Surviving Compulsions, Cancer, and Coronavirus

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming.  Regularly scheduled?  I’m pretty sure it’s been at least three years since my last blog post and I didn’t even finish the story I was trying to tell then.  Neither here nor there.  Such is the ADHD brain.  Some of the delay might be revealed in the post below…and maybe I’ll get back around to finishing the rest of that other story.  It did have a happy ending.But, for now…the world is going through something absolutely crazy – this Coronavirus, this COVID-19.  And as a person with pretty severe ADHD and OCD who also has catastrophic, sometimes paralyzing, anxiety, I guess I felt called to talk about it.  My anxiety’s getting worse, so I felt like I should at least put this out there.So, without further adieu (no graphics, no frills, just words…or it might not ever get published)…

I am (and always have been) what some people might call a crazy person. I’ve been diagnosed with an alphabet soup of psychological disorders and have taken quite a wide assortment of meds to help tame them…mostly to no avail.  I definitely suffer from a similar assortment of physical ones to boot. I was born with a massive hole in my heart and, perhaps, shouldn’t have survived. I fought newborn/infant pneumonia and asthma, but I survived. I was a medically fragile child who wasn’t going to hold back. My mom had to come to terms with this. I wasn’t going to sit it out just because it might kill me. That said, the hole in my heart healed by the time I was two, which was swell. But a parent doesn’t really ever let go of that fear, especially not a parent who also moonlights as a nurse.

But Mom knew me and she knew I wasn’t going to tread this life lightly. Give it your all or don’t bother giving it anything. And the doctors reassured her that I would be fine. So she had to trust…and trust she did, with much reservation. I can’t imagine the strength it must have taken to let me just be a “normal” child, but she found it somehow. And, hey, guess what! I survived. I survived a bunch of other near misses, too. No thanks to anything I did. Just straight luck or plans that other people (God) had for me or whatevs.

But I got sick a lot. I had chronic ear infections until I was nearly 7. I have irritable bowel. I have chronic headaches. I had recurrent strep throat so many months in 5th grade that none of the students knew who I was when I returned to school after recovering. I have moderate scoliosis that can be legit crippling at times (currently treading that crippling line super closely). And I have chronic fever sores/blisters. Not just the one every now and then, but like my entire mouth full at a time…most Christmases, any stressful time really. And they hurt like hell.  And so embarrassing.  Like red flags to the world that I am gross.

I can’t say for sure where the OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) or depression came from. (I’m sure I’m missing something.)  I suppose it was always there just like the Insomnia, ADHD, LMNOP.

Either way, early on, I learned I could be contaminated by the outside world and I could contaminate the outside world as well. I became very particular about washing my hands, mostly. Well, outwardly. I started noticing the chain reaction of all the things. That person goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wash their hands…then they use that $10 bill to purchase something. Then the cashier doesn’t wash their hands and opens that door and uses that credit card machine…and etcetera etcetera.  It’s something I sometimes have to try to turn a blind eye to…it’s something that I know that if I gave into it, it could land me locked up on my own account, afraid of the world outside.

Anyway, it got worse from there. I own it and make fun of myself. Everyone knows I am a lover of hand sanitizer. I also actually wash

my hands a ridiculous amount of times a day. Probably too many times for me to count.

So that’s life. And whatever. Take me and my weirdness or leave me, right?

And most people in my life take me.  I guess I have enough redeeming qualities without all of my neurotic weirdness…or maybe some consider that a redeeming quality, too.  In fact, I know some do.  Most of my friends and family are super supportive.   I’ve received the Best Germ Eliminating UV Wand (original and travel size), Phone Soap, and all the and sanitizer in the world as gifts.  My friends obviously know and love me.  I’m not entirely sure if they know how much I actually treasure these gifts, and, furthermore, how much peace of mind they actually bring me.

I bring a complete arsenal when I travel.  I’m not always prepared with all the things in life, but I’m always prepared to fight the germs.  And if I’m not, complete panic ensues.  I buy hand sanitizer in bulk, on a good day.  I could say I try to keep it in check, but mostly I just try to keep it somewhat muted in front of other people, especially certain audiences.

