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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That ended with a police escort to the local hospital.
He spent three days there, changing his medication and talking to someone for ten minutes a day. He attended group sessions, and when he came home, he was ready to be better.
It was a week before he had another episode.
And since then these episodes have been happening every 3-5 days. Some are more serious than others. The last time, he threatened to kill himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t anything new, except that, this time, he also threatened his mother and I.
We’re going to try therapy, but right now, it feels like he’s a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any second. From the outside, I know it doesn’t look like he’s trying but he is, he really is.
So this is where I need help, The Band:
Do I stay, or do I go?
Do I walk away from my husband because he’s sick? Or do I stay, even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity, and my child’s well-being?
I don’t know what to do and I have no support network.
My son’s father was never in the picture, and my mother is a recovering addict – currently incarcerated. My godmother, the woman who raised me, is dead. I have a brother, but he has no job, and no home.
My best friend was witness to the gun incident, and has mostly given up on me. She told me that I’m codependent, and making terrible choices for my child. She thinks I should leave my husband, like she did. But her husband was an alcoholic – mine isn’t.
My in-laws have been terrific. Any time we need somewhere safe, their home is always open. But they are elderly – one of them is in a wheelchair. I feel I can’t burden them with this. I feel I am making them choose between their son, or their grandson and I.
Where can I go? What should I do? Please, The Band, help me. I feel so alone. I’ve prayed to every god I can think of, and I still feel so lost.
There is no handbook for when you marry someone with mental illness.
I wish, for so many reasons, that we were closer. It seems that all your life I’ve watched you hurting, and I’ve never been able to help you. Either it was out of my hands or you wouldn’t let me close enough to be any good.
I know I’m a disappointment to you, and that there are times you wish we didn’t share a name. I’m sorry. As difficult as our relationship has been, I have always been proud to call you my sister.
When you were five and our parents divorcing, I should have been more sensitive. I should have seen the Little Sister that needed reassurance.
Looking back, I don’t know why I minded it when you followed me around – you were so darn cute!
When you were playing softball, I wish I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my teenage-self. I wish I’d praised you for all your hard work; told you how great you were. Had I praised you, would you have felt shadowed by our middle sister’s spotlight? Would you still have given up sports?
Maybe it would have changed your future to hear how proud I was of you.
When you were experiencing your own depression, I wish I hadn’t been thousands of miles away. I’d have held you as you cried. Maybe then you wouldn’t have tried to overdose. If I’d been there to listen, would you have started cutting?
When you enlisted in the military, did I tell you how my heart swelled with pride? When you came back from your basic training and tech school I was, once again, wrapped up in my own stuff.
Did I tell you that I missed you each day you were gone?
And now, when you’re hurting – when your life is spinning- the distance between us is more than the five-hour drive. I want to call you and listen to your tears. I want to to tell you that broken hearts hurt worse than childbirth, but that you’ll heal and be stronger.
I want to comfort you and give you the compassion and support that I know you won’t get from our mother or our middle sister.
It’s silly, really. We’re so much alike, you’d think we’d be closer. But, as I look back, I can see all the wedges I drove between us.
And so, I’ll write this letter to you; a letter you’ll never see. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as I wait to hear news of you. And I’ll pray that this isn’t the thing that causes you to hurt yourself again.
You are such a beautiful person.
You give so much of yourself to everyone. You, who never wanted children, are my son’s favorite aunt. He glows when he talks of his time with you and he tells anyone who will listen that he wants to join the military, just like his heroes. Do you know you’re one of his heroes?
Do you know you’re one of mine?
I love you to the depths of my soul. And no matter what, you will always be a part of me.
I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“
I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.
I am ashamed.
I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.
I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”
I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.
I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.
I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.
And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.
I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.
I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).
I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.
I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.
I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.
As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.
I am brave.
I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.
I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.
I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.
“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”
Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)
Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.
I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.
Fast forward to 2013.
We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)
I was now keeping the dog.
It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.
Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.
But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.
He was there when no one else was.
He laid next to me when I cried.
Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.
Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.
Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.
I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.
As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.
It was he and I against the world.
I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.
Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.
So I just kept an eye on him.
He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.
So I just kept an eye on him.
Then in January of this year, he took a turn.
I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.
The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.
He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.
I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.
I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.
I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.
When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.
I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.
One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.
So they made me a book of my Jack.
It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.
Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.
I miss him…
I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.
But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.
It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.
But I’m trying to do more, to get out.
But it’s hard. So very hard.
Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”