Quarantine

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Haven’t received COVID test results yet, but the bronchitis is improving. My husband and son aren’t showing any signs of illness. I stay in my room, away from them.

Tears come easily today, not for any particular reason.The weather reflects my mood, rain with thunder and lightning.

I’m trying to keep things in perspective. A worldwide pandemic is difficult for everyone; and it’s okay to feel sad, lonely, unsure about the future, Being down isn’t necessarily an exacerbation of the clinical depression I’ve recently been working through, but the line is blurry.

Just going to cry when I feel like it.

p,s. A bit later – I really need to lighten up. It is what it is. Taking one day at a time. Cliches for a reason!

Waiting

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Earlier this week, I experienced fatigue and headache. Having fibromyalgia, I frequently am tired and have headaches. Two days ago, I began having severe stomach pain, followed by pressure in my chest through to my back and shortness of breath.

The hotlines and call centers I found online were less than helpful. My husband drove me to our local drive-thru testing site. It was supposed to be open until eight o’clock but when we arrived at 7:45 p.m. all was dark.

The next morning I called my primary care provider’s office and was put through to a triage nurse. After I described what I was experiencing, she told me I needed to be seen at their respiratory clinic.

When I entered the first of doors of the office, a medical assistant met me before I made it through the second. There were stop signs all over, informing patients they should only enter if they were experiencing respiratory issues. Once the aide confirmed that I had breathing difficulties, I went into the waiting room. The check-in desk was completely covered with opaque plastic sheeting from ceiling to floor. There were holes cut out at face level with clear plastic and narrow slots at desk level for passing papers and insurance cards. Everyone wore gowns and masks.

The doctor reviewed my symptoms and listened to my breathing. She told me I needed to be tested for COVID and have chest x-rays. She went out of the examining room and said, “We need to swab her.” Someone else replied, “Oh, yeah?” “Yes, and we need to get chest x-rays.”

She returned with a test kit, explaining that this would be uncomfortable, before putting the long swab deeply into each nostril. The radiology tech came in next, giving me a gown. He took pics of my lungs from the back and side. In the evening, the doctor called to tell me the x-rays showed bronchitis but not pneumonia. Good news. She prescribed a Z-Pak.

Today, my chest hurts and I’m really tired. I only notice the shortness of breath when I talk or try to breathe deeply. Now, I wait.

Essential

I must say, I would be excellent at staying home. I do it whenever I get a chance. I would be able to sit on the deck for sunshine and fresh air. I’d get the yard borders ready for some planting later this spring.

But, no, I’m essential; even though I don’t think that’s the word that first pops into people’s minds when they regularly come across me in my work as a clerk in the Home and Garden department of a grocery store plus retail. Sometimes customers don’t even see me, as though I’m a store fixture. The majority of shoppers are nice and some frequent fliers even become friends of a sort. Luckily I haven’t had very many encounters with unpleasant folks who come at you with, “The customer is always right, and I feel like you are my servant for whatever time we have together.”

The reflective vest I wear for the breaks and lunches of my coworkers at the fuel kiosk invites notice. Half of my day is spent out there. Walking back and forth between fuel and the store gives me plenty of time outside in the fresh air and weather. Once in the booth, I can set the thermostat to whatever temp I want. If I’m having a bad day with fibromyalgia, there’s a stool and I can sit sometimes. Best of all, these days, there’s a big old glass window and we talk through a speaker. Starting today, we’ll be sanitizing the pump nozzles, pin pads, and other touches surfaces every half hour. We’d been doing it at two hour intervals. Many customers thank me for wiping everything down.

When I’m not at the fuel center, I can kind of do whatever strikes my fancy. During bad weather, I usually walk around the store looking for lost shoppers. People are so relieved to see someone, they’re usually really glad to see me. Great way to start. Then we chat while I walk with them to find that one thing in a huge store. Love that. Presently, I’m using that time between trips to the gas pumps to clean up the primroses and pansies, which splash such beautiful colors across the front at the doorways. Love that too. The few months we’re able to staff the wonderful garden center, I can hardly believe I’m getting paid.

