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In The Time Of The Great Pandemic: The Heartbreak & Hope

This is their story of life and love, heartbreak and hope during the great pandemic.
Please share your own here or email becky.harks@gmail.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com

It’s 3AM right now.

Of course I can’t sleep, which isn’t really new for me, but it seems new right now. Now, the things that keep me up all night are the unknown, the terrifying, and the huge.

These are the scattered thoughts, flitting around my brain – I’ve got to get them out of I’ll explode. Well, maybe I won’t, but I know I need to talk with someone other than my wife. She’s so patient and loves me so much but she needs a break.

Maybe we all need a break, but here goes what I’m thinking about.

There are so many things.

Just. So. Much. Pandemic.

I have friends that I love dearly. DEARLY. They are in Manhattan right now (currently a hotbed for CoVID-19) & I’m so scared that I might lose them.

I have family that are immunocompromised and/or are in a higher risk age bracket. I’m terrified that I’ll lose them too.

I, myself, am immune compromised! OMG! CRAP!

People are talking about comparable periods in recent history so we have some sort of frame of reference for how to act. Some are talking about 9/11, others are talking about the Great Depression (which my parent’s lived through), but it’s really not like that. I briefly considered the Cuban Missile Crisis based on the major fear we’re all trying to live through.

But it dawns on me: the early 80’s and HIV/AIDS crisis – originally called GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) – we’ve been through this – the fear, the isolation of sick people in hospitals, not understanding what was going on, what to expect, who would be sick, and how they would become ill. The lack of available medical treatments. And the fear; all the fucking fear.

Maybe one way to get through all this is ask one of your gays who lived through this what it was like back then: we’ll tell you to stay fabulous, keep on loving, and protect you and your loved ones at all costs.

My son’s school wants us to do internet learning with him. Are they stinking crazy? I’m not going to do that with him! He’s scared too – if I’m up at 3AM with all these thoughts, I cannot imagine trying to teach my kid but I will help him to do is best and help him if he needs it. I cannot imagine doing any of this homeschooling stuff people are doing – my son’s got enough on his little plate. He’s 13 – I can’t even IMAGINE being his age and going through this. If you think for even one minute that these kids think this is some type of extended vacation, you’re wrong: these kids are as scared as we are.

Every night now, around 7PM, people around the world are going outside, clapping and shouting and making noise for all these healthcare – and other essential – workers right now. These brave people put each other in actual danger every single day that they go to work. They’re exhausted. They’re overworked. They don’t even have the proper equipment to do their jobs safely. I mean, people around the world are SEWING masks for them.

This is insane. Absolutely insane.

We don’t have enough toilet paper and we can’t find any. All of the stores are out they don’t know when they are getting more. I guess we are going to have to start sewing toilet paper too.

What are people without homes going to do?

How do they stay safe?

What about people in prisons?

\How do we keep them safe?

CoVID-19 sucks.

This is the most bizarre experience of my life. I alternate between denial and absolute terror 23 times a day.

I went grocery shopping earlier today & it’s clear that people are on their last nerve.

It took all of my mental energy to get through that.

I wore a mask and gloves when I went out, and as a woman passed me and saw my mask she said me, “You know, if you’re healthy, those masks aren’t going to do anything for you anyway.” I acted like I didn’t hear her. Maybe the mask isn’t going to help. But it isn’t hurting her.

People are scared. Let it go. Have some compassion for each other.

That’s what I say to her in my head.

Then, I realized she is under unimaginable stress too. I gave her compassion and I changed my mental response to her – I reminded myself that she’s scared too.

There’s world-wide uncertainty right now & we’re all grasping for a feeling of control. She is too; she’s scared like the rest of us.

Maybe the way she is navigating her fear is wanting to know more than other people; she needs that right now. And so I mentally forgave her because I totally understand where she is coming from.

There is a beautiful sense of solidarity happening too. I think that it’s appropriate for me to be positive and hopeful here now. People all over are jumping in and helping. Delivering food and meds to people who can’t get out. Delivering food to hospital workers who are not able to get breaks to go out and get food for themselves. People are giving out free lunches for families who depend on the schools for those meals.

It’s quite beautiful.

I am so fortunate too.

I have a roof over my head, and no threat of losing that (at least right now). I have an amazing wife that is on this journey with me, and who is solid when I need her to be.

I get to be solid when she needs me to be, and that helps me just as much. I have an amazing son who is challenging and fun and healthy. I have food in my belly and no threat of losing that.

I’m fortunate. I’m privileged. I am also grateful. I don’t take this for granted.

I do have hope. And I do believe that everyone around the world is doing their very best to take care of each other.

What an amazingly strange time to be alive.

Life In The Time Of The Great Pandemic: The The ‘VID/The Flu & My Kid

Last week (or was it 2 weeks ago – I’m not being coy – I honestly don’t remember) my dad called me, which is about as rare as me saying “I heart mayo” because I loathe mayo with the energy of a thousand suns. It’s not that we’re “not okay” or something, we just don’t have much to say to each other – he’s in California, I’m not. But, being alive in the Great Pandemic means you’re generally reaching out to people who you don’t normally talk to.

