Opening Another Door

About 15 years ago, I decided I should die. I was failing at everything: relationships, school, health, finances, and happiness. Somedays, I would swing high enough I could see a way out, but that zenith never lasted long enough for me to memorize the path out of the darkness. So in one of those valleys when the shadows deepened into an oozing gloom, I decided I should just get it over with and die, save myself and the world a lot of trouble. But try as I might, I failed at dying, too.

Talking about that time in my life is still difficult and isn’t something many people who know me know about. (Though, I guess now it’s out there in the public domain. So there’s that.) I don’t talk about it because most people are looking for something “happy”, especially when they’re scrolling through the internet in a time of crisis. People look for hope, and I don’t blame anyone for that. I do the same. It’s a coping mechanism. However, I think, now more than ever, we need to destigmatize talking about mental and social-emotional health because there are only so many things that corgi videos and chocolate will fix.

Writing is my wellspring of hope. I wrote yesterday about putting on a brave face even though there are some Grand Canyon like cracks beginning to show under the strain of pandemic. However, today was not a great day, and I started the day with anxiety medication for breakfast after my husband showed me eBay posts where people are auctioning a 4 pack of toilet paper and the bids are pushing it above $200. I. Just. Couldn’t. Deal. So down the hatch went a couple of pills. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that.

The day kind of spiraled out of control after that as my husband introduced new guidelines on mail handling, using separate hand towels, and washing produce with soapy hot water. I am ashamed to admit I lost it with him. I started to feel like I was an unwanted contagion in my own home. I snapped and snarled and huffed and sighed. I cut him with words because I was in an emotional free fall.

I don’t do well with sudden change. Never have. I like things orderly and in control — a rhyme and a reason for everything. I will notice the smallest item misplaced or missing in a room, and I will be uncomfortable until it’s righted or returned. (I know this hints at some major underlying issues for which I am compensating, but that is another blog post.) You can imagine, then, how I am handling the constant capriciousness of the last two weeks, and how I will respond to the inevitable inconstancy of the coming days and weeks (and months). 

I get COVID-19. It’s a virus. It’s predictable. It’s logical. It’s constant. Its sole function is to infect and replicate.

What I don’t get are people. They’re erratic. They’re illogical. They’re volatile. They have no sole function, no true purpose, and they often undermine their own well-being. It’s frightening.

In keeping with my stance that communication helps all things, I explained this — that it’s the scarcity of resources and the reactions of humans, not contracting coronavirus, that terrifies me — to my husband tonight while apologizing for the way I treated him today. In talking with him, I realized that he is dealing with his own fears and that it’s not his fault that our fears, and therefore priorities, are different. I explained to him that I am not afraid of dying, but what I am afraid of is sinking into the tar pit of depression that poisons all the vibrant life around me — that I am afraid that my relationship with him will succumb to human panic and perish as everything did almost 15 years ago.

I don’t know why I didn’t die all those years ago, and I guess it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What I want you to take away from all this is not for you to reach out to me about how I’m doing. I have my good days and my bad days, but I have a support system that is looking out for me. Not to mention, I have 26 letters that can construct all manner of constant comforts. What I want you to take away is the lesson of turning to your support system and asking them “What do you need to feel safe right now?”. Because chances are, they are probably not doing so well, and we need to let them know it’s okay to not be okay and to talk through whatever comes.

Featured image Nathan Wright on Unsplash.


A Brave Face and A Weary Soul

I have started and deleted and started and deleted this entry about ten times now. I’m trying to be witty and turn a clever phrase, but to be honest, my brain is a bit short-circuited. I envisioned sitting down to write about my first day of instructional coaching via digital distance, which went quite well because I have some of the best teachers on my team, but my mind and fingers keep taking me somewhere else.

I consider myself an extroverted introvert. I receive immense pleasure from “me” time, whether it be curled up with a book in the bath, curled up with the remote on the couch, or curled up underneath a fluffy blanket taking a nap. I am a queen of “me” time. However, I don’t like to feel lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be alone, but there is a difference in those two words — alone and lonely. Being alone doesn’t make one lonely just as being lonely doesn’t mean one is alone. I need people. Hell, we all need people. “No man is an island” and all that. Even with my husband and sister-in-law at home with me, I feel lonely — loneliness that exhausts the soul.

It may or may not be a surprise, but I put on a brave face a lot of the time because no one wants to hear when they ask “how’s it going?” that you are a terrible fucking mess on the inside. How do I know this? People usually ask this question when they have their bag on their shoulder or they’re cruising by your room (or cubicle or what-have-you) or when you’re passing each other on the way to somewhere else. Before someone can point out that I’m “people” and call me a hypocrite, I am guilty of this, sometimes, too.

Right now, I am putting on that brave face but it’s starting to crack. In the 5 years I have been with my husband, I have never seen him get so much as misty-eyed — not once — not even when we got married and that was pretty damn magically emotional. Today and yesterday and somedays before yesterday when we sat down and made plans in the event one of us contracted COVID-19 and succumbed to the infection he has been more than misty-eyed, and I have been there to tell him we will figure it out no matter what comes. Soon, I’ll have to put that brave face on for my students because they will need to see it. They’ll need to reclaim some steadfast normalcy in a world that’s swinging from uncertainty to uncertainty. They’ll need someone to tell them we’ll figure it out no matter what comes.

Last night, my husband and I went for a walk, and we hypothesized about the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and how long recovery will last. It was a macabre subject, but talking through things helps us deal, helps us take back our lives while we’re isolating and social distancing. Ultimately, we couldn’t come to an agreement on how long it will take the economy, educational institutions, and supply chains to stabilize, but we quickly agreed that the effects on social-emotional and mental health will be far-reaching and long-lasting.

And so, I am weary. But I write because it’s one of the ways I reclaim my sense of balance and push back the veil. It’s how I slow down the violent vacillations of the world and reinforce that brave face.

Featured image by Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash