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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.

In The Time of The Pandemic: Funerals Are For The Living

We at The Band Back Together Project are looking for your stories of what you’re going through in the time of the great pandemic. Please share your stories with us. You can use this to login, or you can send your story to becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com.

Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.

 

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe in the afterlife, we believe that they are already in a better place, A place where the beauty of the flowers, the churches, and the songs pale by comparison. The love they feel far outweighs the love they feel from those in attendance of their comital.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe that there is no afterlife, then they are already gone. The end. Fin. They will not feel the love, appreciate the flowers, or hear the songs. Those in attendance will tell stories, feel the sweet release of a good cry, and maybe – just maybe – gain some semblance of closure. But those who have died will reap nothing.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living. 

Today, we gather to celebrate their contributions to the enrichment of our lives. We are there to comfort each other; to try to make sense of the loss of their light in our world. We fortify ourselves against the pain of their passing with hugs and sweet words of our loved ones, and words of our faiths.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

My aunt passed away today and amidst the concerns for the containment of CoVID-19, we are not permitted to attend the funeral. We want everyone to be safe.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

I love you, Aunt Netta, and I will always miss your light.

Love,

Tonya.

 

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.

Ask The Band: J-J-J-Jaded

ask band

Thursday I’m having lumbar epidural steroid injections in an attempt to decrease the all-encompassing back pain I’ve lived with for 9 years.

Like GOOD any member of Gen Y, I googled the procedures my pain management doctor offers before I saw her for the first time…and the results the internet gave me are less than stellar:

Only a whopping 60% of people see results, there is a possible vast increase in pain for a few days after the injection, I’ll only able to do this for a limited time, blah blah blah.

My doctor is feeding me a different story…along the lines of “two injections and you won’t ever have to see me or anyone else ever again.”

I don’t know how an anti-inflammatory will get rid of the bulging discs the MRI showed, but she didn’t seem concerned.

So, I’m torn, The Band.

Am I just a horrible cynic who’s been through 13 doctors and can’t see the light no matter how bright it is?

I really feel like I’m being sold the back pain version of a miracle weight loss drug. Not that I have a choice; at this point I’ll try anything to keep myself from jumping in front of a train.

Has anyone else had positive results with this?

Do I just need to have a little faith?

A Beautiful Mind

It’s been a long time since I thought about those first few days with my daughter. Actually, that’s a lie. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the encephalocele, that pesky bit of brain matter growing out of the back of her head. The still-growing scar on her misshapen skull makes damn sure of that.

It’s always peeking out, just below her curls.

I wonder what she’ll think of that, someday, when she realizes that she’s not quite like the other kids. I know there will come a day when she hates it, another when she accepts it, and another when she realizes just how grave a situation it was… and what a miracle it is that she is still around today.

I know enough, thanks to my nursing background, to know what an absolute miracle it is that she’s walking around, talking, and demanding that I paint her bedroom pink. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank her for showing me the way, for helping me find my light, and for using that light to help others.

She’s the reason we, this Motley Band, are here. She’s the sole reason that this site, which has helped so many, exists. Without her, I’d just be some blogger with a blog that I use to pontificate about the underrepresentation of kumquats in today’s media. I’d still be Your Aunt Becky, but I wouldn’t have done this. Any of this.

In her short life, she has altered the path of so many. In her three small years, she has done so much more than I ever will.

While I could sit here, raging against her birth defect – which has given me a wicked case of PTSD – I don’t. I celebrate it. I celebrate that one tiny bit of brain that has changed the course of my life forever.

Today, I ask you to share your stories of birth defects, birth trauma and birth injury. There are so many of us out there in the shadows, waiting to share how their lives have been changed with a few small words, a diagnosis.

The greatest stories remain untold, of course, not from a desire to tell them, but from a lack of an understanding ear.

In here, in this cozy library, fire crackling in the background, as we sit on overstuffed leather chairs, we are ready to lend you our ears.

We’re ready for your stories.