Some time in the last week or two, I’ve hit a wall. More often than not, I feel more tired than I should, more grumpy, more impatient, more blank, more frustrated, more disheveled, more disorganized. I’m getting angry at the kids when I shouldn’t. I’m not organizing solid activities for them, and I’m feeling guilty about pushing them to do anything because life is already so stressful for them right now. Making healthy meals feels like a heavy chore instead of a joy. Most evenings, I stick in my AirPods and try to disappear from my family for a while – listening to music and sewing masks by myself, lying in bed by myself and staring at a device. I don’t even want the dogs around me in those moments.
Oh sure, we still do fun stuff. We’re gardening, we’ve got flowers and vegetables sprouting aplenty. We’ve been hitting the driving range, we ride our bikes, we go to the lake. Yadda yadda. But it feels often like I’m just going through the motions.
I remember this feeling from a few years ago, when I was in a deep depression and couldn’t get out of bed some days. It scares me. I don’t want to go through it again.
I am blessed with solid health insurance and the means to continue working with my therapist, Dr. G. We talk every couple of weeks by phone, in the age of COVID-19. I told him yesterday about how I’m feeling. It’s a change, because up until now I’ve been feeling pretty solid in 2020. After I blathered for a while, he said, “It’s a common feeling right now.”
Mental health people are calling it “coronavirus fatigue.” It’s a thing. People are exhausted emotionally.
Coronavirus. The divisive and hostile state of American politics, and a president with no capacity to lead with empathy and compassion. Distance learning for our kids, and all the frustrations and changes that has entailed. The armed protests by white cammo-people over quarantine, met with a patient, restrained police response. The largely-peaceful protests inspired by Mr. Floyd’s killing, met with police and paramilitary violence. Families stuck together for unreasonable amounts of time without access to other important friendships and colleagues… There is a whole lot to process right now. It is legitimately overwhelming.
I stared out the window as Dr. G spoke about the phenomenon of coronavirus fatigue. I finally remarked, “So I don’t have to feel like a failure right now? I can give myself a break for feeling this way?”
Silly Carla. All the years and all the reads and all the therapies and all the workshops and all the advocacy and still, it’s so hard to give myself compassion.
Dr. G reminded me of the basics. Continue with self care, even if it feels selfish. It’s not. Get rest. Find space for yourself. Continue teaching your kids your values. You have the authority as a parent to do that. Continue trying and doing.
I will keep trying and doing, I told myself. I am telling this to myself this morning, as I sit here. Technically, I know this sort of self talk can make a difference, but it feels silly and hard when I’m stuck in a rut. Still, I will keep trying and doing.
A few weeks ago, Jesse put her foot through a window in her bedroom and gave herself a wicked cut that required a trip to urgent care. The kick was the expression of an obsession and a tic. As she said to me later, “That window has been bothering me for a long time now.”
She tried to hide the gash on her foot, but there was so much blood it was impossible. Even as we rushed her to urgent care, she insisted that we shouldn’t. “I don’t deserve it,” she said. “I can take care of this myself.”
She was stoic and pretended it didn’t hurt.
When we tended to the wound in the days that followed, she would often remark to me that she didn’t deserve the attention. She did it to herself. She deserved to suffer.
I told Jesse over and over, you don’t deserve to suffer. I love you. I want you to stop hurting yourself.
It is very, very hard to see my daughter express such thoughts. It is even harder to recognize in them a reflection of my own habit of self-punishment, but I have to stare into the mirror and ask big questions. I’ve done my share of weeping about it. I know that this hangs over me and is one of the reasons I’m low on juice and resilience these days.
And I know I’m not alone in this vast world of a million-billion-zillion human beings. We are all suffering together right now, but also we have the power to carry each other through.
Hey listen, if you’re suffering, please don’t do it alone. Don’t harm yourself, don’t tell yourself that your humanity matters less than someone else’s. Don’t let your rage and exhaustion own you, if you can fight it. Don’t let false shame stop you from seeking help. Call someone, anyone. Here are some numbers.
National Hopeline Network
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)
National Youth Crisis Hotline
(800) 442-HOPE (4673)
National Institute on Drug Abuse Hotline
National Help Line for Substance Abuse
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National US Child Abuse Hotline