Point being, there’s a standard level of concern about the world making me sick and, perhaps, an even higher level of concern about me making the world sick.  I’d like to say I’m always careful, but I’m always careful to say, “always.”

Anyway, I’ve mostly learned to live my life…being careful not to infect and to not be infected.

…and then Mom got sick.

Real sick.  Stage 4 Colon Cancer.

And then we had to take care of her.

We had to give her IVs.

We had to feed her.

We had to hold the straw while she managed to suck down whatever nutrients she could.

We had to do all the things that make a human feel not like a human…especially one of the most dignified humans who ever existed (until those moments she risked her dignity for the sake of a good joke).

But anyway, we were ALL up in her space.

There were moments that, as an OCD person, I never would have thought I’d be able to handle, but I did.  Somehow, I’m really great in crisis mode.  It’s kind of amazing.  I don’t want to shake hands with anybody, but if somebody I love starts to vom, I’m likely to reach my hands out to catch it.  Freaking weird.

The point is…when Mom got sick, the importance of protecting others (Mom, first and foremost) from my germs (sterilized as hell, though they may be) became the single biggest priority of my life.

I have pretty severe allergies, (I imagine your shock) and I don’t sleep for crap, so it’s sometimes hard to tell if I am sick, tired, or just allergy-ridden. If I had to be around Mom in those moments (which I did because I lived with her and, you know, gave her her meds and IVs and junk), I’d wear a mask. I’d wash my hands even more than I normally do. If I was making food she might eat? Mask…hands washed a gazillion times. No exaggeration (okay, maybe a bit…a gazillion is a LOT). Legit hand washing…not just hand sanitizing. I made sure to stay on top of her hygiene, too. I was very particular, very aware, very intentional.  After all, she had always been with me.

My friends, if Mom was still with us today, I can’t imagine how crazy I would be with this Coronavirus going on. I was crazy enough about fever sores. And yes, the flu…a sore throat…the freaking sniffles. I can’t make you all get it. And I can’t even say that my way of living is right. I just know that if you could all get inside my brain (or, maybe more importantly, my heart) for a second right now, you, too, could understand the risk for your compromised (and maybe we’re all compromised at this point) loved one…and you would understand my crazy.

And that said, I am trying so hard not to lose myself in all of this. Mom died this July after a 5 and a half year battle with Cancer. In those 5 and a half years, there were several other pretty big losses. I’ve been fighting the urge to self-quarantine since she died. Not because I was afraid of the world killing me, but because I didn’t want to be in it…and knew I NEEDED to be in it. I knew I needed to push myself to face the day or I could lose myself. History tells stories and sometimes they are true. Self-history teaches us how to cope with the internal wars of today, based on the wars of yesterday. I got out of bed every day, even when I didn’t want to. I went to work. I hung with friends. I trudged on. And now, I’m being asked to stay at home, to lock myself up…to hide from the world because of this pandemic, this Coronavirus.

Psychologically, this terrifies me. I’m doing whatever I can to combat my chronic and situational depression. I’m trying not to obsess about all the germs. I’m trying to be physically active when I can. I’m trying to talk to family and friends. I’m trying to eat right and (often to no avail) desperately trying to sleep right. I’m trying not to lose myself in the abyss of this personally untimely isolation.

But at the end of the day, I know how important it is for all of us to social distance right now. I know how important it is to wash our hands. People, I been screaming this for years, for a lifetime. I know how important it is to think about how your/my contamination might impact somebody else’s life. Hell, how your/my contamination might END somebody else’s life.

And I know, without a doubt, that if we still had Mom with us today, my crazy would be on a whole ‘nother level. My mom isn’t with us anymore…not in this realm anyway. But there are countless other lives out there who need your/my crazy to be on a whole ‘nother level.

But, really, it’s simple. Social distance. Wash your hands. If you’re sick, contact your medical provider before going into the office. In general, stay freaking home as much as possible, people.  Be cautious and think beyond yourself.  Teach your kids the same.  Support local businesses, but do it via gift cards/certificates and take-out.  Check in on your friends and family.  It’s a hard time for everybody.

