April 13th, 2020
Today has made me recognize the beauty of a storm. You know the kind where it ends up just pouring down rain all day with seemingly no end to it? Some days that kind of weather is something I despise but in a time of what has been going on in the world lately, it's strangely peaceful.
Today marks a month since I was at my second-to-last day at work for who knows how long. I had no idea what was about to happen; I don't think any of us did. At that time, COVID-19 and the spread of it was being talked of on all of the news channels, social media, etc. - not many people were taking it seriously while some thought their lives would soon be over because of it. Thursday, March 12th, 2020 was a weird, eerie day - so many people at my job, at home, felt very uneasy. It seems that day is when most people started to panic about the quick-spread of COVID-19 and the effects it was going to have on the country. I remember at work all of us decided on lunch, we were stocking up at the liquor store and at the grocery store buying necessities to get ourselves by for (then) about a week. Going to the grocery store was absolute madness at that point - there were people running around, panicking, you could barely move in the store from how many people had the same idea as us - I have never seen anything like it. That whole day I kept feeling that the world was going to go up in flames - everyone began to lose their mind over the virus and it made me feel pretty disturbed.
Monday, March 16th, 2020 - I was back at work. Over that weekend, my co-workers and I were messaging back and forth, curious if our boss would shut down our business. At that point, a lot of places were closing down because of how quickly COVID-19 began to hit the United States. Our office (Brace Place Orthodontics) is considered essential - therefore, even as of today we're "open" but to only emergencies. That Monday in March, our boss sat us down and said that week at that point, we were only seeing true emergency appointments - we went from 100+ patients a day to maybe 10, at most. It was definitely an adjustment but I felt a lot more at ease knowing we didn't have to come in contact with as many people - we don't know where our patients have been and who they have been in contact with - it was our safest option.
That night, I began to feel pretty lousy. For weeks following up to this, I was so extremely tired. I couldn't keep myself up for the life of me - every time I got home from work or being out, I would fall asleep right away. That wasn't very like me because I was never one to nap throughout the day - in fact, naps made me more cranky and tired in the long-run. The only time I get that tired is when I'm going through a flare-up of my auto-immune disease so I just began to convince myself that was my problem and soon, it'd be over. March 16th, my coughing became constant and fairly worse. I was tired, my body didn't feel right so I began to panic just a little that maybe somehow I contracted COVID-19. I went to my doctor the next morning - they took some tests, x-rays, etc. - luckily, my results only came back as bronchitis and costochondritis. It's quite strange to say that I was thankful and happy to have a bad case of bronchitis. I was sick - coughing, weak, sleeping with bad chest pains until that Saturday - I finally began to feel better that weekend. I was ecstatic to recover fairly quickly and be back on my feet.
Once my week of sickness was over, I assumed it'd only be a few more days before the world would go back to normal and we could all go back to our usual routines - little did I know, it would just be worse from this point forward. That weekend I received a text from my boss saying the office is completely closing until AT LEAST April 20th, seating extremely minimal emergency patients and that all of us needed to file for unemployment ASAP. I never thought in a million years that I would be 22 years old filing for unemployment - weird, right? I didn't even know how to work the unemployment site - it was all very confusing for me.
