Dear brain: the pandemic isn’t over; get your shit together

I received my first COVID shot on Monday and all week I’ve been fighting my stupid brain. I guess I’ve been buckling down for 13 months with the objective of “just need to get vaccinated”. And now that I’ve gotten one single shot my brain is telling me “woohoo, time to live again!”.

But of course I have 5 more weeks and a second dose before I’m fully vaccinated. And even then life doesn’t “return to normal” as I have several friends who won’t be fully vaccinated by then. Not to mention necessary and sensible precautions to help protect others in our community, including the families of our friends with young kids.

The gorgeous, sunny, warm weather this week has only made things worse, oddly.

All week I’ve been simultaneously delighted and distraught.

Beware the blues after your first post-COVID gathering

We’re all anxiously awaiting being vaccinated and finally getting to visit friends in person after more than a year of social distancing. Be prepared for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster — up and down — on that first post-COVID gathering.

A month ago our good friends K & M reached out and asked if Daniel and I were interested in getting together for several days of visiting, food, board games, movies, and visiting after some mutually-agreed-upon quarantining prior. All 4 of us are fully work-from-home and have been following very similar stringent quarantining protocols for the past year which certainly made things simpler.

Daniel and I readily agreed and we had several Zoom visits discussing what “super-quarantining” (my wording) meant to all of us. We then super-quarantined for 2 weeks before Daniel and I drove out to their place for a delightful 5 days. Our car was loaded with food & board games we got to share with others at the same table.

The visit itself was amazing. By the third day I had, surprisingly, stopped even thinking about the pandemic and analyzing every decision to see if it was a safe one. It was like the Before Times!

While I anticipated some initial anxiety on seeing them in-person (OMG: inside with people without masks!?), and the heady high from eating at the same table, I was not prepared for the extreme emotional drop the day after we got home.

And wow was there an emotional drop! We got home on a Wednesday evening and Thursday was the most depressed I’ve been in a very very long time. It wasn’t any one thing — or maybe it was everything? Maybe it was because I was coming back to being stuck in my house and working from my basement for an unknown number of weeks (months?). Maybe it was because I had a taste of the Before Times and the transition back to the now-COVID Times happened in 12 hours instead of 12 months. Regardless, I was not prepared for it and it was a very dark day.

Friday, the day after, was better. Saturday I felt like a new human being. Actually, I felt better than I had in a very long time and that mental state has stuck with me these past few days. It’s as though I finally remembered what hope was. I remembered what life was like before COVID and the knowledge that something like it was in my not-too-distant future.

When you have your first post-COVID gathering, I hope it is joyous and everything that you were missing for months. Plan to give yourself some space and time a few days after for some transient blues.

A privileged pandemic lament

It’s been over a year now and I am really, truly, missing…

  • hugging my best friend
  • touching people
  • time away from my husband
  • partner acrobatics with my friends
  • running on weekends with my friends
  • having a workday without a Zoom call
  • leaving the house to go to work
  • leaving the house without agoraphobia
  • walking downtown among people
  • eating at a restaurant
  • riding the bus
  • traveling: outside the city, the state, the country
  • having the energy to exercise every day
  • having the energy to get out of bed
  • not feeling overwhelmed by every little problem
  • not wearing a mask

I will get the COVID vaccine – you should too

I intend to get the COVID vaccine as soon as I am eligible and I encourage you to do likewise.

As a 42-year-old privileged person with no morbidities or underlying health conditions and with the ability to effectively work from home (as does my husband) and highly isolate — morally and ethically I am and should be in the very last group of people eligible to get the vaccine. I will not use my privilege to jump ahead of someone who needs it more. I will continue to advocate that Washington state focus on providing it first to healthcare workers, the elderly, essential workers (including teachers, delivery drivers, etc), and others who need it first.

However, as soon as I am eligible I will get the vaccine for my own health and for the health of my family & community. I also acknowledge that the distribution of the vaccine is and will continue to be imperfect and, per my doctor’s guidance, should I be presented with an opportunity to get the vaccine before being officially eligible I will get it [for example, if my doctor’s office gets doses and I am already there for another reason and my doctor offers it to me].

The New York Time’s opinion piece If You’re Offered a Vaccine, Take It has influenced my stance on taking a vaccine if and when it’s offered to me.

Washington state residents, consider using the state Public Health’s FindYourPhaseWA website. It will let you know if you are currently eligible, but it will also optionally take your email address or phone number and contact you when the criteria change and you then become eligible.

We are in this fight together and we must all do smart things like prioritizing the most vulnerable first. And we must also take care of ourselves and, via herd immunity, our community by getting the vaccine when we are eligible and able.