The pandemic wasn’t bad at first. We had our “zones”: I wrote all day on the front porch. My husband did teacher-work and hung out in his woodshop. The kids ran through the rest of the house. But I started to feel like I wasn’t spending enough time with everyone, like I was missing things. We also set up our above-ground pool, and to take some of the burden of childcare off my husband, I said I’d stay in the backyard instead with the kids.
But three months of nowhere to go and mostly, no one to see? It’s wearing us down, bit by bit, little by little, one day at a time. Now we’re beginning to fall apart at the seams. It doesn’t much matter. We don’t think the pandemic will be over anytime soon, especially since we live in the South, and I’m too scared to let my kids out without a vaccine, knowing the extreme possibilities of what COVID-19 can do to them. They will not have a Halloween or likely a Christmas. It’s choking me.
We’re all slowly losing it, and there’s nothing we can do.
The Pandemic Has Me Melting Down
I have enough mental illness to live with on a decent day. Right now, my ability to cope is wearing very, very thin. I can no longer stand noise. I can’t deal with the kids making noise. I can’t deal with the TV making noise. I can’t cope with the barking of the puppy we adopted just before the pandemic who turned out not to be a German Shepherd mix, but part yippy-ass terrier. I can’t deal with anything but the quiet I find in the backyard when no one’s around, or the quiet in the mornings when no one else is awake.
I can’t manage to rouse myself to do anything but write. I don’t have the patience to read. I try and give up after only a few pages, even favorite books: On the Road, Pat Conroy’s Beach Music, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. I look at the newest novel by E. Lockhart, whom I love, and I can’t pick it up. The last books I managed were Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name and Find Me. That was pre-pandemic.
Make art, I tell myself. Do something. Other people use the pandemic for self-improvement, why not you? I try to do crafts with the kids. My middle and oldest will join in sometimes. My youngest sits on the couch and weeps because he’s not on his tablet, and it’s simply so dispiriting I don’t like to try anymore.
Some days I don’t want to get out of bed at all. I want to lie there and sleep, and sleep, and sleep. But I make myself get up, and I make myself pour coffee, and I make myself put on makeup because sometimes I go to the mailbox.
My Husband Is Angry All the Time
He has cabin fever. He yells at the kids. He yells at the dogs. He snaps at me. I sometimes clap my hands over my ears, and sometimes just look stricken, and sometimes cry. I spent an hour sobbing on the bed this week telling him how angry he’s been for a large part of the pandemic. “I can’t take it,” I told him. “It reminds me of that poem about ‘the chronic angers of that house.’ I grew up in a house like that. Now you’re yelling all the time, and I can’t get away. There’s nowhere for me to go.”
It doesn’t help that the rest of his family calls him with every problem they have and complains for hours or asks for a solution. He’s expected to carry the mental health burden for us (because I sure as hell can’t do it) — plus a bunch of other people in another state. He’s spread so thin that I don’t blame him for screaming at everyone right now.
Oh, and the house is a wreck. He thinks this is his fault. I try to tell him, No, honey. This is five people in one house during a pandemic who have trouble keeping stuff clean on a good day.
He still blames himself, and goes to bed every night feeling like a failure: because of the dishes, because of clothes on the floor, because of a messy bathroom or kitchen table.
I’m Terrified for My Kids Now and Post-Pandemic
My oldest has become moody and angry all the time. He backtalks. He snaps. He rolls his eyes and stalks away from us and yells that he wants to see his friends. If you get him talking, really talking, he stops just short of tears, saying that he’s scared we won’t even have a Halloween. He says he hates the pandemic, that this is the worst year of his life, that it ruins everything and he’s so tired of it.
Me too, kid. Me too. I have nothing to offer other than, “I’m sorry, baby. I know it’s hard.”
My middle son throws screaming tantrums. Bedtime is a nightmare: he actually ran away out into the backyard the other night. He fights with his brothers. He refuses to cuddle with me. He generally won’t come to give me a kiss goodnight if I’m anywhere but in his face when I ask.
My youngest is taking it the worst. He cries at everything. My husband says, It’s the age. The others cried this much when they were six. But they didn’t cry like this. For the last month of the pandemic, he’s refused to play alone. I’ve seen him lie on the couch for more than an hour, doing nothing, because he doesn’t feel like doing anything else, and every suggestion is met with tears. He cuddles with me in the morning when he wakes up now. I consider that a small victory, those five minutes.
I don’t know how they’ll come out of the pandemic. Maybe they’ll be stronger. I worry they’ll be anxious and mentally ill. My youngest nearly dissolves into tears on the rare occasions one of us leaves the house for groceries or medicine.
He’s afraid we’ll die.
It Doesn’t Help that Friends Are Easing Up
People I know seem to have decided, okay, enough is enough, I don’t care that numbers are spiking, we worried over nothing and this is done. A woman I know dropped my son’s lost backpack off at our house. I made her leave it at the end of the driveaway and explained we were keeping strict quarantine. She informed me that the number of cases have only risen because of better testing, and that they see “safe” friends all the time.
My mother decided to hang out with her bestie, who sees everyone. Now we can’t see the one other person we had been able to visit. She’s livid at us for refusing to see her, for calling her out on breaking quarantine. She won’t even call to talk to the kids. They ask about her. I can only shrug.
We live in our three-bedroom, one story house with our thankfully decent-sized backyard, with our three children and our dogs. My husband feels like an abject failure. I cry all the time where no one can see. My kids cry and fight and yell.
The pandemic has us falling apart at the seams. There’s nothing we can do about it.