When the pandemic started, I stopped brushing my teeth in the morning.
I don’t know why. Well, I do, though. I rationalized it a little like this: I am working from home. No one sees me. I won’t eat breakfast until 10. I need lots of coffee in the mornings, so I don’t want to ruin my coffee with toothpaste.
And so on. I would brush them every night before bed. But still. It was a sign.
I knew if I was having a good week, I would fill up my weekly pill box on time. If I was having a bad week, I was taking pills/vitamins right from their bottles and filling up the box a day or two late.
I showered most every day though. A lot of days, it’s where I cried. Real talk, I cried all over the house. In the backyard amidst the beautiful solitude I tried to build for myself, in bed, in the kitchen, and a lot a lot a lot in the bathroom. Crying was like, daily. I wish I could tell you in hindsight it was a healing sort of crying. It was not. It was despair crying. My husband and I were both at higher risk for contracting the virus, so we ceased pretty much all activity that took us out of the house for any prolonged period of time. My knowledge that I was at slightly less risk than he was didn’t really make me feel better, as I knew how easy it would be to contract it and give it to him. Friends lost parents. We lost neighbors. My sister had gotten Covid fairly early on, and works as a nurse, so it was ever-present. My mom’s health got worse, she had to move from assisted living to a nursing home, and also got it. I was faced in the span of 9 months with the very real possibility of losing both of them. I didn’t. The trauma that lived – still lives – in my body has resulted in migraines, all kinds of aches, and way more than that – a mental state that is at best, still flailing. I for the most part have faithfully ridden an exercise bike for 30 minutes a day except for maybe a month where I could not stop having headaches. I think it has helped. I guess. I keep doing it in case.
I was raised in the 70’s, so you know, fucking put some dirt on it and keep going. To cry was to be a ridiculous baby child. Even if you were literally a baby or a child. To be sad, well, pointless. Life isn’t fair, get used to that shit, and buck up, little soldier. Of course, being the extreme goth teen before anyone ever called us goth, I eschewed this Pollyanna mentality that my mother and father tried so hard to force me to adopt. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t influenced by it, and thus felt bad and wrong for NOT going along with their dumb “fake feelings are the only legitimate feelings around here” vibe. I was perfectly happy (?!) to sit in my room and listen to Tinderbox over and over and over and probably The Smiths and whatever else made me feel safe in expressing how I really felt. Silently. By just listening to words other people were singing.
I have been trying most of my adult life to figure out how to feel okay in a world that constantly tells you that you aren’t okay. That your body isn’t the right shape, that the things you like aren’t cool or good, that the food you eat is bad for you. To feel safe in a world where you just fucking aren’t. Guess what’s easier? Drinking. Drinking is fucking easier. Burying my face in a phone is easier. Netflix is easier. Technology provides more escapes from your own feelings than you can possibly imagine, and hey, here’s this added bonus, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO IMAGINE because you can just sink into other people’s lives, drama, imagination…all of it, lose yourself. Because yourself is fucked up.
This is all easier than feeling your real feelings, examining them, and figuring out what it might take to feel better.
After my mom got the virus, I started having panic attacks. Which was confusing at best. Wrestling with my relationship with my mother is one of those things that has honestly kept me from writing for almost the entirety of this pandemic. We are complicated, which is not really big news in the histories of mothers and daughters everywhere. My husband helped a lot. He would talk me through the panic attacks and I would eventually calm down. They were the weirdest feeling I have ever had – this feeling of your heart exploding, your body shaking uncontrollably. Like, while it is happening, you feel absolutely powerless and yeah, CRAZY. I said it. Even though I know I am not either of those things. I called my GP and asked for medication. I have taken stuff before. It’s just been a long time. So Lexapro rushed in, and then I couldn’t feel really anything at all. And then I went off of it, slowly. And then I cried every day again. So I got back on a smaller dose. I guess I am functional now. My place of employment changed insurance providers this year and I had to drop my therapist, and I am still trying to get a new one. Because navigating behavioral health benefits is hilariously harder than navigating physical health benefits, which is pretty fucking difficult already.
Being functional is okay – even “good” over the alternative of balling up in a sobbing wet mess, and I definitely need a paycheck, but the days when I am low, it’s hard to explain to people. I can’t take every 3rd day off of work. Which is what I need. I need to sit here, on a vacation that lasts longer than a week, and unpack everything there is to unpack. Slowly. In my own time. I need to rest. I need to feel soil in my hands, bread dough between my fingers, and my hands sitting pensively on the keyboard waiting for instructions as to what the fuck I am even doing right now. I do not need to stare blankly at the 432nd Excel spreadsheet of the last year and a half and figure out how to get that information into another system that houses information. I do not need to try and tell other people what to prioritize. My answer is prioritize yourself. Because Excel and whatever else it is we do here does not prioritize you, even when “they” say they do.
I need rest. We all need rest. It is bullshit how much we are not allowed to rest. The “grind” or hustle culture is bullshit. None of us have enough of anything to just say fuck it, though. How can we? How expensive is it to live?
I have written all this a thousand times in my head. I never know where to start except with the teeth brushing thing. I took this week off. It has not been the swell of productivity around my mother’s affairs, or my own physical health (dentist!), or you know, really anything I need to do. I’ve done some of it. But not all, and I am not going to do all, and just, well, that’s it.
To watch this world go back to the exact same world we were before this whole thing is like the gross rotten decaying cherry on top of my mental health meltdown sundae. The news is insane every time I tune in. So I keep tuning out. And it also feels bad, weird, disconnected.
I don’t know how to end this piece. I love myself and I love the people in my life. That is all I really know. I want to keep going. But so much slower.
Slower. Do I even have that choice?