I’d expected him to say that either he or my mom had gotten The ‘VID because they’re old and they have multiple comorbidities.

I didn’t expect the words that spilled out of his mouth next: “we think Ben either has The Flu or CoVID-19.” I got the details, sparse as they were from them and tried, again, to reach my kid, but because he is a teenager, his phone is often off, which actually makes zero sense now that I’m typing it out, but that’s just the way it is.

ANYWAY.

That made his phone being off all the more concerning. But, I’m a good (wo)man in a storm and I’m all about fact-gathering rather than fear mongering or falling prostrate at someone’s… feet? Prostate? I’m not sure where I was going with that.

He’s in the same state, but not the same county, so I called that county’s health department and after I got through about 46 minute message telling me all the shit I already knew about The ‘VID (and pathogens in general), I was asked to leave a message. My guess is that that recorded seminar makes most people hang up, but I was in the car and had literally nothing else whatsoever to do.

I left my message and expected a return call about… let’s say NEVER? I figured they’d be hammered by everyone in the county to dispel some of the more outlandish things that Trump has said, so imagine my surprise when I got a callback.

Without having spoken with The Kid, I couldn’t really speak to what the symptoms he was facing were. His fever. His cough. But I did explain that he was safe and self-quarantined, and being a hermit and a teenager, had no thermometer OR desire to leave his hidey-hole. She sounded relieved.

When she was asked when he should get tested (this was when we all believed that we’d be able to get tested), she informed me – not unkindly – that “they’re not doing tests for “normal” people.”

Which is, I guess how another – WAY WAY WAY QUEEN OF BLOGS – blogger got herself tested twice (because two is better than one!!) and every asymptomatic celebrity who wants one can be tested in multiples. Me? I’m an OG blogger who’s been radio silent for years now – and my spawn aren’t special enough for a test.

But whatever. Only mildly bitter.

(lies)

The other nurse confirmed what I’d thought: stay in quarantine for 3 days after the fever broke (he doesn’t have a thermometer, I was thinking, but okay). Don’t go out until the cough is gone. All the other infection control protocols were in place, so yay. Oh, and the county hadn’t had a SINGLE confirmed case yet.

I wanted to yell “BECAUSE THERE ARE NO CELEBS AROUND THERE, ASSHOLE,” but it’s not her fault so I kept my grousing to myself. And, I guess, now to you.

Because I was unable to access The Kid for a couple of more days, my dad and I spoke daily – The Kid was on an upswing, then downswing, then up, then down. Finally, The Kid, Himself, called me. I told him what I’d learned from the health department (nothing I didn’t know EXCEPT that you have to have a platinum vagina to get tested). He said he’d called the hospital at one point a couple of days before, because he was coughing so hard he’d pass out.

Awesome.

The gist of it was “suck it up buttercup, you can’t come to the hospital with a cough,” which threw me through a loop.

AWEsome.

I’ve been texting with The Kid and he’s still got the cough and is doing a sleep-eat-play (video games before he passes out again) – cycle, which I’d been doing the week before. Whelp, without the video games.

He has his piano keyboard so he’s keeping busy, but he’s now, like the rest of us, falling pretty depressed. Like him (and I’d be guessing a good number of you as well), I’ve been struggling to even get off the couch. Today marks my first day back on the computer doing something other than watching the dwindling amount of traffic on the road and all of the incantations of My 90 Day Fiance – FOR THE SECOND TIME – which is just absurd enough to keep me from becoming a total slug.

(most days)

TL;DR

My kid sounds like he had CoVID-19 but was to normal, per the health department (who also stated that there were no confirmed cases in that county) he was too normal to be tested.

The hospital told him that if he had a cough – one of the dangerous-this-may-kill-you hallmarks of CoVID-19 – he couldn’t come into the hospital.

So my kid likely had CoVID-19, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know,

He’s depressed now, I’m depressed, hell, everyone I know is depressed.

But, I dragged my ass to the computer to give you a taste of what it’s like in my world.

Now we need to hear yours: we are none of us alone; we are all connected.

Please, login here, or send an email to becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com to let us know what life is like in YOUR world.

Life In The Great Pandemic: Coping with a Pandemic

I’m stressed. There is a lot going on out there, it feels like the information changes every day. My kids are home all day, every day. They don’t get to run around with their friends, even if we do see them while we are out for a walk. The news coming out of Italy gets more bleak by the minute, and I wonder if we are doing enough to stop this before it hits us like a runaway truck.

I worry about being able to feed my family long term, assuming this continues, which doesn’t feel like a stretch. I worry about my family, all of whom live at least 175 miles away. I worry the grocery stores will have to close because all their employees get sick. I worry that all medical personnel are burning themselves out and will suffer tremendously for it. I worry about the scientists working day and night to give us concrete answers.

This novel coronavirus has kicked my anxiety into full gear. I spend my days and nights imagining all the worst case scenarios. Sleep is not relief from this. The tension in my shoulders, jaw, whole body never releases. Taking a complete, deep breath seems impossible. My brain is a squirrel on meth stuck on a hamster wheel.

