There Are No Words. Maybe a Few.

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Today is Monday, the 30th of March. Most counties surrounding mine have been issued a curfew or “stay-at-home” order. Sam works for a global organisation that has placed employees on furlough through April 17th … The Walt Disney World Parks in our area are shut until further notice … schools are closed. I am still in awe at the facts … and yet here we area, an open state: The Destination Coronavirus Quarantine Hub. Do not tell me about the coronavirus with an intolerance to heat, bullshit. Hello, Louisiana. Hello, Florida. We now have five-minute rapid tests available … this is about to explode. What a year for an election. Sanders has been quiet. Biden will have a big mess to clean up. (Not to get political, but my presumption is that Biden will be the next person at the helm of this country.) This is not a blog about politics. Or pandemics. So, here is my story instead.

For Those Essential Employees

I feel terribly grateful to be employed at this present moment. I do not know what the future holds, but today, March 30th, I still have a job. I do work in hospitality and tourism and it has been a whirlwind. I have had many friends lose their jobs; even my own company was forced to make cuts. It has been an emotional couple of weeks. I do not feel as if my job is important enough to qualify for the category grouping of “essential” compared to the other essentials, who are truly essential in this time. I maintain vacation rental homes. Our occupancy has depleted; but I still have occupancy to care for. Homes with smart technology; guests who are renting these homes are sometimes here for four nights, now, some are forty nights. I have soap, hand sanitizer and I was even fogged down with hospital grade something-or-other the other day. I am doing all that I can, to prevent picking this COVID-19 up from anywhere. I was already a germaphobe before, guilty, but now, I worry about being in a state that is not closed to those fleeing their hot spots. Please do not make us a hot spot too. I worry for my parents, both approaching 70. I worry for my child. I worry for my in-laws. I worry for myself and my own health. I worry, but what’s the point? Fear and worry will not win this for me. I will take one day at a time. Hopefully tomorrow I will still have a job. If not, I cannot worry. Millions of others have lost their jobs. Sammy and I have been dreaming of starting our own business for years. This may be the moment. This may be the time. But we can’t make plans … who can make plans when the world has hit the pause button? (Except, Florida.)

Having shared custody during a global pandemic with school closures and online learning … is also a new way of life. How much adjusting do the kids of this generation have? And for someone like Ben, whose anxiety about death and his fears of the unknown might impact his mental health for the rest of his life. Em is much more go-with-the-flow, but think about it. This generation is going to grow up in an entirely new world. I hope, for both of their sake, that they understand that this is just a bump in the road. I hope for their little minds to be able to overcome this and move forward without fear, but also to move forward with a deeper understanding of community and care for the world around us.

I am grateful to have a job; I am grateful to have a day off (today) where I am laying on my bed, Kona on my leg, Sammy to my left … listening to the new sounds of construction to my right for the $35k playground the HOA broke ground on this morning … nonetheless, grateful for some quiet time to breathe and slow down. (If you’ve never watched a bulldozer take down a set of swings, try to catch that once in your lifetime.)

So here is to today, one day at a time, and here is to tomorrow, when I return to work for business as usual, with my signed letterhead proving that I am driving to an essential business in a county with a stay-at-home order. I pray that we are able to maintain our jobs, but now more than ever, to be let go from a workplace would be the most understandable and forgiving time. Therefore, I mustn’t worry. (Sammy, see what I did there? Ben is working on transitional words and Em on contractions. LOL, I’m such a nerd.) Sammy has been a teacher for a week and I think he’s pretty amazing.

And so my QOTD for this world, from one of the brightest minds in our history:

AND STILL, I RISE.

MAYA ANGELOU

Somewhere Amidst the Chaos

So I fell off the wagon. In recent weeks, my intention as mentioned previously, was to blog once a week. But then life happened. My little man, who has what I like to refer to as Peter Pan syndrome, does not want to grow up. He is fully unprepared to accept that he will be ten next month. Anyway, there was a surprise “F” on a report card. A “surprise” F? Yes. None of us knew … there was no warning. Evenings became a lot more intense with supervision over homework and then, it got better! Enter in from stage right in Alex’s Comedy of Realities … some misinformation from the dude, i.e. lies … big, fat, intentional lies. Sigh. So, a lot changed in a short period of time. Benjamin is a curiosity. His heart is delicate; he’s stuck in that awkward transitional period between momma’s boy and ten-year-old dude that is halfway to twenty. (Do yourselves a favor and casually drop into a conversation with your child that they are halfway to their doubled age, shock.) This made Ben stop in his tracks. Tears in his eyes … immediate realization that his upcoming birthday is half of twenty. Little man was shook. Haha, it was cute in a sad way, since it signified that moment of temporary acknowledgement that he has to grow up. Valid excuse, I know, but what about the evenings after the kids are in bed? Hello, Chiari Malformation migraines.

