COVID killed my life

COVID has killed a lot of things.

Hear me out. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

COVID has killed a lot of things.

Hear me out. I promise there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Of course, COVID has killed almost 200,000 Americans. The level of life that has been lost is unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced. This virus has also killed jobs and industries. I drove by our movie theater last night to see it totally shuttered. I’m not sure how many restaurants will not make it out of this pandemic, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. COVID killed off relationships and school ties. It’s hard to calculate the greater risk. Do I see an old relative and risk spreading an illness? Or do I wait and wonder if it’s my last chance to see them?

COVID kills. But what if COVID also helped kill things in a good way?

Before COVID I let my stress levels get high from taking on too much responsibility. I was so busy, and it kind of sucked. I would come home and dread seeing my family because my emotional energy was depleted from meaningless tasks.

Before COVID I didn’t love the mother I was. I wanted to look at Carly and feel joy, but I didn’t feel anything. I hated how much I didn’t feel anything.

Thankfully, COVID killed the excess things I did not know I did not need.

You can’t be stressed out from volunteering when you can’t volunteer. You can’t be stressed out from too many meetings, when there are no meetings to attend.

After COVID hit, I spent less time on tasks that were not fulfilling my soul or helping my family. I spent more time surrounded by my daughters and my husband. For the first few weeks I felt utterly trapped. But as time went on and the quarantine continued to stretch, a new light flickered inside me.

Thanks to COVID (and 25 mg of Zoloft) I started feeling rested again. Renewed joy sparked inside of me. Instead of feeling stressed out all the time I felt relaxed. I hadn’t felt relaxed – honestly – ever in my entire life. My husband told me he has never seen me like this, and I’m certain he hasn’t.

When I had no choice but to stop taking on excess responsibility I was finally free from the things that I let weigh me down.

Of course I realize my privilege here. I’m privileged to be able to work remotely and have childcare available. I’m privileged to have a spouse who splits our household division flavor. Our family stress has waned while I’m certain there are many who are under much greater duress.

And don’t get me wrong. My anxiety over being pregnant and potentially getting COVID was remarkably high. But what pregnant woman/new mom wouldn’t be a little more stressed out right now?

My maternity leave ended, and I went back to work this week. I’m working with my husband and my therapist to make sure I keep my stress levels down. For the first time in my career I’ve started taking breaks. I work for a while, actually take lunches, and stop to pick up the girls and cuddle them for a few minutes. Then I go back to remote work.

Life has forever changed for us. I don’t know what a new normal will be, and I don’t think our old ways will ever return. How do you live through a pandemic and come out unchanged?

For all of the negatives this virus has brought us, it is not without many positives. I can see many lights shining in this darkness. Like Noah’s raven I can see the water starting to recede.

COVID killed my life, and there isn’t a day that goes by I’m not thankful for it. I have emerged from this renewed, refreshed, and reborn. The drowning waters have subsided, and my life is beginning anew.

On PTSD: An Update

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about.

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about. If part one is identifying, and part two is stating it out loud, what is part three? My hope is that it’s “Here’s what I’m doing to try to get better.”

I wish getting better at anything took little time at all. I wish I could dream of an improvement, and make it happen overnight. But that isn’t how behavior works; especially when many of our behaviors are complex. They’re rooted in DNA, patterns we learn from parents, school socialization, tv sitcoms, trauma, and an amalgam of various things.

My entire life I thought I was weird for my behaviors. I had labels of where my clothing went in my dresser. My class schedules were printed and color coded. I was rarely late, hyper organized, and terrified of failure. I hear it isn’t normal to like looking at spreadsheets?

At a counseling session I was talking about my daily routine. For fear of sounding overly type A, I won’t tell you how it goes. But very kindly, she said “In the counseling world, we can this ‘over-functioning'”. At work, my team jokes “Well, I’ll do task X, but probably not as well as Stephanie.” And Del says that sometimes I’m “Just a little extra.”

I like who I am. And my organization, flow charts, and amazing planning skills have gotten me far in life.

When you go through a lot of trauma, over an extended period of time, and experience trauma repeatedly – it changes you.

I could “Let go and let God.” But it’s unfair to say that when as a child I wondered “How did God let this happen?” It feels strange to put so much faith in something that also let that bad thing occur. You’re either omnipotent, or you aren’t – right? Yet, I know the evil that causes trauma is not of God, but of man.

Data is beautiful because it makes the world black and white and simple. And having no marriage or children is easier because it makes the world less complicated. The more things you add the harder everything gets.

There are not enough Bible passages, quips, one liners, or coffee dates to fix a world that feels constantly unsafe.

I once told Del I see all of the world, and I hate it. I can’t go into a room or on a street without scanning for every possibly of danger. I live my life at a 10, in constant fear of every threat. The car that might swerve, the woman who might launch at me. I have a very long list of things I control so I can feel safe.

I wasn’t on guard those few times, and danger struck. So if I am hypervigilant, maybe the world won’t hurt me again? If I’ve learned one thing from society, it’s that the victim gets blamed before the attacker. So I kiss Del and Carly every time they leave; certain one day they won’t come back. A deer will hit the car on a snowy day, and everything I love will be taken away.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. Life always on edge, afraid of what’s around each corner, is exhausting. And it can sometimes be exhausting for Del, who runs to keep up.

I have, in spite of this overwhelmingly sad few paragraphs, gotten better. Two contradictory things have helped me: the safety of patterns, and a messy family.

Knowing I wake up and go to bed with same pattern, day in and day out, for years – allows me to feel like the world is safe. Yet too much control would drive anymore batty. Carly and Del, are my wonderful opposites. Del and I fight a lot over the fact that he sees the world as safe. And watching Carly, fearless of everything, helps me drop my guard. If they can see this world as safe, so can I.

I can go to bed a little later, eat dinner a little earlier, and have a little extra ice cream. If I work out 55 minutes instead of an hour, the world won’t stop spinning. Little by little I arc towards better. Little by little the world is somewhat safer. Trauma fades, and in it’s place stand a husband holding me tight and a baby grabbing ahold of everything she can.

Life and death begin and end at a hospital…

Carly came into this world crying. Eight pounds and seven ounces of perfection. When I tried calming her the doctor said, “It’s good she cries. She’s getting fluid out of her lungs.” Her life began at the hospital.

My coworker Paul died Monday. We weren’t besties, yet Paul had a quiet wisdom and subtle humor that made him feel like you were close. Paul taught us to eat the whale that is projects – one bite at a time. He was brilliant, funny, and calm. He fought cancer, and like the bitch it is, cancer won. Paul left this world at a hospital.

We eat in the cafeteria, chat in the halls, park in black lots, and swing the bathroom doors. Patients come to the hospital for baby checks, blood tests, surgery, ear aches and trauma. Family members visit to offer support and love. Doctors, nurses, clerks, admins, support staff and thousands of others make the hospital work.

Today, I drove on a site visit with a few RNs. One has delivered babies for 26 years. Another nurse started in surgery working nights – just so she could eventually transfer to the mother/baby floor. The third RN is from bereavement. When a baby dies, she supports the grieving family.

And me. Here I sit in the middle of it all. Running projects, making calls. It’s chaos and it’s busy.

Carly’s life started here. Paul’s life ended. For a few moments the strands of our lives intertwined. Together, we became more than just ourselves. We became a community. A hospital, in our city, is a life blood for the community. In connects to every facet of our lives.

I’ve never lost a co-worker before. I don’t know how this grieving muscle works. But I know where it begins, and ends, and that I’m somewhere in the middle… living.