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Hello, Dr. Young. Can I Be Your Patient Forever?

October 23, 2020

I love my new psychiatrist.

We had our first meeting this morning, and I was immediately impressed with her command of my medical and psychiatric history. I could tell she’d done her homework by the questions she asked, such as whether some of my mood episodes correspond with the seasons and what I do when my anxiety flares up. We talked for almost a solid hour, and she was bright and eager and intuitive. Hereafter she will be called Dr. Young, because she might be in her early 30s…if that. But I won’t hold that against her, especially since she also treated me with the appropriate deference without making me feel ancient.

I must admit it’s a little weird having a female head doc. All of my mental healthcare providers, except for the nurse practitioner I saw for a few months several years ago, have been men. I was comfortable with that and even preferred them in this capacity. Maybe it was because males are known for fixing problems (or at least trying to fix them) and tend to be authority figures. Dr. Y isn’t heavy on the authority, but it’s clear who’s the doctor and who is not, and I like it that way. Even though it’s very early in the relationship and I’ve been stable for a long time, I feel I can trust her to take care of me when things get bad.

She also cares about a patient’s physical health. She ordered blood tests for kidney and liver function to make sure they can handle my medication burden, and even an EKG because some of the meds I’m on can cause heart rhythm problems. She urged me to check my blood pressure often and monitor my weight too, It’s funny, I don’t even know how much I weigh. All I know is that I’ve gained back most of the 100 lbs. I lost after Will died…the specifics, I don’t really WANT to know. Haha!

Best of all, she isn’t changing my medication regimen. (She didn’t change my diagnosis either, but it’s so well-documented that there wasn’t any question about it and we didn’t even discuss it.) You can’t argue with success! I’ve been in good shape for quite a while, with a few hiccups now and then, and I know my meds are the reason. Like Dr. Goodenough, she said that my medication management is complex and there are a lot of moving parts, but if it works and adds quality to my life, then we’re going to leave things exactly the way they are. (Including the Klonopin, which a lot of younger doctors don’t like prescribing.) That is, unless there are some ominous changes in my bloodwork or on my EKG. Otherwise, we’re sticking with the tried and true, and that too is very reassuring that I’m in good hands.

So, I’m once again under a psychiatrist’s care, which is a big sigh of relief. I have to admit, though, that the clinic I’ve always gone to for mental health care has done right by me even when I was between docs, like the interim MD who called me to order bloodwork for cholesterol and thyroid, and the one who backed up Dr. Awesomesauce and put me on Zyprexa a few years back when I was manic AF and didn’t know if I was coming or going. Dr. Y also mentioned that she has plenty of backup and assured me that someone would always be available to me.

I just hope I get to keep her longer than four years…

Mental Illness Awareness Week and Other Stuff

October 10, 2020

I’m actually a little late in writing this post because it’s almost over, but the first full week in October is, indeed, Mental Illness Awareness Week. (This is different from May, which is Mental Health Month.) I don’t know exactly how (or if) it should be celebrated, but for those of us who carry a mental illness diagnosis, it’s another way our voices can be heard. So much stigma is still attached to MI, but we are making progress.

Look at all the commercials we see on TV nowadays for psychiatric medications. There’s one for bipolar depression; another for bipolar 1 specifically; still another for schizophrenia. Who would have thought even 10 years ago that these illnesses would come out of the shadows under the auspices of the drug companies? I’m no fan of pharmaceutical advertising, but if it gets people talking about mental illness, so much the better. I’d like to think the American public is smart enough to know that you don’t just take a pill and get cured, but given the uncommon-ness of common sense, I’m not sure. So, I educate whenever and wherever I can; and I love it when I talk to someone about MI and their eyes are opened because I look and talk like a “normal” person. I’m not the one-eyed purple people eater many people expect when they meet a person with a mental condition (or two).

