practice this letting go over and over: “It’s not a box you check. It’s a process you go through.”
Schmiesing concluded this particular video by telling viewers to stay safe and “keep your hearts and minds resilient.”
Focus also holds an open recovery meeting online every day at 4 p.m., for individuals who need any type of support with recovery. The agency has canceled all programming, but remains open to help those in recovery with whatever needs they might have. Schmiesing said people have reached out to get support in an effort to “stay as mentally healthy” as possible.
And she said volunteers at Focus are happy to call people just to check in on them.
Speaking from personal experience she said, “I know that it’s hard to reach out” if you’re feeling isolated or depressed or stressed. But she encourages people to do so.
Reach out on Facebook and someone from Focus will message you back, or call them at 419-423-5071. Someone will be there for you, Schmiesing said.