#COVID-19

Pandemic #3…New Normals

End of week 2 of telemedicine for my patients.

My wife is working one day a week- Saturdays- to essentially pay for our health insurance. The rest of the week she’s home with the boys while I see patients. I saw clients all week, and am booked next week. No one wants to baby-sit for a nurse during the pandemic even a nurse doing telehealth.

I am incredibly grateful to still be able to pull an income during these uncertain times.

I set up a tent. A massive tent. In our playroom for the boys. I put their beanbag chairs inside of it and blankets and pillows and Jackson calls it his bounce house. It’s essentially their man-cave as the doors open to their TV. They can often be found either with the tent completely closed up literally bouncing around inside, or with it all open chillin’ on their “couches” (bean bag chairs).

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It’s an LLBean King Dome tent, I think it was made for 6 or 8 people. But it’s been in our basement since we moved in. We used to use it once or twice a year. I’m not a camper. But the thought of camping is appealing to me. Until I go. Then I want to go home.

But thank God we kept the tent. It’s been a lifesaver.

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked in the office, but saw client’s remotely to avoid being at home. It felt amazing driving into work those days. It felt normal. It felt like I was going to work and all was well with the world. But the roads were empty of normal traffic. My kids were not in daycare; they were home with my wife. It all just felt off.

So by Thursday I decided to work exclusively from home. It felt like I was mourning something, and then I was excited to have it back, and then I realized it still wasn’t what I had before, so I just wanted to keep being home until it truly can be normal again.

Thursday evening we all drove down to my office and moved out what I needed to make my home office more functional. It felt very final. I locked my door with a sense of foreboding that this is going to go on much longer than we anticipated. I then no-showed my own therapy session because I totally forgot/spaced and was so focused on moving stuff out of my office. Then I felt like an ass and asked my therapist for the address to send the check for our missed appointment to and he sort of yelled at me via text to forget it because there’s a pandemic and he knew I was losing my mind a bit. I’m still going to send a check.

I feel anxiety and grief. Grief for what was. Anxiety for what is to come.

I keep picturing stupid things like what some one will ask in job interviews after 2020- “Do you have any questions for us?” “Yes, I’m wondering what coverage and plans you have in place for a pandemic?”

It’s like life before 9/11 and life after 9/11. There will be changes we; just don’t know the full extent and breadth of them. For me I also continue to vacillate between extreme guilt and extreme relief: feeling grateful for being able to work remotely, knowing I have critical care experience and those skills are beyond needed right now, but sitting this one out of the front lines.

Healthcare provider’s are dying. Even with PPE we will get sick and some will die. I worked in the ED during H1N1. Many of us got it. I’ve been exposed to tuberculosis and pertussis and meningitis. I know that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I find out about the exposure. When we find out about co-workers who are sick now.

I furthered my education in mental health partly to avoid ever having to be front lines again. I went into private practice to avoid hospital work. But I’m still affiliated with the hospital, and I still feel this gnawing guilt that I should be there.

I keep reminding myself I have severe asthma. Severe enough to be on a biologic agent monthly for two years now. That I would die from this. It just all sucks.

My clients are all doing okay. I’ve found that they all truly look forward to seeing me for a change. That I seem to be an anchor of normalcy for them in these constantly changing and isolating times. I try and look the same as I normally do. I try and act the same as I normally do. I try and be that presence for them. It’s taxing. But worth it. I’ve had the lowest no-show rates this week probably in the history of my practice. People want to see me.

I treat a lot of healthcare providers. They know I know what they are going through. It’s heartbreaking and raw. These sessions with them.

My kids and wife and I go hiking every day. There are not a lot of people around us, we live very rural. It’s a blessing right now. It’s also one of the very few times I’ve felt blessed to have twins. They entertain each other. They have a built in playmate. They play now in a way that siblings with age differences don’t. They are on the same level. They also are old enough now to not just do parallel play but actually play together. They take their snacks and their art supplies and go into the tent for hours. On rainy days it’s essential!

The hiking has been good. Feels nice to get outside every day. More than we normally do. We also have this built in family time that feels sort of normal now. It will be weird I think when we go back to our “normal” life.

A year ago at this time my Dad was on hospice. He was ten days away from dying. I’m relieved this wasn’t happening last year. That would have been too much to handle. It seems surreal though to approach the year anniversary of his death in the midst of a global pandemic.

My takeaways so far from the pandemic: Work a job that allows for telehealth options. Live in a rural or suburban area (social distancing is built into our infrastructure and town layouts). Have twins (literally only do this if you know there is a pandemic coming). Keep a pop up tent in the basement at all times in case of rainy days. Get outside every day (unless it’s raining then see previous statement). Don’t no-show your therapist during the pandemic. Zoom drinking dates with friends and family are cool. Two of my cousins and I did one last night and it was fun. Take nothing for granted. 

To all my nurse friends reading this: I think of you every hour of every day. My heart is with you all in these dark times, it’s just my lungs that preclude me from actually being there. You are heroes. I have a rant about professional athletes that my wife knows well. Doctor’s and nurse’s save lives but it’s the damn football and basket-ball players that make millions. I know how hard it is to save lives. I’ve done it. I also know it’s harder to watch some one die than to save them. You will watch many die in the days ahead. Cry. Hurt. Feel. Survive. You are entitled to feel and act any way you want. Don’t let the bastards in management get you down. Don’t let #45 get you down. You are the bravest people I know.

***Myself and several other mental health professionals are offering free services to any healthcare provider in crisis at any time in the upcoming weeks. Call. 

 

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