Health, Uncategorized

Exhaustion or Covid?

It has been an exhausting school year already.

Since we started back at the beginning of August, we have been dealing with an increasing surge of Covid cases, due to the Delta variant. At first, I was worried that there would be another shutdown, when all the mask drama started, politically. Then, it just became unreal to watch as more and more students and staff members tested positive or had to quarantine.

Allergy symptoms have increased for everyone since this year’s hurricane near-miss (which was not nearly as scary for us as it was last year, since we knew all along that it would miss us and we would be on the clean side). But allergy symptoms are the same as Delta symptoms, so sitting in half-empty classrooms filled with runny noses can be disconcerting.

Add to it the fact that there was a situation that, while it was perfectly safe, triggered a lot of trauma-related emotions for me. And the situation was compounded by the fact that Covid has left schools chronically under-staffed–and circumstances in our state have made that worse this year.

On top of all that, there are constant cautionary tales of vaccines being useless against Delta. So when I started feeling insatiably tired, I felt the need to hide it. It was exhaustion, right? I could not remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep, and lack of sleep does affect me a lot.

Then the stuffy nose and sinus drip cough started. Nasal irrigation and steroid spray kept it at bay for the most part–these are typical allergy symptoms for me, and they do get worse when I am under stress. In fact, I usually carry a bottle of water or coffee with me, so that I can keep from coughing. But when a cough slipped out last week, I got lots of suspicious looks.

I was rocking my TEA-issued blue N95! They have a weird, perfumey smell to them, which brought back memories of last March.

But coughing wasn’t a symptom I had when I had Covid, and neither was a sore throat, which I started experiencing on Friday. However, the muscle aches and headache, which had been getting worse over the past week, were a definite cause for concern. At least I wasn’t having neurological symptoms….until I realized that my eye had been twitching for a few days now.

Luckily, we had a long weekend, so I could lock myself indoors at home and figure all this out. I googled the Delta variant, hoping to learn that my symptoms were completely different from what I was experiencing.

I do get crazy physical symptoms related to stress. Right before I left my previous job, when the situation was very traumatic, I would get muscle aches, GI symptoms, and a low grade fever, which were all psychosomatic. And my resistance lowers when I am under extreme stress. I had to student teach twice in order to get my degree, and had a crazy holiday season between the two unpaid internships. Due to the stress, I ended up getting shingles in my throat at age 23. I also had psychosomatic symptoms, including a stuffy nose and muscle aches, from the beginning of the pandemic up until I actually caught Covid and recovered. So stress was a definite possibility.

However, I decided that I was likely in denial, so I let my yoga teacher know that I would not be in class for the next 10 days. Then I overate and wondered what to do. Finally, on Saturday, I broke down and got a home testing kit. I made sure to stick the q-tip as far up my nose as it would possibly go. And, ten minutes later…

That’s right–no pink line on my strip (on the top)! I will retest tonight, and then I will be good to go back to yoga and work once the long weekend is over.

So surprise, surprise, after having Covid and then being vaccinated, I don’t have Covid. It’s crazy how the current media coverage makes it seem like the most probable result is not going to happen.

Now that the excitement is over, it is time to deal with the actual issue at hand–the fact that stress has caused me to have all of these physical symptoms. It is time to streamline my routine, to understand the limits of what I can get done in a day, to set boundaries accordingly, and to focus on the things that actually are within my control.

The reality is that I am not going to get Covid again. So instead of worrying about that, it is time to focus on all of the good that I can do during this crazy time.

Health, Philosophy

Navigating the New, New Normal

There are some people who never think about social norms. They just instinctively know what to do in various situations, and they are always in tune with the “unwritten rules” of the situation, without even being aware that there are unwritten rules. For them, it’s just what you do.

I am not one of those people.

I have to study the human race as if I am an anthropologist. I have often been assigned to teach social skills classes throughout my teaching career and I love it because it is an opportunity for my students and me to compare notes and learn together! And moving from rural, Northern Michigan to the Houston/Galveston area has provided my brain with plenty of social skills learning opportunities.

For example:

In Michigan, if you are on time, you are late. Down here, it completely depends on the situation. You get to yoga at least 15 minutes early. You arrive at work on time, on the dot. Leisure activities have a lot more flexibility.

In Michigan, you get straight to the point in your interactions. Down here, if you don’t chat a little bit (but not too much), you are rude.

In both places, if you are hosting, your guests will appreciate it if you ask about their specific dietary needs. In Michigan your guests will tell you (and they will have specific needs). Down here, they will tell you that they have no special eating needs (even though they do!).

In Michigan, you do not talk about race–to do so would be rude. Down here, using race as a descriptive characteristic or in other flattering (or at least non-offensive) ways is perfectly acceptable.

