Category Archives: personal stories

Crisis Equals Opportunity

Raise your hand if you have a copy of John Taylor’s Feelings Are Good album. I do. When I think of this early solo album of his, one of the first things that comes to mind is the phrase that I used as the title. Crisis equals opportunity. I think about it as it is on the cover of my copy. I had not heard the phrase before even though it has been around long before this album was released. Clearly, though, John felt that this phrase fit for him at the time of the release. It is a phrase that I always keep locked in the back of my mind since then. I like the idea that you take something awful, something terrible and it takes you to somewhere or something better.

This phrase, this idea is one that I have revisited frequently in the last few weeks, especially this week. When this pandemic first started, my anxiety went through the roof. I worried about my own health after having been in a building with 2000 people on a daily basis. My concern for my parents could not have been greater as I constantly fretted over whether or not they got it and would stay in. (For the record, my parents are stubborn and often feel/act like they are invincible.) When thinking about my job, I had no idea what my school district would do or what I would need to learn/do in response. In those first few weeks, I experienced constant tension, headaches, etc. My body clearly reacted to the extreme anxiety I was experiencing on a constant basis. As days and weeks passed, I figured out that this was not going to be a short term deal but one that could/would last far longer than I ever expected. I knew, then, that I could not keep going as I was. There was my crisis. I could either fall apart or I had to remember and use any and all strategies I had developed/created in dealing with my anxiety disorder over the years.

In looking back at various points in my life when my anxiety was particularly challenging, one or two strategies come to mind. For example, a few summers ago things were rough when it came to work. I started journaling again in response. I had to get it all out to make things not so scary. Before that, I had to walk on a daily basis to get rid of the headaches I was suffering from. So, now, I knew that this time would require a strategy or two to get myself together. I started coloring. It helped but not enough. I began journaling. It helped but not enough. I tried making a schedule in an attempt to have a sense of control. Naps became a daily feature. All things I attempted/started and helped but I still felt like a human ball of tension. What’s the deal?

I had to start really thinking about this time. What is the same and different about this period of extreme anxiety? One big element is that I am alone. I literally have been all by myself for almost 6 weeks. Once I realized that this is a big part of it, a lightbulb went off in my head. This anxiety is doubled, is magnified because there is the social aspect to it. Throughout my life, I have never been great, socially, which is interesting because people fascinate me and I chose a career in which I am around people all day long. No, I have always desperately wanted to have people like me, to be friends with me but I have been hurt a lot by people I called my friends once upon a time. This has led me to do more observing than interacting until I can trust people. So, now, I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of friends but I do have people I can trust. How does this fit into this crisis? How does recognizing that I need people I can trust in my life factor in? More importantly, what do I really need right now, socially?

In thinking through all of this, I have come to realize that I need to know that I matter. I don’t mean that I need to know that I make a difference as I do get that feedback from teaching, political activism and even from writing this blog. No, I need to know that people think about me, care about me, and not because of a job that I have but because I’m a person that they deem worthy, important and important to them. Thankfully, I have my family who checks in with me and the rest of the family daily. I have a couple of friends here where I live that text me each and every day. They text me random things from things about work or politics or just how they are feeling. In thinking about all of this, I am thankful that they just stepped up to do this but I should probably be prepared to explain to those people I have come to trust what I *need*. For a long time, I thought the goal was to be able to survive 100% on my own without anyone else but I don’t think that is right anymore. I need strategies to deal with my anxiety, including having people care about me. That doesn’t make me weak or demanding. That makes me feel like a person who matters.

This time in self-isolation has definitely been a crisis of sorts but it has also been an opportunity to learn about myself, about what I need to be well and to thrive. Am I 100% where I need to be? No, I’m definitely a work in progress and some days are pretty awful still. For example, Tuesday night featured a pretty bad meltdown in which I was screaming, shouting and crying about how hopeless it all seemed. This carried over until Wednesday, which was my birthday. I have had some weird ones over the years but being alone? That felt terrible compounded by having a window leak in my condo. I am still struggling to get everything I want to do done as there are moments during the day that I just sit down and feel paralyzed. That feeling, especially happens every time I think about the job search that I know I should and want to do.

In turning this crisis into what I hope is an opportunity, I’m hoping that the anxiety is more manageable than not so that I can continue to work, to function and even to write this blog. As I move through this process, this time, not only will I continue to think about my strategies but also will look to Duran Duran to inspire, to keep my going and thinking just like John Taylor did with including that phrase on his solo album. Crisis equals opportunity, indeed.

-A

Going to Who Knows Where

If you were online at all yesterday, particularly on Twitter – you may have caught a tweet or two regarding our Zoom video party. Amanda spent some quality time with a small crowd of fellow Duranies as they watched videos and chatted. Technical difficulties kept me from participating on Zoom, but instead I offered to chat on Twitter with a few stragglers who like me, were unable to get into the Zoom meeting.

While it didn’t work out the way we’d hoped, it seemed as though everyone had a good time and perhaps brightened up the afternoon/evening. If we do this again, there are a few changes we’ll make to increase the likelihood of it all working!

On a personal note, I’m finding it more and more difficult to write. Time isn’t the issue, but instead – it’s sheer lack of creativity on my part. Times are weird, and try as I might, I have no problem admitting that right now, Duran Duran is not on top of the list of things I think about each day. Daydreaming about concerts or even reminiscing about times gone past does very little to spark my interest. While I am not worried about the virus, I find that its everything else that keeps me up at night. Right now, the world seems to look a lot more like muted shades of grey than the gorgeous rainbow it once was.

At 2am, when I typically wake up with my neck aching from stiffening up with stress, I think about my youngest and how this is going to affect her in the years to come. I am sure other parents out there understand. It is difficult not to think about how long this could possibly go on, and that it has likely changed the course of our lives forever.

Then there’s Gavin. He works at Target and is in contact with the public. Sure, he douses himself with sanitizer on a regular basis at work, and can tell me everything I ever needed to know about the differences between cleanser, sanitizer and disinfectant, but his life? Is this it? Online college classes are fine for most of the academics, but what if you’re taking automotive or cooking?

My oldest, on the other hand, is still working. The one kid I was most concerned about because of the nature of her job – is still working. Who knew? She teaches in our garage using Zoom, my husband works in his office, also on Zoom, and Jeremy – the significant other of my oldest – is working from here too. They all seem fine, I guess.

The thing is, none of us are. Sure, life is continuing I suppose, but it’s a mere shell of what it once was. We get up, “go” to work, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. My days are still pretty much the same as always too. I get up, do morning animal chores, write the blog, do household chores, make dinner, clean up from dinner, go to bed. But there’s not a lot else. All of the colorful things that make life fun and/or interesting are sort of missing right now. I’m trying to find them. I would imagine the longer this goes on, the more used to it I will become, and then maybe I’ll start seeing the world filled with beautiful color again.

-R