Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Write Way to deal with Covid19

For Therapy, for Posterity, write your life


I gave a little teaser on Facebook today about what I was going to blog about on my daily Covid19 Mental Health series.  I wrote a little poem about #GrandmaInLockdown.

The toys are all a-scatter
Not that it even matters
There won't be any knocks upon the door.
No visitors will visit
No kids will come to play
No one will ask for ice cream
Or beg their mom to stay...

My blog was going to be about how therapeutic writing is, about scientific studies that show the act of writing helps people deal with fears, stress and anxiety. I was going to encourage my fellow writers to use their words in public ways to help the world. To record this massively historic event so the generations to come will have a clear picture of what we went through. So we can be viewed as great adventurers, achievers, fighters. Strong.

I was going to tell those of my readers who are shy about writing, to pick up the pen anyway and keep a diary. Lock it if you want.  For now.

When we're long gone, our descendants will be interested in "the Pandemic of 2020". They'll want to read about our lives, our feelings, our fears, our governments. Our homes, our clothes, our food and technology. Our culture. They'll be intrigued with even just short accounts of firing up our i phones and logging onto Facebook, fascinated to discover how strange it felt for so many to work from home. They'll wonder at the quaint custom of 'buffets' and roll their eyes at our stories of toilet paper hoarding and maybe laugh at the government videos showing us how to wash our hands.

I was going to write all that until I wrote that poem. When I hit 'post' the life drained out of me. My spirit died. Hope, vanished. My desire to be useful left. I no longer wanted to write about writing. How could I tell people it was therapeutic to write, when it had decimated me?

I was going to tell you all that my latest novel written for middle grade children, BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE RAINBOW starts off with a mother admonishing her children to consider the turn in their lives an "adventure."

Danielle cannot believe she's embarking on an adventure. Her parents are fighting and divorcing and her mother has moved them from their city home to a rundown shack on the prairies.

Danielle  must have felt much like we do--life as she'd always known it was over. She had no electricity, no inside toilet. No running water. Her friends, her school, and her father are thousands of kilometers away. us, she has no idea how or when it's all going to end. She knows, it will never be the same again.

Adventure indeed.

Well, come to think of it, now that I've written about my novel, I've cheered up a bit. I love talking about my books, reconnecting with the characters I've lived with and slept with and dreamed about for months (and some of them, years) as I worked to tell their stories.

Perhaps this idea of writing for therapy has some truth to it...

The Write Way...has been brought to you by BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE RAINBOW

Nine-year-old Danielle’s parents are getting divorced and she doesn’t think things can get any worse—but they definitely don’t seem to be getting any better, either.
Her mother takes her and her older brother, Jayson, thousands of kilometers from their Toronto home to the old family homestead on the Alberta prairie. Inside and outside of the rundown shack that is now home, everything is strange and frightening.
Her mother says they will connect with nature on the farm and begin to heal but to Danielle, it seems a very painful way to heal.
Little by little, however, she learns what a family is all about. She just might begin to find the peace and happiness she needs.

Eileen Schuh, Author 
Schrödinger's Cat
Web site:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Be here Be now Be gentle with yourself


#Covid19 Small steps to Mental Health

I'm going to drop the numbering of my Mental Health steps as nobody is going to follow them in order anyways...and that is just fine.

I want us all to be gentle with ourselves. Don't feel unworthy, dejected or abnormal if you're not anywhere near following my advice. Or if you want to skip the first two steps and dive into this one. Or if you're still back on step one trying to find the words for your fears.

Forgive yourself if all you can do is watch the news, even if you know you shouldn't. Or if you refuse to watch the news, though you know you should. If you're eating too much, or too little. Sleeping too much or not at all. If you don't want to talk to anyone, or if you can't shut up. If you'd rather finish that crochet project but are instead memorized by Candy Crush. 

We will also forgive all others within our circle for behaving in ways we may wish to judge negatively.

Our bodies, our minds, our spirits know exactly what we need to be doing right now to make it safely through our troubles. Let's allow that part of us that resides beyond words and thoughts, judgments, edicts and decrees--let that part of us take control. It will do a fine job. 

There's no charted course for dealing with this global stress. We're all in different circumstances. We have arrived here on different paths. We see things differently, feel things different. Behave different. 

However, we do share much of the same reality.

Today I want us to focus on the here and now. Because no one, not the politicians, nor the health experts nor the psychiatrists, economists or historians. Not the scientists nor the media. No one can tell us much at all about what our future will be like.

But there are some things we do know. The sun will set tonight and rise tomorrow. Our winter season will flow steadily into spring and then summer (or autumn into winter, if we're south of the equator.) The breezes will blow, the birds chirp, gardens grow. Once in a while there will be a rainbow.

