I don’t detest or hate a lot of words. I hate the word dongle (a small device that plugs into the USB drive of a computer), it sounds dirty. I’m not a huge fan of ‘moist’ but that isn’t uncommon. But the ‘C’ word? Oh I loathe that word entirely.
Covid. I can feel my face crinkle with disgust every time I hear it or say it.
It’s stolen so much from us. Precious time with family and friends. Jobs and businesses. Life. Normality. Mental wellness.
I remember when we were sent home to work in March of 2020 and the schools closed. Darren, the Bear and our spicy mini Schnauzer Milo were sentenced to indefinite lockdown in our little house.
It’s easy to slip into a funk, especially with mental health issues. Without structure and routine I could feel a shift. I would sleep later and later, rolling out of bed just before I had to. We’d eat breakfast whenever we got hungry, real schedule. I stopped showering. I only put effort into my appearance if I had a Zoom meeting that day and even then, I was still wearing yoga or pajama pants. At some point I gave up on makeup all together.
As a secretary, you live to assist people and be there when they need you, thriving on those personal interactions. Now that I was home, the feeling of isolation really started to kick in without my team. At the same time, we were overloaded with work, trying to quickly cobble together an online school for the school district. I remember the sheer shock and exhaustion of that first month.
It was an enormous challenge being home, as it was for so many other people (I don’t want to make it sound like it was just us because it wasn’t). The Bear was in grade 6 and struggling with online learning and Zoom meetings. It was hard to juggle my own work and help her with her schooling to. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve done Grade 6-8 math at all lately but it really sucks. It became very evident that mommy was going to be using Google for a lot of science and math moving forward.
Then there was the dog. We had bought Milo in October 2019 so he was still very much a puppy when the lockdown hit. He’s cute which is good because his other name at the time was Demon Dog. He would demand attention, wanted to play and it was all we could do to keep him occupied when we were all working. I began to refer to him as my moody coworker, posting on social media every time he did something awful or funny.
As the virus spread and information filtered in from other regions of the world, my panic and anxiety would inflate. People were being hospitalized and dying. In some countries doctors were having to make the decision on who would receive life saving measures and who wouldn’t. It became a struggle to leave the house and I would have full on anxiety attacks at the grocery store. Simple things like taking the dog out for walks was a taxing activity.
I love my people, Darren and the Bear, but spending 24-7 with them was a lot. It was probably hardest for the Bear. She was the most isolated without her friends and I was constantly checking in with her and trying to do fun things but there is only so much you could do. I feel like Darren and I become more like roommates than partners during this time. We were in survival mode.
As the months wore on, my depression and anxiety grew. It would envelop me in it’s cold grasp and I was immobile, unable to shake free of it. My doctor would continually increase my Effexor dosage but it didn’t make a dent in my symptoms. I was spiraling.
I don’t remember exactly when the dark thoughts appeared but it was a slow progression. Thoughts like, ‘everyone would be better if I wasn’t around’ would creep into the back of my mind. I was so depressed I could see it taking its toll on Darren and the Bear. It’s hard to watch how your condition affects the people you love. It’s heartbreaking to see your partner look at you, concerned that you’re going to hurt yourself. You worry constantly that they’re going to finally hit a wall and walk out. You do your best to shield them from all of the ugly bits but it’s impossible.
‘If I don’t wake up, if I pass away in the middle of the night, everyone will be better off.’
‘If I got hit by a bus, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.’
‘I wish I was dead.’ On constant repeat.
These types of thoughts are referred to as passive suicidal ideation. They revolve around not being alive or imagining being dead. There is no intent to commit suicide or plan out your death but it’s still scary to know your brain is working towards that.
I was having a particularly awful day in June, sobbing at my desk in my bedroom when my doctor called about some bloodwork. I got up from my desk, crawled onto the floor in my closet, closed the door and immediately started crying, practically incoherent. I just wanted to be in this dark small space forever. This was the point where the doctor knew that the antidepressant wasn’t working and that there was something else at play here.
There was a psychiatrist that worked at the clinic on certain days of the month and she was able to squeeze me in, two weeks out. I could make it another two weeks if it meant getting an answer to what was wrong with me. This wasn’t normal. I wasn’t normal…