I talk to others online about their concerns, and I find all of them relatable. Maybe not in a specific detail kind of way, but in a general kind of way. I’m not a single mom struggling to care for her special needs child with no extra cash to even start to stock up on basics I may need. I’m not a new mom feeling isolated after building my routine around meeting up with friendly faces three times a week. I’m not the mom of a medically fragile child, panicked because people just can’t take this seriously.

I’m not these specific people. But I understand their struggles. Yesterday, I wrote a little post full of sass about how to survive. The sass hid the truth. This is not normal. It is not sustainable for our mental health. I need my friends and support system as much as anyone. And I need to support people just as much.

If you read this far, thank you. If you find that you just need to vent your fears, write them out here. You can post it anonymously, even we won’t be able to identify you. If you have some kind of resource I can link to that would help some of the people I listed above, shout them out. We will link anything that will help.

Lots of love, but don’t touch me,

Stacey

High School Reflections: 10 Years Later

High school was… not good to me. I dealt with bullying and loneliness.

I was the girl people didn’t want to be around. I was too “weird” for the goth crew, but too “goth” for everyone else. I had the dyed black hair and dark clothing, but I stuck to mostly satin, lace, and velvet skirts and long dresses. I was “Romanti-Goth” where the rest of the goth crew was “Manson-Goth,” and the rest of the school wasn’t either.

The Columbine Massacre had just happened and was fresh on everyone’s mind. Your average goth kid in my school was popular enough to get through, and they had each other.

I, on the other hand, was alone.

I vividly remember the day someone spit at my feet while I was walking through the halls.

Yeah, it was like that.

It didn’t help that I didn’t have the high school mentality. I wouldn’t say I was above it, I just wasn’t into it. I was a mentally-ill loner who enjoyed role-play games and people older than me. I wasn’t into dating around, parties, or the latest group of girly giggles.

Even my boyfriend was eight years older. My husband, who was my next boyfriend, is six years older. Your average teenager repulsed me, so high school was hell. It wasn’t something I enjoyed; it was something I struggled to survive.

My mental health issues became obvious in high school. Most of that time is a blur, but I do remember going and seeing my guidance counselor looking for a push in the right direction.

Luckily, a licensed therapist was in the school every Thursday for cases like mine. I only saw her seven times at school before I had to start therapy at her office, but that was enough to know she was the one. She was the one I could spill my guts to, the one who would be there for me. She gave me her cell phone number in case of emergencies.

She saw in me what no one else at the time saw – I was special and in need of help.

At the time, diagnoses like “bipolar” were thrown around, but they never fit. The only thing she knew for sure was that I was getting lost inside my head, and our sessions were my only chance to get help.

There was one other key figure in my high school survival. We’ll call her Mrs. M.

She was my 9th grade English teacher (and then later 10th grade Journalism 1 and 12th grade Brit. Lit.). Right away, we clicked.

She was the type of teacher to give me a passing grade when I accidentally answered the quiz question with the key event in Chapter 4 and not Chapter 3, when the whole point of the quiz was to determine whether I’d read up to Chapter 3 or not. I had, in fact, finished the book. Yeah, I was one of those English students. And she was one of those teachers. She spent the four years of my high school life doing her damnedest to make sure I made it through and survived. She was always there for me, no matter the problem.

When I was in 9th grade, I made my first website – it was filled with my dark, depressive poetry and even darker thoughts. My mom somehow came across it and had a cow.

She immediately sent the link to Mrs. M for her thoughts on it. In true Mrs. M fashion, she informed me and my mom that it was very well-written. The fact that it showed how much I needed help was obvious without the site.

Why did it surprise my mom?

I’ll always wonder.

Shortly after starting my blog, I went back to the school to visit with Mrs. M I wanted to fill her in on my life and my family.

I was also excited to say the words that burst out of me. “I’m writing!” I knew she, of all people, would be proud of me.

I knew she, of all people, would look past the darker times and see the beauty of my written word.

My List Of My Physical, Psychological, And Emotional Traumas – Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Abuse, and Pain

My therapist has asked me to write down a list of my emotional traumas.

A list of all the emotionally and physically traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.

Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive physical and emotional traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future.

But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.

So, here is my list:

Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.

Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.

As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.

Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.

When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note thanks to the emotional trauma but I know how it began.

That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.

I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart.

Since that day, I regularly have heart palpitations.

I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday. Talk about another emotional trauma.

I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.

I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.

I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.

” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.

I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.

My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.

Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.

I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.

I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existant libido did not return.

Have also suffered dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.

Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.

I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself.  Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.

I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.

I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…

…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.

Dose of Happy: I Am Thankful

Today I am thankful.

Today I am thankful for my 2 year old’s dirty mouth rubbing on my cloth couch;

For stomach aches right before bedtime;

For poop on my floor. Even human poop;

For my 3 hour good night’s sleep;

For runny noses…on my pants;

For having little ”assistants” who ”assist” me at making dinner;

For the absence of solitude in my bathroom.

Today I am thankful because my home has not been taken away by the ocean or shaken to the ground.

Today I am thankful because I know where I will be sleeping tonight.

Today, I am thankful.