For most of us, the here and now is a warm place, familiar and fairly comfortable. We are fed. We have a pillow and bed. If you're reading this, you have some kind of electronic device and connection to the internet. In the here and now there is no immediate danger. At all. Bombs are not exploding around us. We have water in our taps. It's quiet outside. People are 'sheltering in place'--a warm and cozy phrase. Sheltering...

Over all, here and now is a safe place to be.

Relax into it. Own it. Make it yours.

In my novel OPERATION MAXTRACKER , the world is on the verge of collapse, not from a virus, well not a Corona-kind of virus. In this fourth novel in my BackTracker series, my characters know the world may never be the same again because criminals have hijacked cyberspace, robbed the banks, collapsed the stock market, wiped out justice and democracy. Rewrote history.

One of my favourite characters in my BackTracker series, cyber security expert, Cst. Donald Hayes aka Shrug, is trying to work with his cohorts down east, in the big city capital of the nation. Shrug is a prairie boy born and bred and doesn't fit in well with the city folk, with the politics. The rituals. He complains to his boss.

"We’re spendin’ millions on this cyberspace shit because in the plush high-rise office towers in the metropolis, they really think the world will end without it. F**k! Ask a farm boy how the world will end and he’ll tell you it’ll end when the sun don’t shine and the rain don’t fall. If the eastern cities were to wake up hungry, think anyone would care who’s inhabitin’ cyberspace?” OPERATION BACKTRACKER ~Eileen Schuh

We should all take that farmboy attitude. 

There is much that is right with our world in the here and now. Let's savor it, acknowledge and nourish it, because from the here and now will spring our future.

Here and Now... has been brought to you by OPERATION MAXTRACKER

Sergeant Kindle is counting on his top secret Operation MaxTracker team to thwart a surging attempt by criminal gangs to hijack cyberspace and take control of the world.

The tremendous power of the defensive system the team is creating and the potential for its abuse, has computer guru, Katrina Buckhold, on edge. Shrug, Head of Project Security, is supposedly keeping everyone and everything safe, but based on her past experiences with him, she's not confident he's up to that task.

Katrina's toughest battles, though, are not against those threatening cyberspace but against those who are concerned about her ability to raise her children, and Shrug's not helping with that, either.

Then unspeakable tragedy strikes, stripping all friendships to the core and laying bare the stunning truths behind the secrets, fears and mistrust.

Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID19 Second Step to Mental Health

Using our words

Yesterday I blogged about the importance of assigning words to one's emotions, one's fears, how to take step one in our journey through this crisis. It's only when we are able to put words to what we're feeling that we can communicate.

Being able to share our feelings enables us to understand we are not alone, that we are normal, that we are part of what is going on around us. It allows us to connect with others, receive their support and encouragement, and offer them ours.

It also allows us to research the issues frightening us, and tentatively start planning creative solutions to deal with our anxiety and eventually move past it.

As I searched for my own words, I realized much of my anxiety was arising from the stories I heard from parents as a child. Stories about the 1918 pandemic, the 1929 stock market crash and the Dirty 30s. Once I put words to the source of my anxiety, I was able to go online and research those events.  I came to understand the similarities and differences between now and then. 

I read about what governments, health care services, and society in general learned from those past tragedies. I began realizing that governments around the world, and my own government in particular, were implementing the lessons learned long ago and my fears eased. That would not have happened if I'd not taken the time to sort through my feelings and put words to them. 

We're all fearing different things. Some are concerned about food supply, some about the illness itself. Some are focused on financial worries. Many are fearful of the future. Some wonder about civil unrest, justice... I won't mention all the worries because some of us will grab onto them and acquire an entire new set of worries.

Do take the time to study your own fears and as they change, find new words to describe them. Put those words to use by sharing them with trusted others. Ask questions of experts about the things you are fearing. Research reputable online sites. If you are worried about finances, find out what public assistance may be available to you and how to access that help. Share what you find out with others who have the same worries. 

If you're worried about contracting the illness, check your government public health websites. There is lots of information on how to stay safe.

If you're worried about others, share with them what you learn about what they must do to keep safe.

With the knowledge you gain, will come power and with that power will come the ability to cope with both your emotions and the situations from which they are arising.

It's a very easy second step on our way to coping with COVID19.

We'll move beyond words on my next blog and search out some activities that can calm us and help others.

Second Step is brought to you by THE TRAZ

"Great Strong Story--a wonderful read"

"I found that it was hard to put down (even for sleep)"

"I just had to finish it; I needed to know what was going to happen next..." 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

First steps out of the Covid19 crisis


Find the words

The overwhelming response to my casual mention on facebook that I was considering using my writing skills and psychiatric nursing training to blog about mental health issues caught me by surprise.

Social media had been next to silent on the crisis since the magnitude of the pandemic became apparent. I assumed most, like me, were glued to news channels, unable to comprehend what was happening.

When one did speak, one used words like 'surreal'. We were numb, felt detached. Had difficulty connecting the world we were hearing about with the one we were experiencing, connecting the past we knew to the future that was looming.

