The pandemic taught mainstream Americans something that people with chronic health issues have known for a long time: Our actions have the potential to impact others, in ways that can be life-altering – for better and for worse. In particular, callous neighbors have the ability to disrupt or altogether destroy the delicate ecosystem we have created to optimize our wellness – not only upending the systems and structures that we carefully have put in place in our homes, but also causing our stress levels to skyrocket, and thereby further jeopardizing our wellness.

Over the past couple of months, my life has been hijacked by the actions of my neighbors, who have been anything from callous to contemptuous about my health concerns and basic requests to involve me in discussion and decision-making about matters that have a direct impact on my life and potential consequence to my health. I found myself utterly consumed by this matter and sucked into a downward spiral – among other things, leading to chronic insomnia, sleep deprivation, inability to function, and resulting panic.

I took to journaling, as a tool for hoisting myself out of the pit I had fallen into, and I began writing as much as 2.5 hours a day. As I did, my thoughts became more organized, and I became clearer about what other tools I had at my disposal, and what steps I could take, both to mitigate the impact of what was going on around me, through internal self-care, and also to actively respond to and remedy the particulars of the chaotic situation swirling around me.

A turning point was when my journaling led to my writing a song, “Reptile Place,” (which you can listen to here) which immediately transformed the situation into something I could giggle about. Every time I sang the song, I felt the heaviness lift, and I felt myself return to my core – becoming more grounded, calm, and peaceful. And shortly after, I felt the courage to take actions that led to what I believe is the best possible resolution of the situation, at least for now.

I never cease to be amazed by the magical power of writing, music, and dance. Weirdly, those are the things that automatically fly out the window, when I end up in a state of extreme stress. So I am asking everyone around me to please remind me of my tools, if/when they see me getting stuck in a loop, and I’m doing my best to remember these tools myself.