I'm Struggle-Bussing....How Are You?
Blogs are hard. There is a constant pressure to make sure that your next post is as good as the post before and you can’t let too much time pass or people lose interest and forget to follow you or check back. Well, on all counts, I’ve been a terrible blogger. It has been 273 days since my last blog post. Two hundred and seventy three days. And that post only received 56 views. Does it even count?
I’m going to be honest. These last 273 days have been a struggle. A struggle that I have tried to hide from absolutely everyone. Especially given the work I’m dedicated to. We are not two years removed from the death of George Floyd and the uprisings that followed. We are not two centuries out from the end of slavery, not one century out from the end of Jim Crow….there are people alive whose grandparents….GRANDPARENTS…were enslaved. And yet, I’m struggling.
In the first year of the pandemic. In all that was unknown, I rocked out that uncertainty like a champ. I took lockdown in stride, excelled at not losing my mind while my then five year old tried to finish Pre-K online, took on huge role at work as my chair took urgent, long-term sick leave in the same week that everything shut down from COVID, and was present at every single protest I could attend to stand with the centuries of Black voices that have been screaming into the void for justice. I was a goddamn pandemic rockstar.
And then finally just as we turned from 2020 to 2021, vaccines became available. I waited my turn and then was first in line to be vaccinated. I not only wanted the pandemic to end, I wanted to do everything in my power to contribute to my community’s ability to go back to some sense of normal life. I really thought we’d get mass vaccinated and get to go back to regular things like impromptu nights at a friends house or teaching in a college classroom without needing to do an at home test or the fear of it resulting in someone dying.
But that’s not what happened. Vaccines turned from science to politics. Deep seated distrust of the government led to some of our most vulnerable communities refusing to get vaccinated. My university rescinded their guarantee to be back in person face to face in light of the Delta variant and two weeks before the Fall semester started we were given the option of hyflex, something I for one was absolutely not prepared to alter my course for with so little time.
Instead of the joyous return to the classroom I’d anticipated, with the opportunity to build the relationships I love having with my students that seemed impossible to build on Zoom, I returned to a classroom full of anxious students, angry that they had to come to campus because Zoom works perfectly fine. I understood it. Everyone got accustomed to Zoom life. No commutes, opportunities to multi-task with your camera off, no need for childcare. Plus, I teach post-traditional students who are already putting themselves at risk in their full-time jobs and field placements. But I was disappointed.
I’m an extrovert. I rely on people. I need people. I’d operated on the fly and in crisis mode for over a year and I wasn’t prepared for more time away, more time apart, more time at home in a basement office. I also need structure and a schedule. Working from home with no where to be and no one expecting me to show up left me with too much time to feel it all.
Since August I’ve felt less and less like myself. Anxious about bad things happening. Too anxious to enjoy social situations. Without energy for things that need to get done and relying on my husband to not only pull his weight, but some of mine too. And all the while feeling very inadequate because I don’t even know how this happened. How did I blaze through the worst parts of all of this only to crash at a time that just doesn’t seem all that bad in comparison?
One day in November, right before Thanksgiving, I just cracked. Had a total meltdown. Called my husband crying. Sent a message to my doctor asking for help. I just couldn’t take the feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. Both my husband and my doctor were amazing. Zero judgment and total support.
Apparently, despite my decades as a professional social worker, I didn’t realize how many of the boxes I checked for depression and anxiety. My doctor prescribed me a low-dose anti-depressant and wanted me to get a therapist. I reluctantly took the meds. It’s so shitty what a stigma we have against mental health and the very real chemical imbalance happening in our bodies to cause it. I know all of these things. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to tell a client to take a med that would help them feel better. Yet, here I was, judging myself for needing to do it.
It's been a few months. Not every day is great. There are still days, like this past Wednesday, when I choose to nap for an hour and a half instead of go swim laps, which I know will make me feel worlds better than pulling the covers over my head, but I just can’t manage the motivation.
But guess what? I’m back. I just wrote and published my first blog in 273 days! And I’ve scheduled new White Affinity Circle Series’ for the year, which you should check out in the White Affinity Work tab on my website if you’re interested.
Slowly, as I grow into Year 40 (yes, than milestone is approaching as well!) I’m finding my way back to myself, my passions, and I’m giving myself grace for all the bullshit we’ve been through in these last two years. If you’ve made it through and feel unscathed….kudos to you! Really, celebrate whatever it is that has held you down and pulled you through. But if you haven’t made it through these last two years unscathed….it’s not you. This experience has been a long term hardship that we have all processed differently. Give yourself the grace and permission to feel and heal however you need to. There are no black and white answers here. Welcome back to In The Grey!