And think about all those connections that my tiny, messed up little brain agonizes over on a regular basis…butt hole to flushing to door knob to other door knob to keys to steering wheel to shopping cart to item they didn’t buy to cash…again…etcetera, etcetera. And never mind breathing in people’s space.

Please just be smart, intentional, and kind out there. It’s the only way to save as many people as possible. Mom might be gone, but there are plenty of immunocompromised people who are still here…and I love them, too.

2 comments

  1. Meg, this was absolutely astounding! You are incredibly special to share this heartfelt content. So perfectly and beautifully well written. An amazing expression and imprint of your special meggyness. I was so absorbed in your writing, you made me “feel” you. Should surely consider writing a book or short story even though I know this must have taken some juice out of you to do. Above par to most authors. I was raptured. Your mom was an amazing person, and adored by me. She desrved ( most of the time 😁) to have the amazing daughter she had, and amazing you are. She crazy adored you. You were her saviour thru and thru. Your mom had her own kind of OCD too especially where her children were concerned and definatley when you were a baby and young child.Aunt Bryn and I were damn well scared to death of her sometimes when you were in our care. We never wanted to disappoint her strict intructions, but even though we may have done everything right, she surely would find something wrong 🤣🤣🤣 I even think she possibly would make something up just to insure to keep us on our toes with her precious angel 🙃 I loved your mom too with all my heart and I miss her. I miss our hours long phone conversations
    probably 3 times a week for a long spell in my life before she was ill. It was my addiction.
    All that you have to cope with must be incredibly exhausting. I am sad that you were dealt this hand. It’s not fair for one individual to have to struggle with that alphabet soup you speak of. I am so proud of you that you are able to sprinkle your love around so unselfishly with the struggles you deal with. It cant be easy sometimes to maintain your bubbly disposition and happy, giving, spirit. You have a pure soul meg and I think that hole in your heart never closed but instead filled with something unique and special. I admire you dearly for working as hard as you must to seek the sunnier side of the street and bring so much joy to people around you. I only hope that meg getsnutmegged with a lot of that love and joy too. Must save some of that love
    for yourself. And remember, you are not expected to carry the weight of the world of others on your shoulders. Only yours. And there are loving people to help you carry that too when you need a hand. Give Monk a snuggle for me after you receive yours xoxo 😘😘 I love you dear meg and right now I think I hear your mother yelling at me to shut up so she has her turn to tell you she loves you. Guess I wont try and argue with mom. We all know I wouldn’t win anyway lol. p.s. consider writing! Then after its published, you can bring it alive with your skilled filming talent. I will audition for the role of Monkey..

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    1. My sweet, sweet Aunt Lori. I’m so sorry it took so long to respond to this very thoughtful message. Thank you so much for all of your kind words and appreciation for, and support of, my writing. Thank you for taking the time to read it, to digest it, and to respond so wholeheartedly…and most of all for feeling me through it.

      Mom had some OCD in her, no doubt. And I know how much that bled to her kids and, by proxy, those of you who were in charge of our precious lives from time to time. We’ve all seen that wrath…ha ha ha…not something you wanted to bring to the surface. Scared to death, indeed. Ha ha ha

      Mom loved you with all of her heart, too. She cherished those phone calls just like you did. Such a tight knit family we have, with the kindest souls in all the world.

      Don’t be sorry I was dealt this hand. We’ve all been dealt our own struggles. Alphabet soup isn’t the worst of them by any means. I’ve done okay with it and it’s helped make me who I am, ya know? It also gives me the ability to empathize with a whole bunch of different people. In coping, I often find the strength to help others through similar struggles. That makes it all worth it.

      And I know I don’t always give enough love to myself and I do tend to try and carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I’m learning to find the balance. Slowly, but surely. Can’t blame me, though, with the example I had in Mom.

      I am definitely lucky to have such an amazing support system to carry me through the tough times. The last several years has certainly proven this and I am eternally grateful for both the family I was born into and the one I’ve created with my friends.

      I love you dearly and your response really means so much to me. I’ll definitely let you know if I ever decide to write a book or a short story or whatever. We do joke about creating my indie film about my life. So far nobody else has claimed the role of Monkey. You’re first in line for the audition. So much love, Aunt Lori. Thank you for being such a part of our lives. xoxoxo

      Like

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