Distanced. Episode 10 - Overwhelmed.
It has been one year since the kids were in school. Since they had a structured day. Since they saw their friends.
One whole year, we've been here, alone on our little island. Sure, we've had a few family members visit. They stop by, masked and distanced. And, like all those extras on Gilligan's Island, they leave. And we stay.
Unlike those unfortunate castaways, we haven't been trying to get off our island. But, that doesn't mean we haven't wanted to. We watch friends, neighbors, family all go about in a semi-normal fashion. They go to work, they see friends, they go to the store. Why haven't we been able to do that?
Basically, it all comes down to me.
I was never one to worry about getting sick. Yeah, being sick sucked, but I wasn't ever worried about getting over an illness or concerned about long-term effects of an illness. Hubby and I breezed through the bad flu in October 2009 where I remember the flu test being the worst part of the whole thing. Robin got chicken pox before he was old enough to get the vaccine, and while I was sad that my little guy was going through what I remember to be a miserable time, but I wasn't worried that he wouldn't get through it.
However, COVID changed all that. I can't say for sure that I didn't have some anxiety before the pandemic. If the gut doctors are correct that everything was a side-effect of my brain overworking, then I've had at least mild anxiety for years. But this pandemic brought that mild anxiety to the surface and brought along physical manifestations. I can't exactly explain it - sure, I'm nervous about getting the virus even though all signs point to me being unlikely to have a serious case. But I almost feel like I'm more worried about unknowingly having the virus and passing it along to someone else. And there's the fact that we don't know who will get a serious case or have long-term side effects.
As a result of all that uncertainty, I have narrowed our world to what we can control. We stay home. We do curbside pick-up for almost everything. When a walk into a store is required, Ron goes. Family visits are very short, masked and outside as much as possible. I have removed myself from all situations where I might encounter people. Unfortunately, even doing that hasn't taken away the stress of living in a pandemic. I read this article from The Atlantic about what the pandemic is doing to our brains that could have been written about me.
Since Ron started his new job, we now have evenings available to participate in stuff and I was able to join a book study, my very first book study actually. On Thursday evenings, I gather with a small group online to discuss How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, one chapter at a time.
And that's when I realized that my brain isn't functioning like it used to.
I'm struggling to grasp the meaning of sentences, let alone some of the concepts. And while I think I can attribute some of that to the physical process of reading large-print (umm, why is the paperback only available in large-print???), a lot of it has to do with the fact that my brain isn't the same one that used to handle critical thinking back in college 15-ish years ago or that was able to work through the best way to organize a work project just one year ago. So, I read on. And then I go back a re-read as needed. And then wait until the study group to talk it out and finally grasp whatever didn't sink in when I read it the first few times.
What does this all boil down to?
I'm overwhelmed with information that my brain sometimes struggles to understand, with the lack of work/focus, and then with planning out projects because my brain seems to have forgotten everything about working. Overwhelmed with school-at-home and trying to parent three active (and often stubborn) kids when I don't have any energy. Overwhelmed with trying to stay safe and avoid a virus we can't see. Overwhelmed with learning about racism and how it came to be (we have only finished three chapters, so we haven't even gotten to what I assume will be guidelines about being antiracist).
But, you know what? Even though a lot of this gets to be too much and I just want to shut down (and often do), the overwhelm isn't all bad. As was pointed out during our study group, some overwhelm is proof of growth, proof that we care enough to try. I care enough to take an active role in the kids education and reduce the risk of spread by keeping them home, allowing more room for social distance in the school. I care enough to face up to how racism shows up in my life and learn what I can do about it.
And the COVID overwhelm. . . it should all slowly reduce until one day, maybe a year from now, maybe 5 years from now, we'll be able to look back on today and say, "That was hard, I'm so glad it's over. And look at all the progress that has been made in vaccines for all these other diseases since then."
At least, that's what I'm hoping. There will come a day that I'll reduce my anxiety (and meds) and go back to being a mostly fully-functioning adult. And parent. And partner.