In Michigan, students make a sign language “t” for “toilet” when they need to use the facilities, which are called the “bathroom.” Down here, students sign “r” for “restroom” and refer to the facilities by the same name.

In both places, if you meet someone with differing political views, you both talk about how you deviate from your preferred party and try to find common ground.

In both states, the first person to the door, opens it. And it is always a race to be that person!

We have successfully crashed parties in both locations. Just bring something to share!

Rona Norms

So, enter the Rona.

Right away, we were faced with some new, emerging unwritten rules. Some people were extremely cautious from the beginning, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with this weird virus that humankind had never before experienced. Some people were comfortable retaining the risk and just wanted to live their lives as normally as possible. The rest of us fell somewhere in the middle.

Texas reopened very quickly, with in-person classes available at every school, so I re-entered pandemic society more quickly than people in other areas. But of course during all of this, people still spanned the spectrum with their comfort levels. I have friends who are just starting to leave their homes now, friends who we hugging and going maskless a year ago, and the rest of us, in the middle.

Here were some of the unwritten rules that evolved during the Rona:

Follow the lead of the most cautious person in the engagement. My friends who were going to indoor restaurants would eat outdoors with me. And I would meet for Facetime chats or quick parking lot gift exchanges with friends who preferred that.

Ask before hugging, and don’t take it personally if the answer is, “Sorry, no.”

Wear your mask by default, but it is okay to take it off (if you want) if everyone else isn’t wearing theirs.

Put on your mask if someone comes into the room wearing theirs.

Wear your mask while in indoor public places.

Socially distance, whether your mask is on or not.

Post-Rona Rules?

The rules all made sense, and then we got Ronavax…

Schools are very cut-and-dry about the rules for masks. On our campus, they were required for the rest of the 2020-21 school year, then optional starting June 4. Most businesses have also made masks optional. If there is a sign on the door stating otherwise, we always make sure to wear ours when we first walk through the door, then we take them off if other people are not wearing theirs.

The confusing part is when there is no sign. I was recently reprimanded for not wearing a mask into a store with not visible sign. This was more embarrassing for me than it should have been, because I felt like I should have known the rules when I clearly did not.

Well, at any rate, this will be a new, interesting chapter in the stories we tell our grandchildren one day!

About Us, Health

R is for “Rona”

Spring break is a dangerous time.

In 2017, I went on medical leave starting the week before spring break. (Here is a picture of my first day of freedom!)

My first day on leave, March 1, 2018.

In 2018, I was in a long-term subbing assignment in Deer Park. On the last day of spring break, a factory caught on fire, which led to spring break being extended by a week.

Last year, of course, we went on lockdown after spring break and did not return to school in-person until fall.

So this year, of course, there was an exciting build-up to spring break. Let’s recap, shall we?

Two weeks ago, most of the class I work in, had to quarantine.

And then we had a week off of school, for what everyone here refers to as “Snow-vid.”

After things returned to “normal,” Rob started feeling like he had a cold. I figured he wore himself ragged during the snowstorm and needed some time to rest and recover. He had a low grade fever that went away, and it seemed to be a run of the mill sinus cold. By the end of the week, it was definitely improving. I wore my N95 at work and was very careful about avoiding close contact at yoga, but it seemed like things were going to be fine.

Friday afternoon, Rob sent me a text, saying that he had lost his sense of smell.

So I learned a lot of things. I learned that Covid tests are free, even if you don’t have insurance. I learned that the rapid test was offered nearby. And according to Rob, putting the swab an inch up your nose is more difficult than it seems.

Three hours later, I learned that quarantine for close contact starts the first day of close contact, which for us was the day Rob’s symptoms started. So I will basically be off of work (except for a few things I offered to do remotely) until March 8, and Iliana will be distance learning. She is taking it in stride and already looking at her grades and getting set up!

So no yoga class for yet another week! I don’t have a good track record with doing well in isolation, and of course I freaked out initially. After a texting conversation with my wonderful, wonderful yoga teacher (who reminded me that I can do the videos 24/7 if I want to!), I had a much more positive mindset. I could even see how I had been so exhausted that having some time to rest will be beneficial.

Tonight, we have Rob isolated in the bedroom, and I will be sleeping on Iliana’s floor. But this has seemed ridiculous, because there is a good chance that Iliana and I also have the virus but are asymptomatic. So we are getting tested tomorrow.

Ili has started a new puzzle!

The upshot is that if I test positive, I will likely have immunity until I am eligible for a vaccine. So my days of not being able to hug might soon be over! In the meantime, my focus will be on self-care. If my body is busy kicking the arse of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, I want to do all I can to help my immune system continue its victory streak!