Meanwhile, I’m going to be getting a new psychiatrist soon. I’ve been wondering about that and was just about to call the office yesterday to find out where they were on getting patients in to see the new doctors. Then I got an e-mail from one of the regular ones letting me know he was going to be filling my medications while I’m waiting. That’s nice to know. I’m not in any real need of a quick appointment, but someone with bipolar 1 really should never be without meds. I used to be so resentful that I had to take so many, but now I can’t even imagine going off this cocktail. I hope the next pdoc won’t want to futz with the magic formula, because I am doing as well as I could possibly ask for. I do hear the faintest whispers of seasonal affective disorder, but that’s perfectly normal for me. At least I recognize it now and can take action to mitigate it (thank you, HappyLight) before it gets out of control. I never want to be where I was in October 2014 ever again.

Fall is definitely here. We’ve had rainy and windy, sunny and warm, foggy and dreary. We’ve had to light the pellet stove a couple of times since this month began, and I’m back to sleeping in socks. I don’t really mind sleeping in socks—when my feet get cold, I can’t sleep, and when I can’t sleep, I’m not a happy camper. I love sleep. I also love wrapping myself up in warm blankets and sitting on the sofa with a little dog or two.

Speaking of dogs: we have a new resident hound thanks to Clint’s son, who brought him along when he moved back in with us. He’s only a pup, but he weighs 50 lbs. at least and he seems to think he’s a lap dog. Next to his “dad”, he loves me almost as much and has his ways of letting me know it. One of those ways is jumping into my lap and spreading himself across my legs as he tries to lick my face. I like it that he’s so affectionate with me, but he can be rather…overwhelming, to say the least. And he’s still got some growing to do!

I also should mention that I made it through my 40th wedding anniversary on the 27th of last month. I think I was a little depressed before and during, because we always wanted a 40th wedding anniversary and I still hate it that we didn’t get it. I see old couples walking around and I’m almost angry that Will and I didn’t get to do that in our old age. He’d be almost 70 now, can you believe it? I can’t picture it, even though he’s been gone only a little over four years. I never really saw him aging, just like he never noticed that I was no longer the 21-year-old girl he married. So, I spent the day in bed, watching football and shirking my kitchen duties. It must have worked, because I felt better the next day and have not cried any more since then. I think maybe subsequent anniversaries won’t be quite so difficult.

We shall see, anyway. Thanks for checking in and reading my stuff. 🙂

The United States of Stress

September 6, 2020

If 2020 was a drink, it would be colonoscopy prep.

I’m not kidding. This year has been such a clusterf### that I don’t think there’s a person alive who isn’t feeling the stress. Covid-19, bad weather, civil unrest in the streets, and another nasty political season have us tied up in knots. There isn’t much going right this year, and once it’s over I hope no one ever mentions it again.

The hell of it is, the stress feeds on itself. I’ve been leaning on Klonopin more than I’d like, just because I hate waking up anxious over stuff I can’t do anything about. I got T-boned in a rental car a couple of weeks ago, in an accident that was not my fault. Just my luck, the other driver was uninsured. I’m fine, it just shook me up a little, but I hate the Walmart parking lot even more now. Then a week later an SUV blew through a red light and turned in front of me, and if I didn’t have good reflexes (I’m still as quick as ever) I’d have been hit again. I wonder which gods of the universe I’ve managed to piss off. I’m already a conservative driver—in fact, Ben says I drive like somebody’s grandma (well, I AM somebody’s grandma!). But now I’m even more nervous, and my driving habits display it for all the motoring world to see.

I’m tired of watching the never-ending protests and riots every night on the news. Portland is now solidly on the map as a city rife with unrest, which has even gotten the attention of the President. I understand what the protesting is about, and in younger days I would have been marching right alongside them, but this stopped being about George Floyd a long time ago. It makes me sick to see the fires and the tagging and the destruction of hard-working peoples’ livelihoods. And the police don’t seem to be able to get it right no matter what they do–they can’t do their jobs without tools, but some of them abuse those tools, which is what got us here in the first damn place.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic ramps up stress too. Oddly enough, I’m not particularly concerned about catching it; I haven’t been physically sick in years and don’t feel I’m at high risk despite being over 60 and having underlying health conditions. But I wear my mask faithfully and my hands are bone-dry from frequent washing, because I want to protect not only my health but that of folks who may get sick much more easily than me. Some complain that mask mandates are unconstitutional, but as the saying goes, your “freedom” to breathe out nasty germs ends where my lungs begin. Or I think that’s how it goes.

