COVID-19 Journal, March 19

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March 19, 2020 by 8junebugs

The deeper, darker sense of foreboding hit on Wednesday of last week, I think. We’d been watching the numbers, tracking the data, and we knew what was coming. We were already wary.

I have an unreasonably high tolerance for epic disasters of unknown length. But last Wednesday was when everything I already knew sort of huddled up and tackled my brain all at once.

Wednesday is when I let myself think about the realistic length of social distancing (now shelter in place) and the long-term effects this will have, as well as the ability of the federal government to deal with any of that.

By Thursday, just one week ago, my brain felt foggy and heavy and I wondered, given everything going on, how I would access anti-depressants without an active treatment plan. It’s been a dozen years since I needed meds, but I remember how long it took to get them dialed in on the dose that finally helped. (Although clinical depression was the diagnosis, once certain stresses were removed it was manageable without meds; situational depression is more accurate, probably, but it wasn’t resolved with talk therapy alone.)

Today, it became more immediately clear that no one — NO ONE — is getting out of this without losing at least one person.

***

My dad is retired and drives for Lyft near Atlanta. He is 66 and though he doesn’t have any of the big comorbidities in play (and begins every conversation since Mom died with a report of his overall good health), he had a fever and a cough that seemed to get worse between calls.

He was scheduled to fly here a week from tomorrow. Obviously, that won’t happen and the boys are devastated. But my brain, reasonably good at forecasting worst-case scenarios regardless of my outward buoyancy, started to realize that it could be a very long time before we see him in person again…and that it’s not impossible that we won’t. Ever.

***

Grayson has been through a lot of assessments and although he is above average academically, the fall-out from last year’s grief and disruption has left him with what therapists think is a combination of PTSD and anxiety. This has led to reactive attachment issues, regression, and some missing skills that are blocking his growth and his access to academics…and manifesting in pretty extreme aggression. His social-emotional condition qualifies him for special ed services and a full IEP. We were in the middle of placement and IEP completion when all this hit. We are very much in limbo and the best thing I can say is that he will likely be less behind when the next school year starts. Everyone is trying to figure out Independent Study…which has been our normal since January.

So he won’t have access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education any time soon and the resources we’ve accessed privately are now only available online, which is not ideal for treating a 6yo engaging in play therapy. On the one hand, we have the time and space to try to build his confidence and trust in us back up; on the other, it’s a hell of a time for amateurs to do this without a net.

And I have some big feelings about how what we did to manage the cascade of emergencies last year hurt my sensitive, intense child’s brain so badly that no amount of hugs and books and gardens planted and games played are enough to fix it. On the whole, I find guilt to be a uniquely unhelpful emotion, but I’m having a hard time with that right now.

***

I also knew that the boathouse would have to close, and it would have to be open-ended. Half of my teammates are in the at-risk age group, no matter how fast, strong, and healthy they are. I knew that even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t want to risk infecting a friend or bringing the bug back to the house (Graham tends toward chronic bronchitis). I knew that I would hate making that decision; I also knew the odds that we could lose at least one teammate to this crisis.

The first announcement was optimistic — we would close for a prescribed period of time and put in some social distancing rules for land workouts which would be available by sign-up with a limit…etc.

We tried, man. The optimism didn’t last long. And it shouldn’t. The boathouse is closed indefinitely — I put the website banner up myself. USRowing and local organizations are canceling regattas left and right, as well they should.

But remember my last post about San Diego Crew Classic and Nationals? The former was out before COVID-19 became a thing to worry about; Nationals, in our own backyard, also seems like a ridiculously long shot.

***

A friend is sick. It’s been a long time since we were very close, but after we met in person for the first time (he’s my high school BFF’s BFF from his first high school back east) he became my last pen-and-paper pen pal. We wrote off and on for a long time before email made catching up easier…and therefore less focused and intentional.

He is my age. He was exposed and he has all the symptoms, and “mild” still doesn’t sound great. He doesn’t qualify for a test.

The numbers are rising as predicted, we aren’t testing enough, and the data around “unspecified flu symptom” admits this season should be scaring the fuck out of everyone.

If that doesn’t do it, thinking through the fallout of doing what’s necessary to save lives today definitely should. This will change the landscape of our population, culture, economy, and daily life in ways we can only begin to predict.

***

At the moment, my main coping tool is as much exercise as I can manage with a head cold. I let up on my no-alcohol-during-the-week rule for a few days. I am not getting enough sleep — we’re trying to cross-train for fitness and sanity after the boys go to bed and the boys’ usual resistance to bedtime is off the damn charts right now.

Work is…kind of awesome? I already work from home full time, and now we all do, more or less, which levels that playing field. I’m fortunate in my immediate and c-level leadership — the benefits we already have support this transition and the company has put new supports in place quickly. But most of all, what’s critical for me is one simple fact: Our CEO is a very involved dad of still-young kids. He has been clear from the start — this is HARD, everyone is adjusting too many routines at once, and 100% productivity is not an appropriate expectation. My senior director took this week completely off to transition his family to the new normal. The CEO was 10 minutes late to the all-hands due to a kid’s meltdown…and said so.

Years ago, when our CEO was a VP who took over my department, he showed up to his first all-hands in an Elsa wig to represent how he’d spent his sabbatical: Moving his family to the Bay Area from Portland and listening to Frozen a million times because of his daughters. He was just so…I don’t know, loving and unfazed by it.

I mentioned how impressed I was to an executive mentor in our women-in-leadership program (who shall remain nameless). She told me we couldn’t be in better hands, from the perspective of that program, if we had a woman in the VP role.

He has never once made a liar of her.

And my crew is lifting each other up in ways we haven’t before — training plans and web-led workouts, individual check-ins with our coach, and a group chat that is chattier than any practice. If it wasn’t clear to any of us* how much we mean to each other, it is now.

I’m managing. To be honest, though, our family was already experiencing a fair amount of stress (March of last year is when we got Graham’s dad’s diagnosis, lost Rodney, gained Maggie…anniversaries are hard) and no one is doing coping all that well.

 

*It was to me. Off the water, duration unknown, is a status I’ve navigated before. It sucks, but we’re in this version of it together.

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