Brian Hamilton: Connecting can carry that weight |

Brian Hamilton: Connecting can carry that weight

Brian Hamilton


Nevada County Mental Health Crisis Line: 530-265-5811

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Line: 800-985-5990

(24 hours a day, seven days a week)

Typically, Thursday’s Zoom message ahead of our 2 p.m. press deadline for the Sierra Sun offers a sense of relief.

A deadline met. A weight lifted.

That wasn’t the case last week.

Instead, while still in the daily grind of putting The Union to bed, the weight wasn’t so much lifted but, in a sense, seemed even heavier.

“We all have to recognize it is a hard time. It’s OK to feel scared and overwhelmed, and sad.”Phebe Bell, Nevada County Behavioral Health Director

“Heavy,” is how I felt, thinking about all that’s going on — and not going on — at that moment, all across our community, state, country and globe. The numbers rising in scary fast fashion, footage from the front lines playing in loops on screens of all sizes, the political dissonance only adding extra layers of stress.

And, of course, all of own personal struggles to stay safe, to stay in business and to stay at home.

It’s a lot. A whole lot.

And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling it.

“I think that pretty much everyone is feeling a pretty high degree of sort of existential dread and deep sadness, as well as a high level of anxiety,” Phebe Bell, Nevada County’s Behavioral Health director, told me in a video chat Tuesday. “There’s so much that has changed in our lives in such a short period of time. And probably one of the hardest parts is that there’s so much unknown still all around us.”

That uncertainty — not knowing what to expect, when to expect it and who to expect it will impact — can lead to quite a downward spiral in thinking if you let your mind go there. I did.

I worried about my family and all of our vulnerability to the virus — particularly our parents, back home in Indiana, along with Grandma, who can’t have visitors at her home right now. I thought about our daughters, essentially digital natives from birth who do a lot of their socializing on their devices, but also need that in-person interaction with their friends.

I thought of all the families and loved ones impacted, whether those of a patient or a health-care hero, or those of a bank teller or grocery store cashier or anyone else on the front lines of this crisis.

And to think of the spread, so far-reaching, so fast … well, you get the idea.

So … I went on a walk.

Then I did something I rarely do, I actually called both my brothers. Text messages typically do the job in touching bases. Not this time. I needed to hear their voices. Something normal. Something familiar. Something reassuring.

And you know what? It helped — both the walk and the long-distance connections.

But surely that weight will return, as the days and weeks wear on all of us. As we all get used to not seeing much of each other, and also deal with seeing a whole lot more of those with whom we’re staying at home. Our often overlooked idiosyncrasies already somewhat annoying now amplified by the close quarters we’re keeping. With everyone already on edge, tensions running high, it’s important we all practice patience and self awareness.

For example, I need to be aware of the fact that each time a family member steps out the front door, I don’t really need to run down the list of rules of physical distancing and grill them over where they’re going. (According to sources close to the matter, it’s not helping.)

But we should all know there is help.

For those of us who need a lift, we’re blessed with the natural beauty of our outdoors oasis right in our own backyards. And, as our resident expert shared, we can also help ourselves by building up the resiliency of both our bodies and our minds. Phebe Bell says it’s about getting down to basics, just as with washing your hands, not touching your face and keeping our 6 feet of safe distance.

“The basics of staying well right now is doing the good things for your physical body and emotional wellbeing,” she said. “So it’s eating healthy meals. It’s not overdoing it on sugar, drugs or alcohol. It’s exercising when you can. That’s where we’re pretty lucky in Nevada County and the Tahoe Truckee areas. We have a lot of access to outdoors, where can stay a distance from people physically but still get out.”

Of course, while we’re home, thanks to the technology at many of our fingertips, we can reach out and connect with those we love and those who can help us, when that heavy feeling starts to weigh on our shoulders.

And for those who feel overwhelmed, you are not alone.

There is someone who can help right now:

“Sometimes,” Bell said, “when we get to a really dark place where the fear, the anxiety, the isolation, the aloneness becomes overwhelming, it’s hard to talk to the people you know. It’s too overwhelming. You don’t want to burden them. You don’t want to scare them. Sometimes being more anonymous and being able to call a crisis line is the best way to go for that person …

“Please reach out. Call 265-5811, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Somebody will be there to talk to you and help figure out what resources can help get you through that moment. We all have to recognize it is a hard time. It’s OK to feel scared and overwhelmed, and sad. And it’s even more important to say so to somebody, to anybody, whoever is the right person for you.”

After all, as we continue to learn in many, many different ways through this crisis, we’re all in this together.

You don’t have to carry that weight all alone.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at or 530-477-4249.

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