The other area of life where stress really brings out the worst in me (and a helluva lot of other people) is politics. Once again, we have two Presidential candidates, neither of whom is fit for office. As a Republican, I have often leaned in favor of President Trump, but his denial in the face of Covid-19 deaths and millions of active cases is just bizarre, as are more and more of his general statements. I wish he’d STFU before he hangs himself with his own words. Then you’ve got Joe Biden, who is a decent man and thus appealing to many who are tired of the drama and downright meanness in Washington, but he almost certainly has developed some dementia and doesn’t hide it well. Besides, I personally could never vote for someone who supports abortion and illegal immigration, so I may end up writing in a non-candidate like I did the last time we went through this.

That’s just a few of the stressors that are making me grumpy and cross and anxious. What are yours?

Good-bye, Dr. Goodenough

August 9, 2020

Yes, you read that right—I am now between psychiatrists. Dear Dr. G. did exactly what I’ve been dreading since I first saw him four years ago, and retired. My last telephone visit was on Tuesday and I’m already missing him, even though I was never as close to him as I was with Dr. Awesomesauce. He was smart, compassionate, and as he said, we worked well together.

I actually found out about his impending retirement about six weeks ago. I got a call from the mental health clinic asking me to move up my September appointment to August, and even though they wouldn’t tell me why, I just knew. He sent a letter out a couple of weeks later which confirmed my suspicions, and suddenly the anxiety flared almost out of control. Who would care for me? What if I hated him/her? And oh dear God, what if I couldn’t find anyone right away and I ran out of meds? Visions of being hospitalized with a wild manic or a severe depressive episode danced in my head.

Fortunately, Dr. G outlined for me the next steps in the journey. There are two new psychiatrists starting at the clinic in a couple of months, and my care can be transferred to one of them once they get established. The office will call me when they start filling their schedules, although Dr. G said I wouldn’t be first on the list because I’ve been so stable (isn’t that nice? Yay me!), but that someone will take me on. In the interim, I can call the office for meds and in case I have a psychiatric emergency, because there are other doctors on staff who will take care of me until I get my permanent pdoc sometime this fall.

Then we did a little reminiscing about our years together. He actually apologized that my medication regimen is so “complex”, as he put it, but the simple fact is it works and I’ve got to stick with it. No argument from me; in fact, I fear the next psychiatrist will want to change the magic formula. That’s a big deal for me…for years, I resented having to take so many meds and was constantly looking for ways to cut down on the number, but somewhere in the past couple of years I came to understand that I really DON’T want to screw with bipolar disorder. My credit score and money management abilities reflect how far I’ve come, and I know I could destroy years of hard work with one manic episode. If I’m a little flat emotionally, if I lack energy and motivation, it’s a small price to pay for my sanity.

I don’t know if I would have come to that conclusion without Dr. G’s guidance. I’m stubborn, and I remember clashing with Dr. A more than once about wanting to have at least a little hypomania; but it only took a few gentle reminders from Dr. G about how necessary the meds were for me to have a decent life. Maybe I was just ready to accept it then; maybe it was that I’d finally developed the emotional maturity to see things as they were, rather than wish they were different. I don’t have many regrets in life, but taking so long to accept bipolar as a part of me is one of them. It would have gone so much easier for me if I’d realized it earlier in life and done something about it. But it’s useless to dwell on the past; far better to put those feelings to work and help other people, like I (hopefully) do with this blog.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of meds and I know I can get help if things go sideways, but I don’t expect them to. I’m stressed out due to some events happening at home and some days I wake up wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. But rather than losing my shit—which would do no good for anyone—I’m handling it.

Farewell, my good doctor. You might not have been my first choice, but you were always Goodenough for me.

Debbie Downer

July 14, 2020

No, I’m not depressed, at least not clinically, but I am in a situational funk and I hate it. No summer mania for me this year (not that I want it, but I could use a lift); in fact, summer is only now arriving as it’s been cool, cloudy and damp all through June and into July. Things have been difficult around here lately, and now I’m lost in memories of that terrible night four years ago when Will passed away after hours of extreme pain. Technically he died on the 13th, but it’s the night of the 12th that will always haunt me.

