I mean, I was doing okay. I was doing really good, all things considered. Until last Friday when I went out.
First, I was in the hospital a few times last week, and saw the day to day changes they were making. One day, there were suddenly tents outside. Another, there was a fever checkpoint station and they gave me a mask to wear. Then, there was tape on the floor and I had to stand six feet from the reception desk. Then, one day, came the Plexiglas.
It was a huge barrier blocking reception. Fine. Ok. Makes sense. There was another one blocking triage. Again, I get it, I guess, even though she was back and forth taking my temperature and blood pressure. But when it really got bad was at the grocery store.
I have been going to the store without a problem…I have been obeying the tape on the floor telling me where to stand. I wore a scarf last week to cover my face. But Friday, I went a step further. Mark got me some masks, because he is frankly terrified that I will get this thing, and had insisted I wear a mask whenever I am out. Knowing he was probably right, I took a mask and a pair of latex gloves to the store. The first problem was that it was hard to regulate my breathing with the mask. The second problem was that it fogged up my glasses, making it impossible for me to see. The third problem was that my brain was so focused on these two problems that the grocery list went out the window.
By the time I made it to the end I was gasping for air with a cart full of stuff I just grabbed and tossed in without thinking too much. That’s when I saw it: Plexiglas. One big slab of Plexiglas keeping the cashier safe. From me.
It was a trigger, I guess. Suddenly I was back in the hospital: I was sick, I was in pain.
As I paid, I was screaming in my head about how fast my heart was beating. As I bagged my groceries, I started sweating. I started getting paranoid that I would pass out, and someone would think I had the virus. By the time I was loading the bags into the car, I was crying. When I finally got in the car and shut the door, I started to scream. I couldn’t stop. I called Mark, screaming at him, needing him to help calm me down, but he thought I was angry or something and started screaming back. After some confusion, he realized what was happening and tried to calm me down enough to the point of sobs, which was decidedly better than screaming. Screaming in your car in a parking lot gets the cops called. Sobbing only gets you weird looks.
When the sobs subsided, and I was able to drive, I had to go to the pharmacy. The store was empty, and I had given up on wearing the mask, so I was a little better, until I saw the Plexiglas at the counter. It all started again. I paid quickly and ran out the door and into the car. Perhaps a cup of coffee would make me feel better? Tim Hortons drive-thru is still open, so I headed over there and ordered my usual. I pulled up to the window, where a blue gloved hand reached from below a newly installed Plexiglas shield to take my money. I felt myself start to cry. I held it together and got my coffee, and drove home, and collapsed in Mark’s arms, in tears.
I mean, I was doing okay.
My life hasn’t changed a whole lot: I didn’t lose a job, my husband didn’t lose a job, I get to see my parents every day, and I run errands like I always did. But I am missing things: my people. Friends, family, etc. I am missing taking the kids places, like the playground especially. I am missing going into a store for something other than groceries. I am missing the hospital being a “safe” place.
That last one is the root of all problems.
I would walk into the hospital in the past and feel relief, before they gave me meds, before I even saw a doctor. I would be relieved because I knew real relief was coming, and I was safe. Any terrible things I was imagining, I was now protected from by the fortress of Mercy Hospital and the warrior-staff therein. But now, I sense their fear, and it scares me in turn. That’s what the Plexiglas is, more than protection from the virus-protection from the fear of contraction.
I told Sahar about the Plexiglas: she thought it was nuts. Then, two days later she sent me a photo of her grocery store in Kentucky that had just installed it.
It’s been a week now, and I am no longer having panic attacks, but I was facing some roadblocks, mask-wise. Yesterday, Gov. Cuomo said that we have to start wearing masks in public. Panicked, I messaged my aunt Mel who recently posted a photo of a mask she made and asked for help. In less than 24 hours, I had my very own Wonder Woman mask. It’s a good fabric, it fits, doesn’t fog up my glasses, and I haven’t panicked yet.
I mean, I was doing okay. And I will again. We all will.