The company gave all the associates a $25 gift card when the madness began. Next week they’re giving hourly employees a bonus. They give us a paid day off for our birthday and one for the anniversary of your hire date, in addition to regular PTO. I only work three days a week and I get full benefits.

Back in the day, I was a teacher, counselor, health educator, etc.I was proud to be a professional. I probably treated store clerks okay. I was snippy with some, very rarely I hope, if I was sick or upset. Alas, I fear I was impatient and demanding a handful of times, though my best friend might say it was more than a handful. I don’t think I thought about store clerks, one way or the other, for the most part.

My goal daily is to make customers’ days better, if even for just a few minutes; but when I was little, I didn’t strive to be a gas station attendant or a store clerk. And look at me now – I am essential.

Strange New World

Working retail gives me a front row seat to the impact the coronavirus is having on our community. For the most part, people in my area seem to have calmed down. No more lines down the aisles. Most items back in stock with the exception of toilet paper, hand soap, thermometers, etc.

Customers with whom I’ve interacted have been polite and grateful we’re still open and operating. Many say, “Stay healthy. Stay safe,” at the end of the transaction, as opposed to, “Have a good day.” However, I do not cashier in grocery – oh, man! Some folks don’t handle it well when we limit the number of particular products per customer or are unable to sell them toilet paper right now! One woman demanded to know why we weren’t stocking shelves. “I don’t see anyone putting things out! There’s no toilet paper! That aisle is completely empty!” as if we were unaware. Another woman approached one of the employees and questioned, “What’s going on?” My coworker had to explain the coronavirus and its impact on daily life. She had no idea! How does that happen?

I’m wearing gloves when I’m handling cash. I wash my hands frequently and more effectively. Hand sanitizer is available to us and I use that too. I’m taking Echinacea and, occasionally, black elderberry syrup which are supposed to support the immune system. However, I interact with the general public for hours at a time.

Discussing the situation with a woman, I admitted I’m kind of resigned to getting it. She passionately responded, “Oh no! Don’t put that out there. Plan not to get it. You look like a healthy, young woman. You’re strong.” “I’m 55.” The customer said, “Well, I’m 65 and I’m not gonna get it!”

Although these frequent precautions are tiresome very quickly, and this is a marathon, not a sprint; I will make them part of my new normal. Part of me thinks, “Screw it. I’ll do business as usual and get sick or not.” My husband, though, wants me to take precautions, and I will. I’ll keep ya posted.

p.s. Literally, the moment I hit ‘publish,’ a woman on the White House taskforce said, “Avoid touching hard surfaces outside your home. Do not spend time around people, even asymptomatic, because we’re contagious before we feel sick.” These are the two things I do all day at work! For the sake of the fervor of the woman encouraging me to think positively – “I’m not gonna get sick. I’m not gonna get sick. I’m not gonna….”

It’s Gonna Be A Bumpy Ride

Working in the home and garden department of a large grocery store, I interact with probably 75-100 customers and coworkers each day. I cashier, handling more money than you might think people still use. I’ve accepted I will, most likely, be exposed to the coronavirus.

Echinacea, black elderberry syrup, and astralagus are herbal supplements I take daily to strengthen my immune system. Instead of waiting for symptoms before taking the sambuca elderberry syrup and Echinacea, I’m taking them regularly. I suppose this is an opportunity to check the efficacy of my regimen.

What I was most concerned about was that I might take the virus into my 82-year-old mom’s home without realizing it. Today, we agreed I won’t be visiting her for the time being, so I feel less stressed, knowing I won’t be increasing her risk.

The store was beyond crazy busy today. Shelves were cleared of toilet paper, milk, bread, etc. There was definitely a tension in the air. It will be interesting to see this unfold. I don’t think we can even imagine yet all the ripples, all the ramifications of COVID-19.

Uneven and Twisted

I am anxious about the coronavirus, especially because I work retail, handling cash. I’d like to see people use only plastic to pay for things, so we don’t have to touch money and pass it along.