I’d never seen him in such pain in all the years we were together. Not even when he slid down a dirt hill and broke his ankle did he ever cry or scream, although he did cut loose with a string of profanities whenever he hurt himself. I can’t even imagine what he must have been going through that night…only that he was suffering, and I was utterly powerless to save him from it. It took too long for the hospice nurse to get some fire in the belly and arrange for his admission to the inpatient hospice facility, and the trip itself was too long. Clint sat with him in the transport van and has told me on more than one occasion that he was glad he was present with Will because he didn’t want me to see Will’s handsome face twisted in agony or hear his wails.

Thank God the hospice facility nurses were able to get his pain under control swiftly! He relaxed almost instantly as the medications coursed through his bloodstream, then he went to sleep, and basically never woke up again. Clint reminded me that I should call our priest to give Will the last rites, something I hadn’t even thought of doing. We were all so grateful that Father came that even my son William—not a believer—knelt on the floor and prayed with us.

After this, we had nothing to do but wait. Wait to see what would happen if Will woke up, wait to watch him pass away. Finally, around 2:30AM Clint and Ben decided to go home, while William, his then-wife, and I stayed at the bedside. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. I slipped into a recliner that had been provided for me and just watched him breathe…until he stopped.

I crept around the side of his hospital bed to assess him; nurses never stop being nurses, and I was unsure of his clinical condition. But then he reached out his hand which I literally held in a death grip, he took one last hesitant breath, and it was all over. Thirty-six years of love and marriage lay lifeless in the bed, a beautiful quilt covering his body. I still have that quilt. The hospice nurses gave it to me and it has never left my bed, except to be cleaned, in all this time.

It was 3:10 AM. That was the time I gave the nurse who came in to pronounce him. It’s the time that went on the death certificate too. Ben and Clint returned to the facility since William had called them with the news, and we drove home in total silence, the warm wind in my hair and the sun beginning to think about rising in the early-morning sky. I have never felt more lost in my life. And that wasn’t the last of my worst moments: we still had to visit the funeral home that afternoon. I bawled all the way through that meeting, but we accomplished what we needed to.

Now, four years later, it seems hard to believe it’s been that long; sometimes it feels like it all happened last week. I’m actually a lot better than I was in the first couple of years after Will died, but it’s days like today that remind me that this anniversary will ALWAYS be painful, that I will ALWAYS miss him, until my own dying day…until we meet again.

I Can’t Brain Today. I Has the Dumbs.

June 12, 2020

Seriously. I just looked at my grandson Elijah as we were chatting and all of a sudden I forgot his name. Just…forgot. I was enjoying the company of someone I have loved since the first time I held him at approximately 45 minutes old, and here I was, fumbling for the right name (Zachary? Joshua?). Fortunately it took me less time to remember it than to tell the story, but it’s downright frightening to blank out on something as important as your grandchild’s name!

But that’s just another day in paradise for me and my (once-bright) mind. Ben is usually the one to catch my errors; he gives me shit about it all the time because he’s the only person in the house who A) knows what I USED to be like, and B), thinks it’s funny. I’ve always been a little unfocused and not as observant as I should be—except when I was working as a nurse—but I wasn’t outright dumb. And while there are those who would take issue with me saying that, may I remind you that there’s a big difference between dumb and stupid. Stupid is some idiot saying “Hold my beer and watch this!” and you can’t fix that. Dumb, on the other hand, is stumbling and bumbling through life, and everyone tolerates it because it’s kinda cute in its own way.

I don’t want to be cute. I want my brain back, the wonderful organ that once aced algebra courses and demanded to be stimulated and challenged every day. I don’t know what happened to its intellectual curiosity, either. I do know I don’t have dementia, but I sure act like it sometimes! I forget where the Delete key is on the computer. I forget I’ve spent money and get mad because I think it’s been stolen, which did happen in the past but hasn’t for quite some time. I’ve even been known to flub my words when out in public, which is embarrassing as hell for me and doubtless makes others uncomfortable.

