I always thought when you went over the tipping point that there would be a fall. Instead, I’ve learned when you go over the tipping point the point impales itself in your heart and holds you aloft writhing like an insect being prepared for a museum display.
Internally, I can’t understand why I’ve found myself stuck. All I’ve done is experienced two years of the pandemic in the most privileged way possible. I worked from home in my basement office while my husband worked from home in our bedroom, and my daughter attended school at home; then at home and at school; and now at school. We have money to pay for broadband, computers, masks, and COVID tests. I should feel lucky.
My mom is alive. I didn’t survive cancer. I don’t currently have cancer. My house didn’t burn to the ground. The opposite scenarios are all ones my friends have experienced since 2020. I didn’t get COVID. My daughter didn’t infect her grandparents when she got COVID. Thank goodness.
My co-workers think I’m a great boss and do great work. I’m working on a project to fundamentally reduce the climate change impacts of transportation system in this country. This week, my work was lauded by the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Transportation. I am at a career high point.
I know mental health. I’ve lived with a partner with depression for 22 years. I experienced anxiety during this pandemic in a vicious cycle of chest tightening, worrying I have COVID causing additional chest tightening and more worry that I have COVID. I was seeing the therapist at my doctor’s office until she quit. She never suggested medication. I took the quizzes every appointment. I’m not jittery. I can focus. I can sleep. I am fine.
Sometimes feeling bad is appropriate. Sometimes the combined strain of the banal — lost friendships, loneliness, dead pets — and a literal apocalyptic existence leave you feeling kinda crappy. I just checked my favorite John’s Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard and 5,802,066 people have died worldwide. I was tempted to round to 5.8 million, but 2,066 feels like significant digits. That’s 2,066 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, lovers, human beings. I can’t imagine 2,066 deaths much less the other 5,800,000. An antidepressant doesn’t make that go away. Every day brings new catastrophes. A quick scan of today’s headlines: war, border blockades, delayed vaccines for kids, and voter suppression. Awesome.
I’m supposed to work and achieve. I’m supposed to be a visionary. I’m supposed to lead, mentor, and manage others. I’m supposed to raise a healthy well-balanced child. I’m supposed to care for my family, my friends, and do not forget the all-important self-care. But what if self-care requires alone time to cry or scream? What if I’ve sucked up all I can suck and need to experience legitimate emotions during my endless daily cycle of bedroom, basement office, kid’s sporting events, kitchen, and back to my office for a few more hours before returning to my bedroom to sleep? When do I to take an hour, a day, a week, a month and fall apart because the world is a horrible scary place? And if I breakdown, then what? Do I pick myself up and start climbing to the tipping point again? This isn’t a brain chemistry problem. This is reality.
And here’s the thing. I’m not alone. If I look around there is a mountain range of impaled others. If I listen closely, I can hear a chorus of “I’m fine.” “I’m good.” “Doing okay.”
How am I doing? I am scared. I am exhausted. I am angry. I am stuck. And I don’t know how or when it gets better.
How are you?