It has been two full weeks of sickness and mayhem at our house. Starting March 9th, it went something like: Levi fever; daylight saving time; me feeling like I’d die of exhaustion from daylight saving time + toddler; Dawn puking; epic blizzard; me nauseous; me puking, fever + intense head cold; Dawn coughing all night + head cold. I got my appetite back only three days ago and still have an uncomfortable amount of congestion and pressure in my head, but we are recovering S-L-O-W-L-Y. I think this is probably a pretty typical two week span for a family with kid(s) in daycare during the winter months, but that thought isn’t comforting when it is happening to you.
The problem is that I could find no comforting thoughts when it was happening to us. In fact in the few days after I stopped puking and the fever cleared but still couldn’t eat nor breath, I got really dark. All of the concepts and mini-mantras that I put in place for myself at the start of the year either didn’t apply or were not holding up. Be kind to myself: I didn’t have much choice. I didn’t have the energy to be mean and scolding, and all I could do is move slowly from bed to bathroom and maybe take the adventure of going downstairs. Enough: Enough? What’s enough? Feeling like death? Pulling the covers up? Yes, this is enough alright. Just not really applicable. Everything is as it should be…. Really? I would get kind of mad at myself for uttering this one. This is not as it should be. This is not even really living! I would watch videos or shows of sunny days and people living their lives–house hunting, attending carnivals, making food (bleh!), what-have-you, and it just seemed impossible that I would ever again be one of those people. On the days when I was well enough to go places, I would stare out the car windows, taking in the world and feeling completely not a part of it at the same time.
I tried to rely on the old, “this too shall pass….” But I just found myself having a really hard time believing it. There was no light at the tunnel’s end. It was just dark and hard. Everyday I would ask myself, why does it have to be so hard? And then beat myself up for feeling like this was so hard when there are people everywhere who actually have it “hard.” I found myself frustrated that I didn’t have a plan in place for how to make myself feel better when there was really so little to feel good about. My Pollyanna-ish wife, of course, got fed up with my darkness. Look, she’d point out, we are all alive. We have each other. We have a roof over our heads (food to eat, though we cannot stomach any of it), and so on…. Who likes Pollyanna-isms in the face of a “life is so hard” fit? Not me.
For two weeks I missed my 5:30am writing time, I missed my workouts and trips to the gym (I feel like my muscles have atrophied), I missed making healthy meals for my family, and I missed a boatload of time at work. This is starting to sound very whiny, but these are the things that make me feel human, and alive, and like I have my shit together. Without those stabilizing touchstones, I felt disoriented, unfocused, and kind of like a pile of mush.
But guess what we did this past weekend? We cooked, and cooked, and cooked some more. We entertained friends, had a play date, did story time at the library, went on a family walk. We did laundry and folded diapers. I worked a whole lot. I got up in the morning and wrote. I put a workout in the planner for Thursday. And while I made my bed, I scolded myself for not believing that we would ever come out on the other side of the illness and madness.
My refusal to believe is reflective of the kind of studies described in this fascinating New Yorker article about why people don’t change their minds, even in the face of the facts. Despite the huge amount of evidence accumulated over the course of my life that the darkness doesn’t last forever, that routine does come back eventually, and that nothing ever stays the same, I continue not to believe it! I do think as someone who has suffered from depression in the past, it does flip me out to fall into the darkness because I know too well how long it can last. And even though this series of challenging events only lasted two weeks, it felt so.much.l-o-n-g-e-r. Regardless, though, the vast amount of evidence still points to the fact that we endure, we overcome, life returns to us and we return to life. I’m still waiting for the rest of the snow to melt, for the rain to stop, and to see my first crocus, but at least I can breath through my nose (kind of) while doing it!