Went to my chiropractor and got straightened out. (If only it were that easy.) My left shoulder was elevated higher than the right, the right hip was elevated higher than the left. My right shoulder was sitting farther back than the left, and my left hip was back as compared to the right. I was literally uneven and twisted. Doc did his torque release technique, and everything is aligned as it should be. So grateful that I found him.

Resting now, letting things settle. But I’m following the news nonstop, which is unsettling, can’t help it. After 9/11, I was glued to the reporting of the rapidly changing events. Glad people are taking it seriously, as demonstrated by state governments, sports leagues, and institutions of education. I hope these moves help to lessen the impact, but I can’t imagine what we’re all about to go through. Feels uneven and twisted.

Wish I didn’t work in a grocery store.

Up and Down

Although I want my blog to be positive, uplifting, and encouraging; I don’t always feel that. I haven’t written anything in the past few days because I’m struggling.

A serious outside stressor has come to my attention. It doesn’t directly involve me. There’s nothing I can do to affect the outcome. One of my adult sons is going through a challenging time, and my husband is helping him sort it. Still I find it very difficult to separate myself.

The stress takes up residence throughout my body. Headache, aching wrists and hips, pain down one leg, and a new symptom of weakness in both legs, fibromyalgia is not helpful. I was reading more about the condition and came across the description of dysphagia. The muscles in the throat coordinate in complex ways to swallow, and fibromyalgia interferes with this process. For a few years now, I’ve had difficulty with swallowing and getting some words out while talking, words that require my tongue pushing against the roof of my mouth, but had no idea it was connected to fibro. Why I’d not come across this in all of my previous reading on the subject, I have no idea.

Today is a day off and then I work three days in a row. My goal for this day is to deliberately focus on relaxing my muscles. I’m starting with my toes and traveling up through my body, all the way to my head, and then back down.

I’m also reading a new book, “The Healing Pendulum in the Matrix; My Way to Simply Being” by Anna Maria Winklehner. Reading it slowly and re-reading, I am drawn to the positive self-talk including, “I allow myself to be full of love for myself,” “I’m doing my best and that is enough,” as well as a focus on gratefulness to God, “Thank you for healing power and healing on all levels of my being.” She refers to “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, which has already been instrumental to my journey and is a good reminder.

“Fall down – get up – adjust crown – move on.” Sandra Klengler

It Is What It Is

Started with a new doctor this week. As she palpated my neck and shoulders, she said, ” You need a massage.” I replied, “I had one yesterday.” The look on her face! That’s fibromyalgia. I wore a corset of pain around my ribcage for a day. That’s fibromyalgia. Today I had to leave work after two hours because the fatigue along with the aching and weakness in my limbs were debilitating. My joints ache and so does my mid back. My left temple is randomly throbbing and I can feel it down my jaw and neck. That’s fibromyalgia. That’s one week in the life.

Just providing some info for the skeptics and the people who love people with fibromyalgia. ♡

Riding the Waves

No longer in the darkness that enveloped me last November, I feel like the two things I have to work on right now are being okay with being okay and not reacting to every wave in life as though it’s a tsunami.

In the midst of a major depressive episode, every ripple in the waters causes me to feel like it’s going to knock me down, and some do. I experience motion sickness. It could be any little stressor, which would be a mere annoyance when I’m well. When i spend several weeks or months in that frame of mind, it becomes my new normal.

I’ve made great progress with the right treatment for me, which I knew I would from my history; but feeling okay, good, or even happy is not the norm. I have to get used to these moods again. I don’t need to dread every errand, brace for minor bad news, and avoid social activities.

Alas, I am not immune from more serious issues. No one is. My knee jerk reaction is to imagine the worst, turn whitecaps into storm surges, and probably cry. Herein lie my current wellness goals. It’s okay to be okay: I can swim instead of running for higher ground.

Tigers, ‘Niners, and Crosses, oh my!

My sister-in-law’s 52nd birthday is today, but she’s not here to celebrate. At age 50, she passed away from ALS, a cruel disease.