I had a “telehealth” conversation this week with Dr. Goodenough, which consisted of an informal chat on the phone since I can’t figure out how to use Skype or Zoom. I don’t think he knows either. We talked about my tardive dyskinesia and of course about my bipolar brain-fade. I reiterated that I feel I would get at least SOME of my smarts back if I didn’t have to take so much medication, but I said it just for the record. I know there’s not going to be a reduction or discontinuation of any of them, not in this lifetime, because my current regimen is what works. We do not mess with this magic formula. There is room to go up as necessary, but right now that’s not an issue since I’m stable as can be. I feel like a regular person now, at least my version of what a regular person must be like, and I won’t give that up because I’m upset about being such a ditz.

But sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I remember what it was like to have intellectual conversations, to read books and talk about them, to be quick-witted and funny and full of piss and vinegar.

Oh, well…

Spinning Out

May 29, 2020
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Don’t worry, I’m not personally spinning out, that’s the title of a TV show about an ice skater who just happens to be bipolar. I ran across a Facebook review of the show, which lasted only one season, and so on to Netflix I went. After some time searching for it, I settled down to watch and became intrigued almost immediately. The plot lines are admittedly pretty thin, but the main character, Kat, and her mother Carol (who also has BP) portray complex people in a complex relationship with authenticity.

Built around the dog-eat-dog world of championship figure skating, the story follows Kat, her sister Serena (who is also a skater), her mother and a host of other colorful characters. Of course, no one in the skating arena knows about Kat’s “nonconformity” but Mom and Little Sister, and they hurt each other frequently and deeply. Serena does NOT have bipolar, and she is often caught in the middle between Carol and Kat. Carol goes on and off her meds at more or less regular intervals, with predictable results; Kat is generally good at taking hers, but in one episode she goes off the lithium to see if that would give her enough energy to skate better, and the chaos that ensues in subsequent episodes almost costs her everything.

Almost. I’m coming to the end of the series, and so far she’s been able to resurrect her career, reconnect with her best friend, and make peace with her skating partner. I hope she can hold it together through her next competition, because she’s a very good skater. I’m just sorry the series only ran for one season, I believe it was in 2018 or 2019.

It’s wonderful that mental illness is being brought into the open more and more, even though stereotypes are still common and audiences may get the wrong ideas. This is the end of Mental Health Month, which is helping to raise awareness of mental conditions and show the public that the vast majority of MI people are not monsters. (Sorry I’m back up on my soapbox, but I cannot overstate how important it is to keep advocating for ourselves.) That’s why I do what I do here at bpnurse.com, and why other mentally ill people are doing the same thing. I don’t feel sorry for myself as someone with bipolar disorder; I fight bipolar disorder.

I didn’t always do that. For a long time after I was diagnosed, I felt I was marked for life and that nothing would ever be right again. While I’ll never be “cured”, I have weapons to deal with the illness and I use them religiously. I haven’t even THOUGHT about messing with my meds in two years, and it used to be every spring and fall—it was so predictable that I didn’t even need a calendar to tell me what season it was. Now I’m over the idea that cutting back on meds is a worthy goal to be accomplished as soon as possible. Every single drug I’m on has its place in my treatment plan, and only Dr. Goodenough gets to decide if and when the regimen will change. My job is to take them as prescribed, and only on a (very) rare occasion do I forget them. No spinning out for me!

Tri-Chem, The Coronavirus, and Me

May 3, 2020

I never thought I’d say this, but I am BORED. This stay-at-home business has long since lost its luster (not that it ever had any) and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. In fact, I’m so bored that I started wondering if they still make those old TriChem paints that my mother and grandmother used to make designs on linens.

Now, I’m probably dating myself by even mentioning it, but y’all know how old I am so it’s not like a shocker or anything. I remember watching my foremothers lovingly decorate their pillowcases with whimsical bouquets of posies. I even attempted a rose project myself, but I got tired of it by the time I got to the leaves and left it for my mother to finish. I never was very domestic, even when I was young and impressionable, so I’m finding this continuing lockdown more and more inconvenient with each day that passes…just like the one before it.