I am not entirely sure if my headaches are back for good again or not, but I do know that being under fluorescent lights and in front of monitors 40 hours a week is adding to the weight. Valid excuse number two: I do not want to look at my laptop after my work day. I hate even having to type those sentences and question my level of pain and discomfort in comparison to life before the decompression surgery. If I decide I want to sing my heart out on the karaoke machine with the kids and my niece, but then I pay for it with a migraine on top of the regular pressure headache x1000 for the next week … I guess it is safe to say yes, at this point, that a lot of my symptoms are slowly reappearing in clusters again.

The most important valid excuse is the eventual acknowledgement that my depression has been dragging me through the ringer since August of last year. I increased my visits with the psychiatrist and we worked through a series of dosage modifications, which I think we have just successfully found this month. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive and loving husband by my side through this. He has been holding my hand and supporting my every season. In holding myself accountable, I needed to retrace why August was significant to me. Other than for a couple of obvious reasons, it was actually a follow up psychiatrist appointment where I was prepared to meet my new year, with infertility on the doorstep again … and this is where I found myself battling a deeper depression than I was expecting. I knew it was at its heaviest when I did not want to write. A writer not wanting to write? Done. Fix it now.

In the grand scheme of things, I needed to focus and find my footing. I kept my bubble small and had to shut out the world for a bit. This included some of those closest to me. I did what I needed to get through the hours, the days, the weeks … just until I felt like me again. So here I am. Working in hospitality and tourism, when we have a global coronavirus pandemic … I hate germs and I have anxiety … my down swing of depression has flipped into the anxiety up. Present day, Monday the 16th of March, 2020, is technically my Sunday. Tomorrow, I head into work with a lot of uncertainty. I like the idea of maintaining routine, but there are a lot of question marks at the head of this virus. How much longer will I have a job for? Will I have a job to go back to if we are put onto some kind of lock down? Central Florida is going to dry up. 2020 is a wash.

This is chaos, it really is like nothing any of us have been through before. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Italians to choose whose life is more important? This is a serious threat. Anxiety is at a peak in the world. Wash your hands. Please … please, please, please.

Sammy and I have been putting together our business plan and new business models for two years, but never with more than a few hours at a time to dedicate to polish it off. This is kind of like, the breath of new life for entrepreneurs in this country. I ate Mesquite smoked ribs with Chef Sam housemade rub and Kansas City style housemade barbecue sauce last night … and it was the best barbecue I have ever had in my life. I am not just saying that because he is my husband, but because they were the best ribs I have ever had in my life. Period. He’s nailed it … and since the coronavirus shut down our town for two weeks … we get to make our future from ground zero. We aren’t 100% ready to unveil, but I imagine that will change soon.

I guess I could enter another valid excuse. Vote. In January 2019, I became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America. This is the first Presidential election that I have ever participated in. I’m nerding out over it big time. I am following campaigns, I am educating myself and find myself to be a political nerd at the moment. Sammy also introduced me to The Wire on HBO. Oh! Also, we watched the Trump docuseries on Netflix and the McMillions docuseries on HBO. Both pretty great, I do recommend. Back to the valid excuse … I am proud to be able to contribute my vote and voice to this country. Voting is not to be taken lightly, especially in this era and now with the impending financial crisis of our country … so I have been digging into that world in my spare time.

Kona, not Corona

Kona takes up a lot of time, but she is doing so well and she is still the perfect addition to our family. She fills that little void from the miscarriage too, so she’s a spoiled little puppy. We have been working on socializing Kona – she is still afraid but protective. We have had one successful and one unsuccessful trip to the dog park. Training a puppy requires dedication, which we have, but we are not sure what tools we need to teach her that other people are not a threat. She’s got a big bark for such a clumsy, lumpy pup. She’ll keep those coronavirus germs away, for sure.

Closing thoughts, I am always going to try to write … whether it’s once a day, once a week or once a month – I am not going anywhere. We are also not going to the James Arthur concert they just refunded our tickets for … in MAY. Waaaah. Anyway, I might have to blog once a day as we go through this pandemic together. Maybe I will do some sneak peak photos of some of our meats. Mmmm.

