My First COVID Vaccine & 2020

There’s been a lot happening in a time when seemingly nothing can actually happen. But even during a pandemic with estimates of one person dying a minute, life goes on.

Apparently Presidents don’t move on though. They sit, pout, rant, lie, and think of more outlandish ways to disrupt democracy and NOT address the one citizen a minute dying.

But I digress.

Grappling through a separation and divorce in the COVID era comes with its own particular hell. I can’t see my friends who I would normally lean on. I can’t really even leave my house. I can’t do any dating- even online- because well eventually we would have to meet in person…do we get COVID tests? How do you social distance when it is thirty degrees and snowy outside? The entire idea of trying to date right now is daunting. So yeah. I’m not.

So what do I do on those Saturday nights and Sundays that are now kid free? I pick up shifts. Work. Bake Christmas cookies. And the last two Saturday nights kid-free I flipped on Outlander and let myself have a good cry.

On the plus side I drove through snow, parked in the wrong parking garage, and walked through more snow to the correct building next door…and received my COVID vaccine. I have a history of anaphylaxis with injections so I nervously gripped my epi-pen…but I am here alive and well. My arm hurt the next two days and I had chills and fatigue on day two. But then by that night I all the sudden felt better. My arm stopped throbbing and I felt back to normal. Seemed like a standard reaction to a vaccine.

While covering a shift inpatient I, for the first time since March, felt thankful for my telehealth days during the week with my outpatient practice. The double mask/face shield combination is hot, hard to hear through and hard to be heard through. I was also frequently made fun (by staff mostly) for my face shield being lopsided, my hair looking wild, and one patient told me my sweater that I wore over my scrubs was “wrinkly”.

Nothing like some solid mania for a dose of wicked truth. There should be a warning for people going into mental health “Must have thick skin”.

My crooked facemask and wrinkly sweater:)

Co-workers in healthcare are brutal but in a loving way. I was told I lost a lot of weight, which was accurate. What’s funny is that had I gained weight I would also have been informed of this. Again not malicious-it’s happened before. Just surrounded with folks who deal in brutal honesty. I fit right in.

I had to explain to other staff who knew I normally come in professional attire that I wore scrubs because I do not have dress pants at the moment that fit me due to the weight loss and COVID…I’ve been sporting mostly yoga pants since March. I explained about my separation and then we were pretty much all caught up.

They also agreed with the patient who said my sweater is wrinkly.

I smiled and nodded. It was wrinkly. My best friend shipped it to me from Florida this week along with several other sweaters and shirts. I was comforted and happy to wear her sweater because I miss her so damn much.

I later stripped in my garage. It was snowing outside and freezing.

My family worries that by working at the hospital I’ll be increasing my exposure risk. I don’t disagree. But I am taking every safety measure I possibly can. And the idea of sitting home alone in my house every Sunday is daunting. Plus now I am vaccinated!

But yes, in a strange turn of events, I’d rather risk increasing my exposure risk to COVID, be told my clothes are wrinkly and that my face shield is crooked than sit by myself ruminating on what my kids are doing, what has been, and what will be.

2020 will do that to a person. Turn what I thought I knew upside down and have me face decisions I was not expecting to be making.

We sent out our family Christmas cards. I already had them. Again. No divorce handbook. But we are still a family. We are still amicable. And damnit I had 75 Christmas cards with envelopes. So off they went.

As 2020 winds to a close, I’d like to say 2021 couldn’t possible be worse. But then 2020 showed me up when I thought nothing could be worse than 2019. God forbid 2021 says, “Hold my beer.”

To all the healthcare workers working front lines, especially those of us so often forgotten in psychiatry. I see you. You are heroes. You deserve so much more than you will ever receive. The pandemic will not end soon. The next two months I fear will be worse than anything we have experienced yet. But we have vaccines. We are in better shape with PPE and testing and we have each other. Lean on each other. No where else is there such camaraderie laced with sarcasm and brutal truths…but underlying is a fierce dedication to one another that only comes from working and seeing some shit together. Stay safe & stick together.