She loved NASCAR and Bon Jovi. She was a major 49’ers fan and I so wish she’d seen this last season. Her home was decorated with crosses and pictures of her daughter, the love of her life.

She and my husband look so much alike. She was two years older. When he started high school and some upper classmen were giving him a hard time, she pushed one of them up against the locker and told them, “This is my little brother. Hands off.” Everyone was a little scared of her because she was a force to be reckoned with.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with both breast cancer and ALS. My father-in-law suffered through ALS ten years ago. She was so strong through surgery, chemo, and radiation as she dealt with loss of balance. She’d been in a nursing course and insisted on finishing, even taking her boards. The day of the testing, she fell in the bathroom, opening a bloody wound on her head. Her friend took her to the ER, and my sister-in-law explained to the nursing staff that she needed to get treated and get out of there for boards. They rushed her through and she made it in time, finishing before her friend – and she passed!

Because ALS is rarely familial, she and my husband took part in a research project. We visited her as often as we could, and she smiled all the way. She was able to go to a couple San Francisco home games, saw Pitbull in Las Vegas, and went to a filming of one of her favorite TV shows.

My husband had planned to never get a tattoo, but his sister had several. The picture above is his tribute to her.

In the end, it ended, as it will for all of us. I just hope I can do it as gracefully as she did. Happy birthday, Sis.

Looking for Trouble

My mind is swirling, searching through situations currently occurring in my life, trying to find something worrisome to grab like the brass ring at a carousel.

Not working today, a massage is scheduled for this afternoon. I should get busy doing stuff around the house, but I feel really tired. I fret about all the things that need doing.

I’ve lost the hard copy address book I’ve had for 30 years. Probably should start texting people and buy a new one to compile. I’m sure once I do that, the old one will appear.

My husband had the local news on the radio as he prepared for work, and the coronavirus was discussed at length; so there’s that, but I can do absolutely zero to address that problem.

The dream I had just before waking involved a multi family picnic and games at a lake. Somehow, while trying to dispose of my dog’s shat, someone thought i was part of a game and grabbed the napkin holding the droppings and threw it or spun it. Little poop balls landed all around the party, but no one noticed. I began frantically searching through balloons, beach toys, and bits of food on the ground, trying to clean it all up before anyone else found one. My oldest sister saw my distress, asked what was wrong, and immediately took charge. Doesn’t take a psychiatrist to translate that dream.

Although I haven’t landed on a worthy issue, the anxiety sits in my chest. Deep breathing helps. I want to get out of my head, but I don’t want to do anything. I’m binge watching a show on Netflix, but I know if I start it, time will get sucked into a black hole, and then I’ll feel bad about not getting anything done. Definitely need to stop “should-ing” on myself.

I have a feeling that what actually troubles me is that tomorrow would be my sister-in-law’s 52nd birthday if she hadn’t died of ALS. She would not support my moping. I’m going to breathe some fresh air and get a small organizing project done before my massage appointment. And then I’m going to binge on my show. In the last year, she did a lot of that and I think she would’ve really liked this drama series.

Night Moves

Awakened by my bladder around 3:00 a.m., I rolled out of bed, trying not to step on our blue heeler who sleeps either stretched out head-to-toe between my husband and I or right next to my side on the floor, just where my feet are inclined to land. This happens nightly, so it’s routine.

This time, though, something was wrong, very wrong. I couldn’t open my right eye. I reached up to touch it, and I felt warm, soft, something on my eye. As I removed whatever this was, it dawned on me. It was a piece of the chocolate bark thins that I eat during the night in my sleep.

I washed my face and cleaned sticky strands of hair, and before I climbed back in bed I took the pillowcase off. Last time this kinda thing happened, it was part of a Hostess cupcake. Am I alone in this??

🍩🍪😁

Addendum: In the moment when I discover food in my hair or on my pillow in the wee hours, I swear I’m not going to tell anyone about it, but I personally find it so freaking funny, I can’t help myself!

Hope

Three months ago today, I wrote a suicide note and gathered the necessary supplies. Still here though.

