These are strange times we’re living in. People are hoarding toilet paper and blaming China for a virus that neither the Chinese government nor people created or even wished for. I’m sure history won’t disagree with me.
It’s weird to know that you’re living through something historical-- especially when it impacts your everyday routine or your sense of security.
I’m 42… That means I was born in 1977, and I’ve survived a bit of history. In elementary school the big notable events were Chernobyl and the Challenger. While Chernobyl dominated the media (all three stations…) for what felt like ages, the Challenger definitely hit closer to home. We’d talked about how exciting it was that a teacher was going into space and NASA was using it as an effort to get kids engaged (at least as an adult that’s my assumption-- I know there were activities centered around the event and leading up to it…) I also vividly remember the teacher breaking the news of the disaster to us. But those things were both somehow more distant.
The only thing I can compare our current situation to in terms of its mental and emotional impact (at least to me) is September 11th. At the time, I was in my 3rd day on the job as a pharmacy technician in a small local pharmacy. We didn’t have a television or radio, and smart phones didn’t exist. We relied on information volunteered by customers calling or stopping in until the local newspaper put out an afternoon “Extra” that gave us some actual facts from a source we could trust. And of course the days that followed brought us coverage 24/7 for weeks. We stopped feeling safe, and we didn’t know what to expect from one day to the next-- at least not early on.
So now we find ourselves back in this 24/7 news routine. But now we have more reliable internet services and smartphones in our pockets sending us notifications regularly. For me, this is both good and bad.
The logical part of my brain wants all of the information. The more I know about COVID-19, the better prepared I’ll be and the better I’ll be able to take care of my boys. Tell me how it’s spread. Tell me all of the risk factors. Tell me how it affects the human body. Give me all of the statistics. Even if we don’t know everything, tell me the theories and why the science makes it look right.
The emotional part of my brain wants to put on a brave face. It’s starting to get overwhelmed, though, so who knows how long that will last. And it may be starting to panic a little. Okay, it may be starting to panic a lot. Fortunately, the logical side is there to talk it down a bit. But the anxiety is still there, and it’s looming huge overhead like a nearly-black storm cloud ready to burst at any second. I can feel the hair on my arms start to stand up in anticipation of that first lightning strike.
This is the same part of my brain that keeps reminding me that this is a respiratory disease and I am asthmatic. It likes to poke at me with worries… What if I get sick-- can I take care of my boys if we’re sick at the same time? What if I end up hospitalized (or worse)? Who will take care of Nolan and Kirk? This is the part of my brain that makes me miserable.
But then there’s the part of my brain that tries to deal with that anxiety. And, knowing my brain, it’s probably going to deal with it inappropriately. That’s kind of it’s thing. This part of my brain is sort of the class clown-- a little louder than the rest of the group and full of ridiculousness. In fact, it’s got a fairly twisted sense of humor.
This is the part of my brain that laughs at memes about toilet paper hoarding and Corona Beer having different symptoms from the coronavirus. It’s the part of my brain that won’t let me read COVID-19 without singing it to the tune of “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners (which is now stuck in my head AGAIN). In fact, while I was listening to music at work today, the song “Make It Out Alive” by Hanson came on. As soon as my favorite Tulsa trio sang the lyrics “We may not make it out alive, what does it matter? It’s just a matter of time,” I couldn’t help but start laughing.
Do I really think that most of us will be affected beyond the social distancing and temporary business closures in a major way? Probably not-- at least that’s my hope. There are confirmed cases in my community, and I’m still working outside of home-- though my employer is taking steps to minimize our contact with both the public and each other. Things are changing rapidly, and we’re still learning a lot as this pandemic progresses. So really all bets are off.
But for now, this isn’t easy for anyone. Our daily routines are disjointed or even non-existent. Our income and even the economy are affected in huge ways that we are likely to feel in the short term but may affect us for years to come. And let’s be real-- it’s terrifying.
Plus our kids need us more than ever. Parents are being asked to step in and help fill the huge void that’s left by school closings-- and not just educationally. We’re fortunate to have been sent off by our teachers well prepared for this unexpected time off (just so I don’t forget to say it-- THANK YOU TEACHERS EVERYWHERE). Some parents even need to worry how to feed children who rely on the school lunch program.
And parents of kids with special needs need to figure out how to fill the gaps left by the specialists who provide services our kids need. Without school, Nolan not only misses his regular adapted curriculum including arts and physical education, he misses Speech Therapy as well. Still other kids are missing out on Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy that they receive through their school districts. As parents, we’re going to do what we can to fill the gaps to the best of our abilities, but we’re not professionals and we don’t have Masters Degrees.
It's my favorite mug because of all of the truth (and coffee) it gives me.
Apparently the emotional part of my brain is taking over here… I guess I’m just trying to say that there are a lot of reasons to be anxious right now. Like everyone, though, I’m looking forward to being on the other side of this… I guess you could say I’m looking forward to being able to look back on this. (That’s probably the class clown again…)
All we can do right now is take things one day at a time. If that’s overwhelming, take it an hour at a time or even five minutes at a time (I’ve got a lot of practice with this… It’s how I get through the hardest of times honestly). Be good to each other, and don’t ignore the recommendations of the CDC and WHO-- they’re not just trying to ruin your plans, they’re trying to save lives (and before you tell me that those lives are “old people and people who are already sick”, just know that they don’t deserve to die just so that your life could be unaffected-- I’d like to go into a whole angry rant about how the life of a mom who needed an organ transplant a decade ago or a high school student who’s fighting cancer is worth just as much as yours, but I don’t have the energy to get angry right now…).
If you need help or just want to talk, reach out to a friend, an online community or even to Kirk and I. It'll help calm the emotional part of your brain... Ironically, we’re all isolated together. So let’s work together, and be nice. It’s not always about the “me”. Okay? Good.
Now go wash your hands.