COVID-19. The Coronavirus. The Coronapocalypse. The ‘Rona. I feel like if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said or heard that I’d be richer than Oprah.
We can’t get away from it.
I should start by humbly saying that my family is so fortunate in so many ways. My husband is an RN and Hospital Director. Like many other professions, being an RN is considered job security – people are always going to get sick, right? Yet so many colleagues have had their hours cut or been laid off. He has been a nurse for 20 years and worked in nearly every type of nursing imaginable. He is prepared to go to the front lines but just hasn’t been called yet.
I’m in Sales. On paper, I should’ve lost my job by now and yet here I am, still employed. We are in the incredibly luxurious position of having childcare (run by teachers) provided by my husband’s employer. Not ideal for social distancing but hey, we gotta do what we gotta do. My parents live in my childhood home in Elmhurst, New York – just two blocks from the hospital that lost 13 patients in one day just a few weeks ago. Yet, thank God, they are healthy.
So the big things are taken care of.
We are so lucky in this situation, and I remind myself of this daily. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional toll this whole ordeal would take on me. I started off telling myself and everyone around us that we’d be fine. We weren’t the typically susceptible segment of the population (in hindsight – hey, a girl can dream). But between waiting for him to be called to the front lines, waiting for one of us or our parents to get sick, I feel like my life is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re too lucky – SOMETHING has to give, right?
I’m left feeling like the oddball here – my life isn’t THAT different. No, we can’t play with the neighbors or have everyone over for a crawfish boil. Our soccer and baseball seasons are canceled and we won’t be going back to school this year. But in the big picture, I drop my kids off, go to work, pick them up, and go on with our lives “as usual”. Sure, they complain that they can’t play with neighbors because of Coronavirus and “I always say that!” – overall, though, they’re handling it pretty well. But there’s an elephant in the room. We are too lucky.
Does this mean I’m not allowed to grieve the situation our world (country, state, city, neighborhood) is in?
No. Emotions are valid. It is up to us to deal with them. I can now say that I struggle with anxiety. Looking back, this has probably been a 20-year issue that I have only gotten ahold of within the last few years. I’ve struggled with keeping a brave face through it all, and not being able to let it out in the recent past. The other night, I watched the news, and finally, some tears fell. I realized that I was crumbling under COVID-19, and yet in the big picture, we are fine. I’d been punishing myself for feeling normal and valid feelings. I’d been telling myself that I couldn’t be upset about things because we are fine. I wasn’t allowed to feel fear, stress, sadness, grief because others are so much worse off. I felt guilty for feeling this way – too guilty to express it. The last thing I want is to be perceived as bragging.
I’ve taken a few extra minutes to myself to decompress. I’ve taken a few more baths. I’ve done a bit more reading. I’ve allowed myself to talk about it more, and admit my feelings both to myself and to others.
So here we are.
There isn’t an end in sight for COVID-19. However, no matter your position or privilege, your feelings are valid. I have learned that even though so many others have it worse than me, I am still allowed to feel pain, stress, and anxiety over any situation. Someone is always going to have it worse than you do, but that doesn’t invalidate your emotions. As I always say, give me a minute to cry, then I put on my superhero cape and take care of business!