Dear Christine, Mad in Madison Heights

Dear Christine

I’ve heard stories of other people being at their wits end with husbands, wives, partners and kids driving them nuts during the shelter in place order My living situation is I like with my husband and his younger brother rents a room in our basement.  Until the virus we all worked different hours so we didn’t see each other a lot.

Now we are all home and it is slowly driving me mad!  I won’t even go into the million things that annoy me.  What I need advice on is how to stay sane and stay in my relationship until this is over.  We all work in the restaurant business so we might be the last to get back to work.Signed, Mad in Madison Heights

Dear Mad,

What you are going through is very, very hard.  It is no comfort, but you have a lot of company these days, all around the world.  My solace in quarantine is that it is spring and we can go outside (mask included) and walk or ride a bike or garden.  When China was in quarantine it was winter and no one was allowed outdoors at all.  Some people live in very tiny apartments, or even in just a large box in someone else’s apartment.  That would put me over the edge.  And the Chinese divorce rate soared when quarantine was over.  It’s hard.

The stresses of not being able to work,  home schooling children, having no money, watching the bills pile up and wondering where money for the rent or next meal is coming from are huge.  And now you three are stuck together 24/7, which none of you signed up for!  These are situations that breed frustration, conflict and even violence.

The good news is that the quarantine is lifting.  June 4, many retailers reopened and June 8, 2020, all of Michigan will reopen restaurants and a variety of businesses. Also, indoor gatherings of groups of 10 or less will be increased to outdoor groups of up to 100 will be permitted.   We all still need to social distance 6 feet from each other  (hard for cooks and servers) and wear masks around others (hard for diners).  We especially need to not cough or sneeze on each other.  We are reopening slowly to make sure the COVID19 infection and hospitalization rate is small enough that the hospitals do not collapse.  Michigan was the 3rd highest infection and death rate just a few weeks ago, and last I saw, we are down to 26th out of 50.  Testing has increased so that someone who has COVID19 can isolate before exhibiting symptoms and contacts can be traced to warn others to get tested.  Hopefully, that will stop the “superspreaders” that inadvertantly infect dozens of people at a time.

So, hopefully your restaurants are surviving and will reopen soon.  Detroit is issuing patio dining permits in 24 hours right now, to facilitate restaurants seating people outdoors.  Having at least one or two of you working will decrease some of the madness.

Meanwhile, it is important to focus on what you need and try to meet those needs in a healthy way.

Stay away from junk food and eat healthy foods that build up your immunity and protect your brain from depression.

Find space from each other and negotiate who gets what space during what time.  If you and your husband are in the same bedroom, make an agreement about who gets to be in there alone and for how long.  Maybe one of you wants to nap.  Or read.  Or play a video game.  Alone.  That is a place to do a solitary activity and get some space.Get some space from each other outdoors.  Take time alone.  Take time for you and your husband together, to nurture your relationship.  Take a walk, alone, together. Exercise to work off anger and anxious energy.  And to keep your body healthy and functioning well.  And to kill time! Try to socialize with people not in your home:  sit on the front step and talk to neighbors on the sidewalk.  Zoom friends.  Group online games.

Write about what you are experiencing and feeling.  Not on FB or on a blog, but instead something private where you can be 100% honest with yourself and not worry about someone else reading it.  It really isn’t cool to dis someone in FB and have them stumble across the post.  Be willing to tell them your complaint to their face/video!  That is a lot cleaner.

You need a private place to vent and process what you’re going through.  Writing can give you some practice of putting complicated feelings into words, and get some distance from those experiences.  After a while, when you go back to read what you wrote yesterday or last week, you will start to see a different perspective or a pattern that has developed.  This will help develop insight into how you work and knowing what you need and what your housemate’s patterns are.

Lastly, you can get teletherapy with a licensed Psychologist, Counselor or Social Worker.  If you have health insurance, many  companies are waiving client copays and deductibles through June 30, and BCBS Michigan has extended these benefits to December 31.  Many therapists have moved their practice into their home and offer therapy through zoom or or another confidential group video platform.

Since quarantine, Michigan Staywell Counseling program provides confidential emotional support counseling hotline 24/7 at no cost to Michiganders.   This hotline is 888-535-6136, and press 8 when prompted.  Language translation is available for non-English speakers.,9753,7-406-98178_99557—,00.html.

Reach out if you are feeling out of control, too alone, like you are going crazy or you feel that you just can’t take it anymore.  Someone is out there and will pick up the phone or the video link and help you cope.

Hang in there.  Until there is a treatment or a vaccine is created that creates immunity and is administered worldwide, there may well be other waves of COVID19 spread and quarantines.  You are important and you matter.  Write me back about how you are doing.  I care.

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067


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