We are living in a historic moment. The Minnesota Historical Society is collecting and preserving Minnesotans’ stories related to the COVID-19 health crisis so future generations can learn how the pandemic has impacted our lives. We invite you to read a sampling of these stories here and to share your story.
Stronger than I think
It's somewhere around 4 a.m. I'm lying in bed, awake. I roughly know what time it is because my husband, who is next to me, is snoring. I've been woken up by vivid dreams. Dreams of my sister, spending time with her. I'm feeling desolate. It has been ten years since I last saw my sister. Nine years since she died. Anxiety rises up. It's almost as much a pattern for me as my husband's snoring is for him. My joints begin to ache, and I long for the relief of falling back asleep. Some mornings, I am able to relax and drift off again. Other mornings, I grapple with the realization that it's going to be a longer day among already long days.
The grief and trauma of past losses has swept into a torrent with this pandemic. I'm 38 years old with a 10-year-old daughter at home. I'm married. My husband has been able to continue working, and continue working at his office, through this time. I'm thankful for that bit of comfort. Still, this leaves me at home, alone, through much of the day to work through grief while attempting to maintain some sort of normalcy for my daughter. I try to help her keep up with her schoolwork, stay busy. We get outside a lot. But I'm overwhelmed. Disrupted sleep doesn't help.
Prior to this pandemic, I'd already been through a lot. My mother died when I was a teenager. My only sister died a little more than a year and a half after my daughter was born. A brother, the oldest of two, was murdered just before my daughter entered kindergarten. I engaged in EMDR therapy last year. I was making a lot of progress. I was looking forward to 2020, hoping that much of the worst was behind me.
Then the pandemic. Just the disruption of the day-to-day routines was enough to push me back into that familiar space of loss. Lack of motivation. Exhaustion. Feeling on the edge of crying. No patience for insignificant difficulties. Anxiety. Fear.
I've been through it enough to know I can get through it again. It's possible. Not easy.
In the first few weeks of the lockdown, I had some tough conversations with my father. The broader scope of what this pandemic could mean for my future is daunting to consider. My father laid out his plans for what he wants to happen should he get sick. He's in the high-risk category, as is his wife. My husband is borderline. He has issues with asthma. He downplays his risk. Then there's my daughter. I don't worry as much about her getting sick as I do about the long-term impact of this on her life. I don't want her feeling the weight of life experience as I do.
I cope through photography, particularly macro photography. I like wildflowers. It's my tradition to get out in the spring and hunt for the ephemerals. At least I can continue to do that, albeit closer to home than I originally planned this year.
Sometimes, I think I should give myself more credit than I do. Maybe I'm stronger than I think. Even on the days where I feel like I've been brought to my knees, I get out of bed. I live with the emotions, let them ride alongside the washing of dishes, going for a walk, asking my daughter for the fifth time if she's done her morning school check-in. I don't feel pity for myself. I long to talk to my mother with an ache that reaches deeper than I can fathom, but I accept that she's not there. I accept that there are aspects of this that I can't change. I focus on where I do have control. And I remind myself over and over that I'm doing okay. My house might still be cluttered. I might not be learning a new skill. But, right now, I'm okay.
And, right now, the people I love are okay.
~ Submitted by Nicole