Listen, this pandemic sucks. The worst part is that people are actually dying, which is why we’re in self-isolation in the first place. It’s sometimes easy for me to lose sight of that when I’m sitting in my air-conditioned apartment, sad because I’m limited in my movements. (I mean, it goes deeper than that, of course, but you get what I’m saying here.)
Okay, so I actually 100% hate uncertainty. It is probably one of my least favorite things ever, and this stupid pandemic is full of uncertainty. We don’t know exactly when it’s going to end. We don’t know exactly how it’s spread. We don’t know exactly how long it incubates. We don’t know anything! It sucks!
My biggest obligation right now is, of course, my job, which will get its own letter. But besides actual teaching, I’m actually a little grateful for the meetings. Go figure.
See, the thing is that meetings and scheduled calls give my day some structure. And sometimes, they force me to get out of bed when I may be more inclined to just…not. In the Before, I always had places to be or people to hang out with and the loss of structure hasn’t been great for me. I often spend my days wondering what exactly I did all day–and that’s even when I do have work. Like, I know I did things, but I often used my calendar to SEE what I did and have a record of that. With nowhere to physically go, I don’t have times to physically be places, so I don’t have activities on my calendar and therefore don’t know what’s happened in my day.
I hinted at this in my knowing my limits, flexibility, and even my Instagram posts for this challenge, so I’m just going to go ahead and admit it in full right here: I am a recovering perfectionist.
I know. It’s shocking.
But, really, it’s why I overcomplicate things most of the time. Because I don’t have to just know how to do things, I have to know how to do them right.
It has been easy to be flexible about this blogging challenge, about my teaching, about the 30-day yoga challenge I undertook, about how often I cook, and about how often I go for a walk. Do you know why? Because I have done blogging challenges before. I’ve had to change my teaching mid-semester before. I’ve tried cooking every day, and I know my exercise habits.
You know what I don’t know how to do? Live through a global pandemic.
I hit a wall in week two of the Safer at Home order.
Then I hit a wall during week three.
See, what happened is that I was actually doing too much, still. Too much talking to people on the phone, too much walking around my neighborhood, too much being okay.
So I had two realizations during those two wall hits: I’d had enough. Of what, I wasn’t entirely sure. But I knew that I was exhausted and I felt like I didn’t have enough time and also that I was overwhelmed.
Yes, this is during self-isolation when I have nowhere to go and nowhere (save a handful of scheduled meetings) to be. I had still figured out a way to make myself busy.
As previously mentioned, I went to see a headache specialist who prescribed Topomax for my headaches.
The Topomax turned out to be no good for me. At all.
In fact, the Topomax caused symptoms of depression. What that means is I have been depressed for the past few weeks. I don’t have to tell anyone who suffers from depression that it has been awful, but, still, it has been awful.
I realized I was depressed because my do not want and lack of engagement with almost everything has been so high. Like, I literally did not want to do anything. I was late to my office hours the past week because the thought of sitting in my office for no reason felt so pointless. And we have meetings, which I largely feel are inane but that I usually am fine with going to because I get to catch up with people, and I just could not force myself to go to them. Everything has felt stupid and dumb, and I come home and sit on my couch and the thought of doing anything else fills me with dread.
This weekend, I was invited to a Halloween party, and I stood in the door to my closet trying to figure out which of my costumes I was going to recycle and the thought just exhausted me and I knew if I stood there any longer I wouldn’t go to the party, so I just made myself leave the house and go because I knew once I got to the party I would be fine, but the idea of the costume was exhausting. The thought of even going to the party was exhausting, and I could and would have used the costume as an excuse not to go. AND I LOVE PARTIES. This behavior is so uncharacteristic of me that I knew something had to be wrong.
Last week, I had to text several people to see if anyone was available to get together to grade/work because I knew that if I did not have anyone to hold me accountable, I would just sit in my house and not do anything. And, y’all, I know I complain about grading and there are a million things I would rather do, but when it’s time to get it done, I will power through, but I was like, “If I don’t get help with this, I’m just going to be staring at my students like ‘Sorry, I don’t know what you want from me because I’m barely showing up for this’.”
So yeah, I knew something wasn’t right. I mean, teaching was basically the only thing keeping me going because I know from just when I’m in a generally pissy mood that engaging with my students makes me feel better, so showing up for work helped. Showing up for other commitments and being around people helped. And then just as I was thinking I should probably get to the doctor, I reread the insert on the medicine and saw the bit about contacting the doctor immediately if I started experiencing symptoms of depression.
When I told my therapist I would rather go back to having headaches than dealing with this, she was all, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yeah, the headaches sucked but I was able to show up for my life and my students and my friends and now I’m barely going through the motions. So, yeah, headaches >>>> Topomax-induced depression, for sure.”
I also have actually hated coming home because when I’m with people, the depression is there, but it’s at bay. I’m able to laugh and cut up and have fun. But on the drive home, the emptiness that’s awaiting me has been daunting. I actually just left a friend’s before coming home to write this (it’s Sunday), and I was for a moment gripped by terror that I would cross my threshold and the desire would completely leave me as soon as I sat on the couch–that all my plans for myself would collapse in that black hole of nothingness that’s been swallowing me up lately. And this is different from procrastinating and goofing off because even those things have held no appeal. It’s just been nothing, and that’s been terrifying.
But there is good news. I have started decreasing my dosage and feel better already. In two weeks, I’ll no longer be taking the medicine and in three, it will be completely out of my system. (I wish I could just quit but apparently that leads to seizures and possibly death, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen after all of this. So. Slow as it goes.) I’m writing this blog post. I have been honest with my friends about what’s going on with me. I’ve reached out for company when I’ve needed it. I went back to the gym Friday, and I went to church Sunday. I’m actively thinking of the things I know that I enjoy or that make me feel better and doing them so I can not feel terrible all the time. And it’s working. And for that, I am grateful.
Since my last post, I have been to seven doctors’ appointments, and that’s not counting the ones I took my daughter to before she left for Japan. I am exhausted, and it turns out that I’m not just exhausted because it’s a thing I like to say but probably because of medical reasons.
Here’s what I’ve learned from all my doctor’s appointments:
Ugh, I hate starting blog posts by pointing out how long it’s been since my last post, but, well, it’s been over a month since my last post, so there is a lot to cover, which means that every time I think about updating my blog, I get overwhelmed by the fact that there’s so much to cover, so I just…don’t. This has been a terrible plan because it just gets me farther and farther behind. So, let’s get to it.