So much has happened since we first launched this podcast: we changed our name to “Finding the Helpers: Presented by Playing to Live”, received loads of support and excellent feedback for the show, and have lined up several amazing guests for the next few episodes.
We are thrilled to bring you episode number two of the podcast, with Felicia Temple: contender on The Voice in 2017 and ICU nurse.
Felicia has been receiving media attention in the past few weeks since an interview during Global Citizen's "One World: Together At Home” concert, which is how we found her.
Having finally made the decision to take a break from nursing and pursue her musical dreams in early 2020, she was on an international music tour in Brussels when she found out that the US planned to close its borders due to covid-19. Within a week, she was “rolling up her sleeves” and getting back to work at her former nursing job at Holy Name Medical Center, but this time in the newly set up covid-19 ICU.
She says she returned to what felt like a different hospital, even though she had only been gone for a few months. She experienced culture and shell shock. They were building new ICUs, everyone was wearing masks, and there were tubes going in and out of rooms to set up negative pressure for isolation units. Despite all of this, Felicia felt called to be back on the front lines with her former coworkers, in a job she has always loved.
Her biggest personal challenge is not being able to see her family. In this episode, Felicia describes going past her family’s home every day on her way to work, knowing that she cannot stop to see them. Her mother is immunocompromised, so working with COVID patients means she had to stay away. She has also lost two aunts in the past week from covid-19. Death is all around her, and she’s now afraid to look at social media for fear of finding out who was the next in her community to be taken by the virus.
Not only is it difficult being away from her family, but being a healthcare worker is a huge emotional burden during this time. Felicia describes what it feels like to hold someone's hand as they die, because they cannot be with their family. She has a new appreciation for the rituals that our society has around death, and is appreciative for the iPads they have at the hospital, allowing patients to say goodbye, virtually, to their families.
“There’s so much to process. It’s like going to war. I’m not going to be able to process this until the world is somewhat back to normal and I can really sit down and unpack it.”
As a musician, Felicia’s usual coping skills include singing. However, after wearing layers of masks and having to scream from room to room in the hospital, she has gone hoarse. “I’m very spiritual, yeah I’m one of those people,” she says, laughing, “So I figure my throat chakra is probably blocked.”
She describes other practices she enjoys for self care during the pandemic, including playing the guitar, spending time with her husband, deep conditioning her hair, giving herself pedicures, and generally having more time for things that feel good and are within her control. She’s also realized that in order to cope with the chaos of the hospital, she compartmentalizes and “just does whatever needs to be done next”. She realizes that she will not be able to process all of the complex emotions she is experiencing until after this is over.
Felicia wants people to know that as a nurse, she doesn’t feel like a hero. She explains watching her coworkers save a life and then go on with their own. “We do it because we love this job and it’s our duty, it’s what we signed up for. People are working hard like this every day because they love their jobs, not just because there’s a global crisis.”
Self care activities
We want to point out that everyone has a different way of processing and feeling emotions, particularly during difficult times. For some, like Felicia, compartmentalization is key, and for others it may be a need to constantly express their feelings. Neither is right or wrong. What is important is to not let strong emotions control or define you, and to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. As such, here are a few self-care activities for all of our listeners to try at home:
Create a container for your emotions :
Use sound to check in with your body:
Make a list of self-care activities:
Breathing exercise for open communication:
Finally, please remember that it is okay to just get by and leave the processing to later, and it is also okay to take care of yourself, even in dark times.
Since music is an outlet of self-care for many, Felicia wanted to share a clip of her music with us as a reminder that “even when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, everything is going to be alright.” Listen to the full podcast here, or wherever you get your podcasts, to hear Felicia’s full story. Also, listen to more of Felicia’s music here. and the song featured on the podcast here.
And lastly, please subscribe and leave us a review!
In Season 1 of Finding the Helpers, we are bringing personal stories of front line staff and families impacted by COVID-19. Our diverse guests will be invited to share their story of being on the front line, and in combination to their story, two expressive art therapists will provide art and creative activities that will support the challenges the individual and their family is facing. These could include ideas for short relaxation techniques to be done on the front line, creative ways to explain in kid friendly terms what is happening, ways to stay connected to family and children during long periods of isolation, etc. Throughout the podcast, conversation will include mental health insight related to the pandemic, anxiety and stress, grief and loss, resiliency, coping skills, and understanding the pandemic. Presented by the nonprofit Playing to Live's, whose history began in 2014 as a grassroots program focused on bringing play and creativity in the midst of the Ebola deadly viruses. Following our work in Ebola, we have continued our work as advocates and creators for play and expression across the globe in refugee settings, post war countries, and in the United States of America.
Lindsay Bingaman is the Regional Program Manager for Playing to Live, based in Nairobi, Kenya.