I’m not sure why it feels important to say all this, but it does feel important. I’ll start out by saying that I’m, as of the writing of this, fine. And yet.
I have some significant mental health challenges. Always have. I was suicidally depressed when I was 16…not that anyone noticed. Getting through my teens and twenties was difficult, exhausting, and hard on everyone around me. I’m 58, now, and I’ve come to appreciate certain things about myself. One of them is that I have, by and large, substituted routine for resilience. I am strong, but brittle. A too-hard hit from reality, and I shatter. When that happens, I dissociate, and it takes me time to reassemble. So far, I have always managed the reassembly. But it scares me, and I worry about the day when that happens and I can’t find all the bits of myself. It is possible that I am wrong, but I do truly think that it remains one of the possible outcomes. And that is one of the reasons why I rely so heavily upon routine.
At the end of 2020, I was looking at having my unemployment run out, and the profession I work in was not doing much in the way of hiring in Minneapolis. There were a few casual jobs, which were mostly being taken by people with a lot more experience than I have. While there were some day jobs, I was very worried about working a day shift. I have not had a significant recurrence of depression since I started working nights, and I think it extremely likely that there is a connection. I applied for a Traveler job and as a night tech, because on balance, it felt like upending my living situation would be less destabilizing than upending my sleep schedule. I took a job in Cleveland.
I want to pause, here, and stress how incredibly brave that was, for me. Other people have other challenges, and I am aware that for some people, this kind of thing would have been a doddle, and for others, unthinkable. For me, it was exactly at the edge of what I thought I could manage and do. I made lists, I pre-packed for weeks, I made arrangements with my family, I fretted, and I cried a little bit. I asked David, repeatedly, if he thought I could manage this. He said he thought I could, and that I was doing all the things necessary to make this work. And I was very, very afraid.
Right before I headed for Cleveland, I was just a wee bit sick, with a symptom which is sometimes associated with COVID, but was much more likely to be the Brussel sprouts I had eaten the night before. However, because I was going to be in direct patient care, and to give myself peace of mind, I ordered an at-home COVID test. I didn’t tell my family because I really didn’t think I had COVID. Yeah…about that. I should have told my family. I was irresponsible.
I was diagnosed while on the road to Cleveland, and had a full-on melt-down in the parking lot of a rest area. After that was over, I mustered up every bit of bravery I had, called my family, called my girlfriend that I had potentially exposed, and then called my employer. Being halfway to Cleveland, I went on, and after getting talked through my terror by a good friend, I called my Airbnb hosts, and told them I was positive. They were unhappy, briefly thought about not letting me check in, but in the end were very nice, so I did. Again, I cannot explain how much bravery this required from me. It was so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even describe it. But I did it.
Remember that thing about routine? Yeah, I was flying blind, with no instruments, no map. But I stayed in the air. I got the apartment set up. I set up some basic routines. I found the Trader Joe’s near me, the grocery store near me, got through my quarantine period with some added grace time to be safe, got my badge for work, and I was feeling incredibly brave and accomplished. I was alone, in a strange city, but my network of friends and family had sent care packages, taken frightened tearful calls, offered various bits of assistance, and I felt loved and cared for, not at all isolated.
Then I broke my arm. My work contract was cancelled, I was unable to care for myself, and the entire adventure was a terrible failure.
David came out, and has been wonderful. After two months, I have most of my range of motion back, although the arm is incredibly weak. My contract with Cleveland Clinic, which was cancelled after I broke my arm, has been reinstated, and I start work on 2/22. And, yeah all that seems great. So why was I weeping in terror and despair last night over a broken printer?
Because it’s all been entirely too much. I have been the bravest I have ever been in my life. I have exhibited more resilience than I thought I had. But as of last night, I still had a document I needed to get to my employer, which required I print out a physical form, and the printer that I bought for that purpose was defective, and I could not do that. Also hanging fire are the medical bills for this disaster. I do not have health insurance, and my phone appointment for medical assistance is tomorrow. David is leaving Wednesday. I have to move house at the end of the month because this unit is being rented to someone else, and they declined to switch to another unit. And, honestly, every bit of this is workable. I have a person to contact who can move my stuff into my car, and then out of my car to the new unit. I have already rented that unit. David figured out a different work-around for my paperwork, and the employer has said it’s fine.
But, dear friends, it really is too much. And what I don’t know, can’t know for a while, is how much of this is stuff I’ve dealt with, and how much of this is stuff I’ve dissociated, and I do not know what the final bill will be. I do not know if I will actually survive the reckoning. I mean, if I were a betting person, I’d say I can probably survive. I’m fifty-fucking-eight. I’ve made it this far. I’m unlikely to just shatter. But…there isn’t certainty. I need you to understand that. I need to understand that. I am not fragile, but I am brittle, and I do not know if I can survive my future. I am afraid.