The only escape is, of course, the grocery store and the pharmacy, both of which are places I don’t particularly care to go. I haven’t even been out this entire week, not just because I’m feeling incredibly unmotivated (but woo-hoo, I finally got my laundry done!) but because I hate wearing a mask. I’m lucky enough to have one, but I always had problems wearing them at work when I was nursing–I’m terribly claustrophobic and having something covering most of my face is distressing to me. Besides, I honestly don’t believe I’m going to get Covid-19; I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed to the virus, and I think I would have had it already if I were going to. My immune system is excellent and has thrown off bugs time and time again over the past 2 1/2 years, and even though I realize that I could get sick, I probably won’t.

One positive aspect of life in these unsettling times is the stimulus payment of $1200 I got last Wednesday. That means I can finally get new glasses, which I need badly because I can hardly see out of the ones I’m wearing. It’s no wonder, I haven’t had an eye exam in five years, but it scares me that I can’t see the fine print on anything and my vision is so blurry much of the time. I haven’t done anything about it because Medicare doesn’t cover glasses or contacts, which is ridiculous because the program is mainly for older people, and who needs vision help more than the elderly? Anyway, I have the money now, and I can afford to get good ones. And I’ll even have some funds left over, which I’m going to save. I really don’t need anything…I’ve got all the clothes I want and need, I don’t have to worry about buying stuff for the house, and I’m happy with the electronics I already have. Other than my own personal stash of food and drink, everything else is provided for me. Yes, I pay rent, but that goes to the mortgage to help keep a roof over our heads.

And in case you didn’t know it, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year, I see mental illness become just a little less stigmatized, and that makes me proud. Even as recently as a decade ago, a couple of years before I was first diagnosed, it wasn’t understood nearly as well as it is now, and that’s because of the rising level of education. It’s because people with brain disorders are talking about them, which helps the public see that we are not all potential ax murderers or school shooters. While there is plenty of room for more knowledge and acceptance, it’s a good start, and I hope both will continue to grow as mental illness comes out of the shadows and into the light of everyday conversation.

That was my week. How was yours?

Homeland

April 11, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S. and stay-at-home orders are being extended until further notice, I’ve had plenty of time to get bored and restless and full of ennui. Lately it’s taken the form of binge-watching TV until 3 or 4 in the morning, and what I watch is called Homeland. It’s a series about a CIA agent who just happens to have bipolar 1 disorder, but the spy shit is exciting too. I don’t normally like spy shit. But I am fascinated with this version of it.

As hard as it must be to act the part of a person with bipolar if you don’t have it, Claire Danes (the star of the series) pretty much gets it right. Her character’s depression looks amazingly like the real thing, and her portrayal of mania is amazing…even somewhat triggering. I recognize the pressured speech and over-the-top energy, and I can practically feel it flowing through me like an electrical current. But everything goes back to normal when I finally shut off the TV and go to bed, so I don’t worry about it. The show is THAT exciting!

I do have one complaint about “Carrie’s” use of medication, however. Her sister, who is a doctor, gives them to her, and the way she takes her meds is haphazard at best; all too often she’ll grab a bottle of pills, shake out a few and toss them in her mouth. That’s not how it works. Occasionally she’ll go off her meds entirely, with the inevitable bad outcomes. The first season, her condition is never named but it’s obviously not what you want to see in a high-profile CIA case officer, but by the middle of season 2 she’s in full-blown mania, lands in a psychiatric hospital, and loses her job. By some miracle she gets it back thanks to her mentor, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), and for awhile she’s faithful to her med regimen and doesn’t use them as PRNs. But eventually she goes off her meds again and this time he hangs her out to dry in front of God and everybody at a public hearing, and she is placed on administrative leave.