Fortunate to have a great psychiatric practitioner and very supportive family and friends, my depression is under control and I’m no longer having any suicidal thinking.

If you’re depressed, feeling hopeless and helpless, please reach out to someone. Ask for help and let people help you.

Every individual has a unique set of circumstances, and there’s no guarantee that you will find relief as quickly as I have. This was my third, but worst, episode of major depression, so I already had a road map.

I can’t believe it’s only been three months. Those first several weeks felt like forever. Here’s to hope!

All those years

When my sons graduated in 2016 and 2017, we celebrated with friends and family at our place. We live in a school district where some parents ordered food trucks for their parties. Ours were more DYI, so I tried to add special touches using pictures and memoribilia that spanned the boys’ lives.

Following the festivities each year, I took all the personalized decor and put it in a pile in our “office” spare room. I use the term “office” very loosely because it’s really been our, “I’ll just put it in here and close the door” room.

Today, I finally went back to those school pictures and projects, sorting, reminiscing, and boxing up the honor cords and diplomas. And I cried. As much as those busy, mischievous, troublemaking, loving boys tested my patience, I now look back with fondness and wonder.

Many years ago, when my sons were two and three, I had them sitting side-by-side in the cart at Costco. I can’t remember if I was acting as referee or trying to contain their antics. We just needed to get through the checkout line. An older gentleman in the next line smiled and said, “Enjoy. It gives so fast.” I replied, “Well, it’s been the longest three years of my life!”

I am so grateful for all those years.

Oh, Happy Day!

A visit to my chiropractor and a day of rest, my body has responded well. Not apprehensive about working a full shift today. I do wear really good shoes with orthotic inserts. So glad I won’t have to be faking it when customers ask how I’m doing, which they do in surprisingly high numbers. 😃

Just remembered that I dreamt the two Popes started following my blog! 😂

Independence

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After graduating from college with a Bachelor’s degree in education, in June of 1986, I interviewed with a few small school districts in the area.

One interview panel asked if I would move to their little town or if I’d commute from my hometown, a much bigger city of about 300,000. I answered, “Oh, I would live here. I wouldn’t want to drive that far in the snow.” I think they were looking for something more like, “I would live here because I want to be part of the community where I teach.” I didn’t get that position.

I did get an offer from another larger district that served a widespread rural area. It was across the state line from where I’d grown up. At the interview, they explained that, at my salary, I would qualify for low income housing and, conveniently, one of the teachers owned an apartment complex with units available that qualified. They also told me that, contrary to what one might think, there would be more school closures due to mud slides than snow.

During the time between the interview and the offer, the placement officer at my university asked if she could give my information to a district in Southern California that recruited from our highly rated education department. I agreed and was promptly contacted by the elementary school principal. What followed seemed a lot more like her selling me on the district rather than questioning me. We talked for a long time and she explained that their area population was exploding because it was in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave desert and, thus, offered affordable housing. It wasn’t uncommon for parents to drive a couple hours each way to work in L.A., which was referred to as ‘down below’ to the residents of the high desert, as far north as one could go and still be in Los Angeles County. She knew she’d have openings for teachers once kids showed up the first week of school or maybe sooner. We agreed to keep in touch.

When the mudslide district called and offered me a position, I told the superintendent that I was in talks with a district in Southern California and asked if I could have a couple days to decide. In a very irritated tone, he replied, “Of course they’re going to offer you a job. They’re desperate for teachers right now. Let me know tomorrow because we need to offer this opening to someone else if you don’t want it. You are our first choice.”

I called the principal in So Cal back and explained my situation. She said, “We’ll hire you. Until a position opens, we’ll pay you substitute teacher pay daily until you get your own classroom, and you can wait until we have something at the grade level you want.” I agreed. Just talking with her, I knew I wanted to work for her. She said, “Are you sure? We need you here in ten days for new teacher orientation. You need to know I’m sitting in my office, looking out the window, and all I see is sand. We really are in the middle of the desert.” I asked, “Where do the kids play at recess?” She had a beautiful laugh and assured me that there was a playground and large grass area for the students. I figured I could live anywhere for one year and California sounded much more exciting than a low-income apartment in the neighbouring state, especially at age 21.