However, the response to my post led me to realize we were emerging from the numbness but had no idea what we should do next, what to feel next or worry about next.

We will all handle this crisis in our own unique way,  much as we handle grief. There is no right and wrong way to feel. No right or wrong time to do what we want to do. No correct way to proceed.

And that, in itself, is frightening.

But let's take a tiny first step out of our numbness and see where it leads us. It's not an easy step, but it's manageable. 

Step 1: find the words for what you're feeling. Put words to your fears.

In FATAL ERROR, my young heroine is being interrogated by the police about a murder she witnessed. She's never talked to anyone about what she saw. She'd been hoping she could just forget about and thus make it go away. She's not even sure she did see anything, or what exactly she saw or did...because she'd never put words to it.
“Dark secrets are bad things,” [Constable] Debra said. “They can grow into monsters if you don’t put them into words.”
“There are no words,” Katrina protested. 
“You’ve never talked about it, have you?” Debra asked. “I can tell by the way you flinch every time someone says ‘murder’.” 
“Words will make it worse.” 
“I don’t think so. If you have the word ‘murder’ you can have suspects, evidence, motive, opportunity. You can have trials and convictions and jail terms, tangible things to chase down and handle. If you just have a bunch of horrible feelings floating around, how do you do anything with them?” 
“Words will make it real.” 
“It’s not words that make it real.” [Cst.]Chad zeroed his eyes in on hers. “With or without your words, the murder was real. I can show you the crime scene photos. You can see how ‘real’ it was. ~Fatal Error
It's vital we find the words to express what we are going through. Only by being able to communicate will we be able to connect with others. With words, we can climb out of our solitude and share our fears and feelings.

Yes, words will definitely 'make it real'. Words will knock us upside the head with the harshness of the reality, the 'new normal'.

However, with words we can proceed, start making plans, research solutions,  create solutions. Words will enable us to analyze. Words will empower us to take control of our emotions.

In a scientific study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), survivors of a near-crash involving a passenger flight were interviewed by researchers. Some interesting data emerged. (see my previous blog about this)

Researchers simply asked survivors to describe what had happened.  Those who had words for the terror they experienced, those who could focus on and share the event and the feelings they had during that event were less likely to suffer PTSD. Whereas those passengers with evasive or convoluted narratives, focusing on extraneous things had more trouble dealing with the terror of the experience down the road.

While researchers suggested this was useful data for those training first responders, soldiers, or others who are likely to encounter trauma during their work, it is also information we can use to face the Covid19 crisis.

Don't pretend it's not happening. Don't think that putting words to it will make it real, make it worse. Don't think not talking about it will make it go away.

Putting words to that undefined 'it' is a vital first step.

Feel free to share your feelings, fears, hopes in the comment section below or on my facebook page, where I'm hosting a running commentary on mental health issues. And if you're still at that 'surreal' stage and can't find the words, share that to. Reading others' words may help you find your own.

Take care.


For reliable, accurate and timely health and safety information on dealing with the Covid19 pandemic visit this Canadian Government website.

"First steps..." has been brought to you by FATAL ERROR

"Courage and insight make for a compelling read” 

 "Gave me much to think about."

“...excellent pacing. It's a worthy sequel to the explosive ‘THE TRAZ’.” 

“...a lesson and an intense drama in one.”  

Eileen Schuh, Author 
Schrödinger's Cat
Web site:


After being asked by the Public Health Agency of Canada to help spread their vital information, I decided to take it a step further and use my skills as a writer and my training as a psychiatric nurse to address mental health issues arising from the Covid19 crises.

I will be mentioning my various books during my blogging and I’ll leave it to you to judge my motives. But let me say, storytelling is one of mankind’s oldest and most effective ways of teaching. From the parables in the Bible, to Grimm’s fairy tales, to ancient Greek legends and Native American tales, our society has learned about ourselves, our morals, our history. We’ve learned of tragedy and learned to hope.

It’s always been my desire as an author to continue that honorable tradition. It is sometimes much easier for humans to grasp an insight when it is wrapped in powerful words and portrayed by characters we love. We can talk all we want about hope and its importance to mental health, but when we live alongside a character in a story, when we move with them through their tragedy, when we see them overcome their weakness and reach their goals, that’s when we begin to really understand hope.

Many of the insights on mental health that I will be sharing in the coming days are insights that I’ve already shared with readers of my novels. My interest in the human mind and emotions is obvious in my novels. And sometimes, I have to admit, my characters can get a point across much more effectively than I can. So, yes, I will be quoting from these characters and referring to episodes in their lives as they pertain to the issues I will be addressing. Whether or not you follow up by reading their stories is your choice, but I do suggest that reading stories, whether mine or others, is one of the best, cheapest, most fun mental health therapies in the world!

Eileen Schuh
Canadian writer