Never count Carrie out, though…soon she’s back in the saddle again and life returns to normal, whatever that is for someone who works 20-hour days. Right now I’m in the middle of season 3 and it’s getting more intriguing so it’s really hard for me to shut off the TV even after watching three or four episodes in a row. In fact, I’m going to watch a few more hours of it tonight if I don’t pass out on the sofa like a drunk and stumble to bed in the wee hours. Sometimes that happens and I miss the last 15 minutes, which annoys the hell out of me because I can’t figure out how to go back to previous episodes and catch up on what I missed. (I haven’t quite figured out Hulu just yet.) Naturally, I usually sleep till about 11 and get up around noon; I like to just lie in my recliner and enjoy the fact that while I’m in it, absolutely NOTHING hurts. Not my back, not my knees, not even my ex-broken ankle which still hurts seven months later. The family doesn’t get it, they’re all morning people (well, Shelley is, but the guys prefer a more casual approach to getting up), and they don’t know how I can stay awake practically all night and sleep so late into the day. But then I’ve NEVER been a morning person, and likely never will be. Especially when I have something interesting to do at night.

It’s Getting Weird Out There

March 26, 2020

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about COVID-19. Everybody from the President to the man on the street is obsessed with it; even a few of the car commercials and fast-food ads I’ve seen in the past few days have tossed something in there about it, and in the news it’s 24/7 coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus. But on day 3 of Oregon’s official lockdown, writing about it is the only thing there is to do, it seems. So here goes.

It’s so quiet in town that nothing is moving unless it’s headed to Walmart for the last gallon of milk and loaf of bread. You can’t get toilet paper anywhere and it’s making me very nervous, as we have only about a week and a half’s worth. People are ill everywhere…three of them in my own family. Ben especially has been really sick (and yes, he’s been tested and does NOT have the virus); he’s dealing with influenza B and pneumonia, which are bad enough. Shelley has what sounds like bronchitis, and we have a family friend staying with us because she lives with her mother, who won’t let her come home until she is well again. Clint and I are almost indecently healthy, but then we both have immune systems that could fight off the squirrels in the backyard.

~sigh~ We missed our much-anticipated cruise vacation, which was a major disappointment. Right now I’m supposed to be on Lido deck, floating around somewhere in the Pacific and touring the Mexican Riviera. Carnival cancelled all cruises just days before we were supposed to board, but of course if we’d all shown up at the terminal with Ben and Shelley hacking up a lung, we would have been turned away anyway, and then we would have been stuck in L.A. I can think of a lot of places I’d rather be. And even if we’d been able to get on the ship, who knows whether there was some other poor unfortunate soul who actually had COVID-19 and got us all quarantined aboard for at least 14 days. So maybe we’re better off at home after all.

Speaking of home, that’s where we’ve been since the governor of our state issued stay-at-home orders, AKA lockdown. We can’t go anywhere except to stores, pharmacies, or doctors (and even going to the clinic is dicey). Oh yes, there’s also the liquor and cannabis stores and takeout places, but there is no shopping in indoor OR outdoor malls, no sit-down restaurants or bars, no movie theaters, no large gatherings of any kind. We don’t even get to watch the Olympics this year, for which I don’t blame anyone–nobody wants to endanger the athletes or the people attending. And there doesn’t seem to be any end to it, because no one knows yet how many more people will get sick with this thing.

Yep, it’s getting really weird out there. Almost post-apocalyptic, to be honest. I’ve seen a lot of movies like Contagion and The Stand, the latter of which is a Stephen King novel about what happens when a lethal germ that’s been created in a top-secret lab gets loose, wiping out 99% of the world’s population. Now, hoarding TP and sheltering in place are nowhere near as bad as the cluster-fuck described in this story, but we’re also doing dumb things that make matters worse. Just the other day I saw some of the neighbors outside in their yard with something like five or six kids on bikes racing around the property and a few adults who were obviously NOT social distancing. This isn’t 1965 when mothers whose kids had mumps or chickenpox would get together so all their kids would be exposed to the disease, get sick, and be done with it for life. (I remember these “parties” well, but strangely enough I never got either illness. I was too busy getting strep throat and bronchitis.) Why would anyone let half a dozen kids congregate and possibly spread infection with a sometimes-deadly virus? That’s more like playing Russian roulette.

In the meantime, we’re all a little stir-crazy. We haven’t had any arguments–yet–but we know we have to walk lightly because who KNOWS when all this will be over. It sure doesn’t look good right now.