I agreed to begin as a substitute teacher until I could get my own classroom, but she called me the next day and said they’d had a new kindergarten teacher change her mind about moving to California and the spot was mine if I wanted it. I accepted that position and had 10 days to move 1,200 miles.

My dad had recently retired at age 50 after selling his business, which impresses me a whole lot more now that I’m 55! He organized and managed the move, thankfully, because once the reality of the adventure upon which I was about to embark sank in, I was a basket case. I sat in my mom’s lap and cried. And hung out with my friends.

Seven days later, my mom, dad and I departed for California with my meager belongings in a U-Haul trailer. A week later, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment, Casa Bonita, with a roommate who had also just been hired by another district in the same area. He was 6’4″ and over 200 pounds. Think it comforted my parents to leave me with a bodyguard. Dad loaned me money to put a down payment on a little, blue Honda Civic hatchback, which later met its demise between a Suburban and a Cadillac.

My parents left and went to Vegas after stopping by my new place to say goodbye. As they drove away, I felt an excited nervousness that I’d never felt before.

I got my things together for work and headed to my car. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air. I was 21 years old and on my way to my own kindergarten classroom!

I was in a hurry because I wanted to stop and buy a pack of cigarettes on my way. I got in the Honda in the carport, put it in reverse, and hit the gas. And took the front end of my car off, hitting the support pole. Still connected on the driver’s side, most of the bumper was on the asphalt.

I heard the scrape and crunch. “No, no, no. Please don’t let this be happening.” I got out of the car, walked around and surveyed the damage. And then I yelled, “NO! NO! NO!” I wanted so badly to reverse time just two minutes.

A guy came out on his second floor deck to see what the hell was going on. By now I was crying and cursing. My new neighbor came down and checked out the damage. I explained that I just bought this car and I’m supposed to be on my way to work. I didn’t even have a phone yet. Landlines only, people. The helpful neighbor told me he knew a guy who could fix it right up for a good deal. He also let me use his phone to call work.

When I explained the events and the results, my principal was so understanding. I assured her my new neighbor knew a guy who could repair it, and she said, “No, no, no. The principal of the middle school is married to an insurance adjuster. We’ll call her and she’ll be over to help you handle this. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything.”

My parents probably hadn’t yet made it to I-15,the freeway to Vegas. I was on my own. I didn’t tell my parents about what happened right after they left for many years. I didn’t have to. So began my independence.

A Wreck

When my mom asked where my pain is, my answer was lengthy. After a bit she texted, asking if I’d been in a wreck. I told her it sure feels like I’ve been in a wreck but it was just a session in the dental chair.

I made it through the whole shift today, which wasn’t a given. I’m grateful for sunshine and blue skies at work, relieved to be home in bed with my legs elevated.

Part of why I write blog posts is so people who are interested can hear what it’s like for someone to deal with depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, etc. I don’t want to come across as a complainer. I’m describing symptoms and such for people who want to gain insight into one person’s experience with healing, coping, and hoping. Part of why I’m blogging is because I’m a storyteller. I really enjoy writing. So, I’m telling my stories – because they’re the ones I know.

Pain!

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Two hours into work, and I’m lighted headed, dizzy, and have occasional, severe, cramping pain at the base of my neck. The pain is much worse on my left side – face, ribs, back, hip, leg and foot. I have an intermittent, sharp, pain like a needle poking me on the left side of my back. Fine motor skills are compromised; I keep dropping things. Getting harder to concentrate. The ringing in my ears (tinnitus) is louder than usual, so I’m not hearing clearly. It hurts just to carry my cup of water and fatigue is setting in.

Doesn’t work to breathe and relax because breathing hurts. I am determined to not let this increase my depression and anxiety.

Between customers, I stare at a lamp post up in the blue sky and think “love” over and over to distract myself.

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