This pandemic has been tough on me. It’s been tough on everyone in different ways. I try hard to not shame myself into thinking my struggles are not valid.

We moved during this. Not that it matters but it was never our intention to move during a global pandemic. As the world closed down we had to reschedule closings, movers and were on edge every time we drove from our old house to our new house. I still can’t believe we pulled it off.

I was just coming out of a near breakdown, caused I think by a second bout of diverticulitis and a bad reaction to antibiotics. And the stress of moving.

Schools shut down here on March 13th, as they did many places in the country. My oldest had been out sick that entire week due to flu (positive for flu B). I stayed home with him 4 of those days and, knowing everything was shutting down, I chose to go to work on Friday the 13th in order to have one more day of normalcy before the apocalypse. Since my son had chosen to attend the school assigned to our new house, my husband raced to the school to clean out his locker.

I had a panic attack in the parking lot of the Giant near my work. I had gone in to get some things, I panic bought pads and tampons, and started to dry heave in the self checkout – just the thing the other patrons wanted to see at the start of a pandemic, I’m sure. My breathing became heavy and the gagging continued as I took my purchases to the car. I started to breakdown hysterically. I called my youngest sister. I cried to her about my fears about the pandemic, the move, my teeth. Everything was crushing me.

I found the March 13th list in a jacket pocket back in November.

Not the best way to start what would be a year of isolation and fear.

Part of why this pandemic has hit my mental health so hard is because I had high expectations of the move. My oldest didn’t have a good experience at his middle school and was looking forward to a new school. I was finally in a place where I felt I could handle friendships well and a little court right near the community pool was the perfect place.

None of that happened.

The thing that brought me to therapy back in 2017 was the constant uncertainty and judgement I felt about every action I made. The “shoulds” had gotten so loud that I wasn’t able to function. Fast forward to a global pandemic and you can imagine how I reacted to all the “shoulds” placed upon me.

I am a smart person. I know that given some effort I could learn pretty much anything. I have read and listened to a lot about COVID and how it spreads. The policies are not science based. The COVID narrative became less about science and more about shaming. It was treated as both inevitable and totally preventable at the same time. It was the latter that caused the shaming and became the loudest “should”.

Getting COVID was a moral failure. You broke the rules and got COVID, you deserve it. If you left the house for any non-essential reason you were guilty of murder. If you stay home, you save the lives of millions of people from your neighbor to someone half way across the world. Masks don’t work, oh wait they do. Hand sanitizer, virus on surfaces, playgrounds closed. As the summer approached and numbers dwindled things became better. No pool but summer camp was on, shorter and with COVID protocols but it helped my oldest deal with the depression and mood swings from the isolation. My youngest wanted to join Cub Scouts so we did that. Things were looking up.

Then the fall spike. Everything shut down again. Cubs became virtual, schools refused to reopen, my oldest’s new neighborhood friends stopped going outside. The election.

The “shoulds” were still loud. I worried that if people saw us as being less strict than they were being, we would become neighborhood pariahs before even getting a chance to show people how nice we were. That my sons would have no friends because their parent were “racist COVID deniers”. There was no evidence to suggest that. If anything we followed the rules tighter than most people we knew. We hadn’t left the state, barely left the house, wore masks wherever required without incident. But I was still afraid. I saw the rhetoric online and figured people must be thinking these things in real life. I thought everyone was judging everyone else all the time. It made me difficult to be with, I’m sure.

I wanted to start over in this new place but it didn’t happen. I am afraid I lost my chance. We’ve been here almost a year now and we have no friends. What does that say about us? Is it just us that is having a hard time? My kids have never set foot in their new schools. My youngest’s Cub Scout experience has been depressing and no one really tried to get to know him; I have reacted badly toward some of the leadership because of that. (Although a touch of empathy from them for how difficult it must been to join a group only virtually would have helped.)

Data has shown the lockdowns to this extent were not necessary, schools did not need to remain closed in the fall, outdoor gatherings do not spread COVID and had no reason to be regulated. No one is sorry for the damage done and it infuriates me. It brings out all the OCPD thoughts I’ve worked so hard to eliminate. Thankfully I’ve only had a handful of outbursts and most of the OCPD behaviors haven’t come back. But I feel awful about any hurt I caused, anytime I was impatient and lacked empathy. Why don’t others feel the same? They “should”.

The “shoulds” get me every time. This pandemic has been mostly a pandemic of “shoulds”. It’s crushing me.

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