Since then, our state has gone on complete lockdown - the only things open for business now are gas stations, liquor stores, grocery stores and take-out food under some pretty strict hours, you are not allowed in any place at all unless you have a face mask on - you cannot stand within 6 ft of another person and they have tape markings on the ground to make sure you are following those rules - some stores are even not allowing more than 10-15 people in at once. I've seen people waiting in lines nearly wrapped around the building, in the hail and rain just to get in the liquor store. Living in this time is very weird for those who haven't yet experienced a situation of similarity to this in their lifetime. As of today, New Jersey has 64,584 cases of COVID-19 and 2,443 deaths resulting from this insane virus. At first, the lockdown didn't bother me - I'm typically more of a homebody anyway. After two or three weeks, it really started to hit me - the sickness, the possibilities and the fact I'm practically stuck in my house for an unknown amount of time. Luckily, living with my grandparents I'm not completely alone but I haven't seen my friends in over a month, I haven't been able to visit my favorite places - it is something I don't think I'll be able to get completely used to. A girl I was friendly with in high school, her father passed of COVID-19 - an average, fairly young guy with no previous health issues just gone like that? Another girl I knew since elementary school, her grandfather then passed of COVID-19. I worry about my family - my grandfather still has to work and on top of that, he doesn't necessarily follow the "stay at home" order anyway. He's a bit stubborn. I mostly worry for him because he has underlying health conditions - he beat lung cancer at the end of 2018 which I was thrilled about. When I received the news he had it, it broke me. COVID-19 greater affects those who have had previous health issues and those over the age of 65 - he's both of those and that's why I worry. My dad is always still mandated to work for the township - he's only there 2-3 days a week because of the governor's cut but I worry for him too. My dad doesn't necessarily have underlying health issues besides the skin cancer he had removed but him having to be out, touching everything, interacting with people with how serious the virus has become makes my heart sink - I don't like the risk there is no matter how careful he is. If your family member is greatly affected by this virus and they are dying, you have to say goodbye to them through a phone call - you can't see them in the hospital, you can't hug them, you can't kiss them… a phone call is all you get - that would be the death of me. COVID-19 has affected and ripped apart families - it breaks my heart.
As crazy as it may sound, COVID-19 has brought some positivity into the world. People are appreciating every minute as if it could be their last, they are reminding others how much they mean to them, spending more time with your (in-home) loved ones - more people are outside taking in the fresh air and sunlight, gas prices have gone down drastically, people have started taking better care of themselves, Hallmark has been playing their Christmas movies and radios are playing Christmas music because they know how much joy that brings most of us, people are helping the elderly, the essential workers, doctors, nurses, the list goes on.. It's indescribable of all that has come from this but it makes my heart happy to see that the world can come together in a time of need. I truly hope this becomes a lesson for some.
Being stuck in the house as it is, is very difficult for a lot of people to get used to regardless of who you are - being stuck in the house while dealing with mental health issues seems to make this lock down a bit worse. As I said, I'm typically a homebody so the first two weeks didn't seem to bother me too much. I liked being home - being able to decide when to work out, what to cook, all these possible activities without being rushed by anyone or anything. Once the third week or so hit, I became antsy and just seemed to need more - more to do, more people to see, something, anything. I manage to deal with my anxiety, depression, PTSD by distracting myself - while most therapists don't recommend that coping skill, it's sometimes the only thing that works for me and clears my head. Some days that means roaming stores aimlessly, going for a drive, visiting a friend, going to grab food - it varies but 99% of it involves places and people I can't see right now. The anxiety comes and it goes but one night last week, I had it so bad to the point where I felt like I couldn't breathe at all and my insides were shaking. With all my years of mental health struggles and the worst of the worst situations I've been a part of, I never experienced it quite like that and it was concerning. If you know me, you know I hate medication - I refuse it unless I desperately need it. I'd rather try to let the pain take over my body temporarily and then have it pass before I put a pill into my body - it's something I feel pretty strongly about. After talking to my mom that night and mentioning how terribly I felt, she said to allow my Nonnie to give me anxiety medication just for that night.I was really back and forth on doing that - but as I said, I never felt that bad and it began to worry me - so I took it. Once it kicked into my system, it really did make me feel better which was relieving. I felt some sort of peace for the first time in a few days. I've been trying to set myself a routine of some sort - having goals in mind for each day can be helpful. Even when you have your mind set to working out in the morning, reading and cooking a dinner, you just can't and won't accomplish it all no matter how much you want to. Some days are just hard. Some days you deserve to treat yourself to laying on the couch binge-watching your favorite show. Mental health has a funny way of working and most of the time, people, including me, don't quite understand it.
Today has made me recognize the beauty of a storm. It's strangely peaceful. You know why?
Because it's a reminder to me that no matter how hard it pours and how dark it gets on earth, there is sunshine guaranteed after a storm - every single time.
As I mentioned before, today has marked a month since things seemingly spiraled out of control - we're all still in the dark, we don't know when the end of this will be. All we do know is to make the most of our days and make sure we keep ourselves smiling.