Fitting with my track record the last few years, it’s been a minute since I have updated. The problem with that is that it makes it hard to know where to start.
These last few months have had so many ups and downs and a myriad of feelings that are most often undefinable. While we try to live our lives in the most normal way possible, we remain in the middle of a pandemic. In the beginning there were hard and fast rules as to what we could do, where we could go, etc., but now those mandates have expired and for the most part it is up to us to make the tough decisions. Do we let our kids go to school? Do we gather with family for the holidays? Do we socialize with friends? Do we go back to church? Do we continue to wear face masks, even though those around us often do not?
It is a very fuzzy line as to what is considered safe and what is not. Some people have tested positive for COVID and barely had any symptoms, yet at the same time some are very severe and the death toll increases daily. Deep down, my gut feeling response was to protect my family as much as possible – keep them home and never leave the house. Initially, that is what we did. The kids and I went months barely leaving the house except for necessities. It felt safer to stay in our little bubble. But as time went on, it became very apparent that our mental health was suffering in some big ways. Little by little, as county and state restrictions eased up, we chose to start venturing out more – carefully – with masks and hand sanitizer at the ready.
The hardest decision was whether or not to send the kids back to in-person school. Our district offered a choice of in-person or online. The mama bear in my wanted to keep them home, but virtual school has proven to be a huge struggle for my kids. They all three were adamant that they wanted to be in school and deep down I knew that it really was the best choice for them. Beside the fact that we need the additional support of gifted classes, 504 plans, IEPs and other special services, they needed the return of some sort of routine and normalcy in their day. As it turned out, most families in our district made the same choice, which forced the high school and middle school to move to a hybrid schedule – 2 days a week of in-person classes, and 3 days at home with online activities. Fortunately, the elementary is able to continue a 5 day in-person schedule.
We also chose to allow sports as those opened up. We started back the routine of soccer, volleyball, and karate with practices on weeknights and games on the weekends. With school and sports back on, I started seeing my kids come back to life a little. The need for social interaction was so incredibly important for them. I don’t think any of us are truly back in a good mental state, but the difference it has made at least for my two youngest kids has been pretty immense – enough to know that it was the right choice for them.
We have been fortunate so far that we have all stayed healthy. As allergies have flared up and colds have passed through, it has been a bit nerve wracking. Never knowing exactly when it might be time to go for a COVID test you fret about every cough. We get emails from the school almost daily reporting positive cases, though contact tracing indicates most of those have not been due to transfer at school. I get a little nervous with every email from school, not sure when I will receive one saying that one of my kids has been exposed.
Last weekend was Halloween and yet again came the time to decide whether to proceed with our usual traditions or whether to stay home, hunker down and turn our porch light off. We decided to let the kids dress up and trick-or-treat. The cousins came over and we drove to a nearby neighborhood that was swarming with kids and adults trick-or-treating – very few wearing masks or taking precautions. It honestly made me very nervous and question my decision to let them go. I will not be at all surprised if we have a spike of COVID cases in our city over the next week or so.
The good news, for now at least, is that our sports seasons have finished – except for karate. Less practices and games means less community exposure for all of us. We still have school, work, and Hubby and I have been back to church a couple of times. There are necessary shopping trips and sometimes just a need to get out of the house for a bit. The desire to get back to our regular routines and habits are so strong, but as the COVID cases continue to go up daily it has me reconsidering what is truly necessary again.
Through all of this, I have found myself really struggling with anxiety (and maybe a smidge of depression). It took me a while to really put my finger on it because it doesn’t feel like anxiety in the way that I think anxiety should feel. It hits in waves. Some days it is just this little tiny off feeling that I can’t really define and other days it kind of knocks me over. Sometimes it comes out as irritation with everything and everybody and results in an emotion explosion, and sometimes it shows up in withdrawal. It is in those withdrawn moments that I feel like the depression starts sneaking in – when even the things that usually bring me joy feel more like an obligation. In the back of my mind I hear a little voice saying, “Just keep swimming!” but that constant push and pull of the sinking and then the swimming is exhausting.