Hi there! Welcome to my first ever blog entry! Forgive me if this isn't how a typical blog post goes... I've honestly not read many other blogs. I guess now would be a good time to start? Anyway, I wanted to talk a little bit about what I hope to achieve with this project of mine. Some of you reading this may know me and many more may not. But ever since COVID-19 struck my hospital I have really struggled with my mental health, and some days it's more than I can handle. At times I find myself having panic attacks in my car after a hard day at work, running lists of possible friends or family through my head that I could call to ask for help, but then wind up in the same place every time - calling no one because I feel alone, isolated, and like no one will truly understand what I'm going through. Crying alone in my car for 45 minutes on my way home from work with no one to talk to is a sad, sad experience. Once I get home, I am greeted by my husband and my dog which gives me a glimmer of happiness and hope. But then my mind wants to shut down and play sudoku for a while to distract me from thinking about the horrible day I had at the hospital and the fact that I have to go back the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that.
With all that said, I do have friends and family that want to help. My husband, for instance, has been my rock though the entire pandemic. He makes me eat on the nights I'm so stressed out that I can't even get my butt off the couch to walk into the kitchen. The nights where I don't have an appetite are truly horrible nights - typically my stress relief is to go through a Taco Bell drive thru and order twice as much food as I should be eating. When I don't have an appetite, that's an indicator that I've passed the stress threshold and gone into a whole new realm of anxiety and panic. My sisters and my parents are also available to call. They believe that the virus is real and they know that I have been through a lot. However, they haven't seen me at my worst like my husband. My mom and dad do their best to comfort me and will go out of their way to lift me up when it really counts. My sisters both have beautiful kids that occupy a large amount of their time and they will spend the time they can to allow me to vent and process what I'm going through. I also have a few close friends, many of which are actually healthcare providers just like me - we have all experienced the pandemic in our own way but sometimes it seems that I'm the only one struggling. While I know they would be willing to talk me down on my bad days, I don't want to bring them down with me. So you see where I struggle to find the right person to call.
My workplace provides free counseling sessions which have gone virtual since the pandemic began. I don't know if you've ever tried to do counseling over a phone call, but it is extremely difficult. There's so much emotion and pain that you want that person to know you're going through but they can only hear it through your voice. They don't see your tears in your eyes, the anguish in your facial expressions, or when your body shakes so badly that you instinctively curl up into a modified fetal position to comfort yourself. My counselor has had a phenomenal impact on my mental health but once every two weeks just isn't enough. And on top of that, my anxiety gets in the way of scheduling appointments, and the longer I wait to reach out to her the more anxious I get about it. It's a never ending cycle.
I've also tried to use exercise as a way to relieve the stress of life and give me some feeling of purpose. My sister and I planned to do a half marathon later this year. But I recently sustained an ankle injury while running (thanks goes out to the driver who didn't see me because they were probably on their phone!) and I haven't gotten back out there yet because I am not sure that my ankle is ready to handle all the impact of running without further injury. Could I exercise in other ways? Of course! Have I tried to exercise in those other ways? Of course not!
And last but not least, I am at least thinking about maybe possibly potentially trying some medication to help me function a little better. I personally know quite a few people that take anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants, and I perceive them as being brave for doing what they need to do to take care of themselves. I find myself still too scared to risk having side effects from a medication, and feeling like there's something wrong with me if I can't manage it on my own.. I've talked to my doctor about it and we decided on a medication I could try if I ever need it, but I'm not ready to admit yet that all these conservative measures listed above might not work for me in the long term.
So there you have it. All of my excuses for why I can't seem to climb out of this massive hole of anxiety and stress that I've dug for myself. I don't know if I'm looking for some sort of validation, to hear that what I feel is reasonable or understandable. But often I feel that I am just over-reacting or that I should just get over it like everyone else seems to have done. I hear from my boss at work that I'm not the only one struggling but it's hard to believe her when everyone else seems just fine. Maybe they do a better job than I do of hiding it, I don't know.
My hope with this blog is that I can more thoroughly process the trauma I've experienced, and maybe some day it will help another anxious individual process their own experiences. Maybe someone will have some feedback for me to help me through this, or maybe they are going through the same thing and we can figure it out together. Either way, I hope it can make me feel a little less closed off and isolated from the people around me, making my life a bit more enjoyable and hopeful.