World Mental Health Day: 2019

It is no secret what day of the week it is anymore. Every day as a hashtag. Scroll through Instagram in the morning and have subtle #reminders that it’s, duh, #mcm – #mychefishotterthanyourchef it’s MONDAY. It’s not, actually. Today is October 11, 2019 – a Friday (which is actually my work-week-Thursday) – and yesterday was World Mental Health Day. If you ask me, this should be every single day, but I’ll take it for now. I remember taking a home economics class in 8th grade. There I learned how to cook a meal (it was pretty elementary compared to my skills at the time), watched that birthing video, and last but not least, I learned about health. Health, in this curriculum, was not just physical health. It was physical, mental and emotional.

There was a large drawing of a pyramid with three levels, almost like that terribly wrong daily food chart, and those three words written in each block: mental at the bottom, emotional in the middle and physical at the top. To this day, I recognize emotional and mental health as the foundations of physical health. Your mental state is a wonderful tool; it completes the jurisdiction of the mental health like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitting into place ever so effortlessly. For the most part, your physical health is under your control. Your emotional health is also, for the most part, under the control of your own will. Mental health, for what we can control, there is a hell of a lot of what we cannot control.

control

The brain is such a fascinating little lump of synapses, fluids, genes and algorithms. The stigma attached to anything less than pristine mental health is so yesterday. Today, there is a day that the world can celebrate together with a common core: accepting that mental health is also accepting the fundamental challenges of mental health conditions. “They say it’s inherited,” – said the naysayers. Not really, but you know. Can mental health conditions and disorders be genetic? Yes. I am not keeping statistical analysis on what would be a flawed demographic data of mental health conditional patients by number, but if I were to do that, I’d say 1 out of 2 has a mental health condition that is beyond their control. Just like any other possible genetic combination for your traits, it is possible (and probable? Sure!) that your mental condition is in full swing because of your pre-disposition with a diagnosed, direct family member.

STIGMA

World Mental Health day was pretty interesting to watch as an individual with diagnosed anxiety. Ed Sheeran and HRH Prince Harry looked like long lost brothers bonding over their commonality. Let’s back up for just a second here too. Prince Harry, a royal man, was quite brave for breaking the stigma in his own rights of sharing his mental health challenges with the world. Diana would have been proud. As I was born in England, I can attest to the odd and unique tailored approach to mental health. The idea that someone would speak out about their mental health was unheard of, so to have a member of the royal family … that was huge. HRH Prince Harry, along with Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, began a campaign in the United Kingdom by the name of Heads Together. Resources became available on how to live with, deal with and support others who were living and dealing with mental health challenges. If we were to rewind twenty years and take social media back in time with us, I would have needed this site. I still do, if I’m honest.

COPING

It is not easy living with anxiety, but I am finally managing it for the first time in my life. I recall anxiety from early elementary school days and deep into adulthood. We all have a precipice that takes us to the brink of awareness, I believe. I know what mine was. I went to therapy once a week and found a healthy combination of medicines that worked so that anxiety was not ruling my daily life. Nothing quite like being a working mom of two that has crippling anxiety so bad on some days that you can’t explain why you cannot get out of bed. It’s a beast. It does not help that I carried postpartum depression into clinical depression. I never asked for that. I thought I was happy. I thought everything was fine. But I had to learn and truly accept that I was not in control of these conditions. Thankfully, through a healthy routine of cognitive behavioral therapy with my psychiatrist and exercise, I was living with and coping (the most important word in this blog post) with anxiety and depression.

Even today I have triggers that cause ebbs and flows in these conditions. When my kids go to spend time with their father, I take a little dip in the valley of despair. Then I pick myself up (100% with the help of Sammy) and shift focus to the end of the week. In between then, I clean the house, do a thousand loads of laundry and save a shit ton of money on groceries until they are home again. At some point, I realized how normal I was … am. Coping with anxiety and depression was normal, acceptable and okay. There was no need to fight it any longer. I had to accept that it would be here to stay. I have seen the same psychiatrist for years. He still reminds me that I need to be at peace with my mental health and the treatment of both conditions. He’s having me back every 3 months again this year due to the complete and total spiral of depression after our miscarriages. Spoiler alert, I’m back into the infertile category again. Any way, that’ll be a different post. This makes me even more normal.

Make mental health a topic of conversation. When you ask someone, “how are you?” ask them like you mean it. You should want to know that they are mentally okay as much as they are physically okay.