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As COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, Ark Valley Voice, in conjunction with its fellow Colorado Media Collaborative partners, is sharing the stories of how our lives are being impacted by COVID-19.

Casey Goehl grew up in Buena Vista and now lives in Salida with his wife and kids. He enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and spending time with his family. Goehl will be completing his degree in business through Colorado Mountain College at the end of May.

This is his story.

Goehl has juggled work, school and family life throughout the course of the pandemic. When asked how mental health impacted him as a student, he explained “I think for anyone, 2020 was a very unique set of circumstances. As far as being a student as well, I think that the stressors that would typically be maybe overlooked or pass more quickly were more profound, more magnified in many ways.”

He continued “Everything is perspective. I think a lot of us have hindsight with what could have been. The only thing you want to think about is what that the year should have been, so you don’t think of any of the negatives that probably would have occurred regardless.”

“As a student I think that the stressors were much higher. But I also believe there were opportunities through COVID as a student; with gaining different relationships with individuals that you might not have connected with prior to, via an online course or a Zoom meeting.”

“It was tough on myself and my family not to be able to go and see grandma all the time on the weekends. Then you start to become a little resentful of the things you can do even if they are positives, like studying. That became very overwhelming. It became almost a tedious thing that was ‘well, it’s this or sit and watch the same TV show or God forbid, watch the news,” he said.

Goehl explained how time with his kids allowed him to step away from being a student. “It instilled boundaries that didn’t feel artificial after a while. I was able to say from this time, to this time, I’m a student. Any time prior to that or after that– that’s when I’m a dad. Or, I can do both, but there’s regulations within that. I think that was helpful in terms of building a structure and consistency.”

Goehl went on to explain what it was like being a student alongside his kids. “I will say that my wife has been an exceptional teacher while working part time herself from home. I know that I have not put in nearly as much of the work that she has.  But adding to that, just that one level deeper of responsibility.”

He adds, “You take it for granted how much a teacher does. Your lack of perspective is glaring at that point and then you’re still responsible for taking care of that, while you’re trying to figure out all of the other things.”

When asked how mental health has impacted his year, Goehl said “for me it’s a constant, I don’t want to say battle, it’s just a constant in my life. It’s something that I have to be on top of at all times. When I say on top of, I don’t mean I’m battling it and I’m beating it all the time, it’s just something I have to be aware of.”

Goehl continued, “I have to be mindful at all times of how I’m feeling, what I’m doing, what could happen, what can’t happen. Over the last year, the mindfulness piece of that was incredibly important, to continue to have perspective and kind of pace yourself while you’re living in this reality.”

Goehl agreed that the year 2020 was an extremely challenging year for most Americans.

“In a broad sense what I’ve found most difficult is how obvious this has made all the divisions with even our small community” Goehl explained.  “Certain people are very vigilant in letting you know which side of they’re on and there are others who are very quiet about it, but there’s still a pressure from either side of it. I think that there’s been a lot of negativity around even just the mask issue that has shown some cracks within the happy little mountain valley that we live in.”

Regarding how he copes, Goehl explained that many used alcohol as a coping mechanism. “I think that’s an issue that needs to be addressed by a lot of individuals. I’ve since changed that behavior.”

“My coping mechanisms have changed considerably,” he explained. “Binge-watching Netflix like so many people have, or trying to pick up a new hobby which can be tough when there aren’t a lot of physical outlets to find yourself in for new hobbies. Spending time with family. My kids.”

“There were times where the coping mechanism was to just zone out as much as possible and just kind of move on with the day and week and month, as slowly as they all seemed to move along,” continued Goehl.

As challenging as this year has been, there were also little positives to come from it. Goehl said “We found out that my wife is an incredible baker so that’s been wonderful for everyone in the home and not as great for my waistline.”

“Another thing is just seeing my children grow in more of a connected manner. With them being at home that connection become deeper than it would have. The hours spent together are different, so the content of how you’re spending time together changes. So, it’s been wonderful to spend that time with them and see them growing as people and learning about the way the world is and how it may be just along with all the adults as well.”

Whatever you’re going through, crisis counselors and professionally trained peer specialists are available to help. Call Colorado Crisis Service’s hotline at 1-844-493-TALK(8255). There is no wrong reason to reach out.