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  • Writer's pictureA.S. Morris

Friendship, COVID, and finding true north....

Like everyone else in the entire world I am trying to put into words what 2020 feels like. I have a few colorful words I would like to use; a few inappropriate memes; a few bitchy looks. Ehh..lets be honest, bitchy looks are kind of my thing. People act weird if they see me smiling, they assume I am up to no good. Usually a solid assumption. Keep em guessing...

Today I had a friend call me out. A friend whose friendship I truly don't deserve. A friend who truly makes me want to be a better person. They shared that our interactions had become transactional and standoffish. While I did not consciously alter my behavior towards them, I knew our dynamic had shifted. It took me some time to piece together what had happened. It basically boiled down to not knowing how to talk to them anymore. Which I realize is absurd for someone who writes a blog and blasts it across social media. This friend has stood by me and my family during our darkest times and has never once made me feel judged. Accepted my faults and missives and challenged me to rise up. Continually sees things in me that I have yet to uncover. Like I said before, I don't deserve this friendship.

2020 has been challenging for me to navigate personally and professionally. Nine months ago I was willingly ( friend referenced above may not agree) being admitted to the psych unit in the same hospital where I work. Yea, that was special. Real special. After my holiday on the psych ward and a poor decision later I ended up in a month long treatment facility in New England. New England in November is not at romantic as it sounds when your there for 30 days of intensive therapy. I came home shortly before the holidays and was back to work before Christmas. I truly am the gift that keeps on giving.

Reintegrating back to work was hard. For several reasons. Some knew why was I out on leave, a lot more know now. I have no shame in seeking help, to this day my shame lies in not asking for help. In theory I am smarter than that. In reality not so much. If I had learned any lessons I wouldn't be standoffish from someone who is one of my dearest friends. Someone who isn't afraid to call me out and have the patience to let me work through the reasons. I still have bad days and good days. Some weeks the bad days out number the good. I also know this friend is smarter than me, on occasion, and perhaps due to their background and my outward presentation was concerned things were much bigger. A friend who promised me that I earned zero tolerance. It will likely be a very very long time before that subsides.

Due to COVID and working in academic medicine I spend a lot of quality time in my office with the door closed zooming / webexing my little heart out. This is also a breeding ground for my depression when I am not having a good day. Nobody thinks twice when your door is closed all the time. Thanks 'rona. I try to be responsible and if I am having a bad day find another socially distant place to work. We have a large library and I can usually find a spot. As the weather is currently gross here in the south, walking outside is minimal. I like the heat just not when I also need to look fab on a zoom call. Remember, my good looks only come across on zoom. Like everyone currently alive none of us have had to tackle mitigating pretty much everything while in the midst of a pandemic. In case you have been gifted the ability to not be aware of the show that is 2020, Healthcare has been slightly impacted by COVID. As I type this I am on week 8 of a 20% pay cut, 4 more weeks to go. I had to navigate furloughing staff, financial mitigation, decreases in patient volumes, ramping business back up, being prepared for what this next surge may or may not do, keep up morale, figure out staffing plans for fall as schools try to figure things out, and do all the things to provide our patients with the care the deserve and expect. That last point is the most important point. Even if its only one life saved, that makes all the other things worth it. I am dedicate to my career. A passion that I never imagined; 14 years and counting.

I wish with every fiber of my being that I was "better." That I was cured and everything was normal again. Turns out none of us will ever know "normal" again. Is this the universes bizarre was of providing me with comrades who also have no idea what normal means. I am not going to let the events of the fall define who I am. I refuse to succumb to that. My medical background provides me with enough data points for me to be dangerous; I am well aware of my likelihood to relapse into major depressive states or back down the rabbit hole towards suicidal ideations. There are days I literally loathe being in therapy. My therapist is wonderful and would recommend her to anyone. There were several times this week I wanted to send her and email and say i'm good, don't need this anymore. Not because I think I am healed, I am just tired of not being over all of this. I also know that if my circle of those who love me found out I stopped therapy, it would not be pretty. I wouldn't be surprised if I was threatened with the magistrate again.

It seems like everything in 2020 is just so much freaking work. Some days when I walk into work I feel like I should get a gold star because I didn't show up in my pajamas. I have worn jeans on a Tuesday and felt no shame, remember you can only see me from the waist up on zoom. Its like the COVID slogan matches Vegas; what happens during COVID..... This week I wore a dress with wedge shoes one day and my colleague thought I had a job interview. So either I am looking haggard most days or I am coming off as having one foot out the door. Another one of COIVD's symptoms is this the day my pay cut becomes a pink slip? Are my stellar services no longer going to be needed? Today a colleague reminded me that we are in it regardless of how leadership makes their decisions. Throughout my career I have held the hands of patients as they were taking their final breaths, hugged the loved ones of those who made it successfully through surgery, cradled a colleague when a case went to hell in a handbasket. Things I would do day in and day out because that is the career I signed up for. I signed up to make a difference and save some lives. I was also reminded today that I need to have a little fun. FUN in medicine during COVID.......maybe i'll start drawing faces on my masks?

August starts next week which means Christmas will be here the following Thursday. This also means that October 15th is fast approaching. One year. One year since everything changed. How are we already here. Was COVID a blessing in that it gave me something else to think about? Did COVID help show me how strong I am capable of being even though my professional grace is minimal. It is hard to find a positive in COVID. Everyday I worry that my medically fragile husband will be its next victim or the hospital becomes inundated with patients. Regardless of your feelings towards healthcare, being in a position where you can't save a life or multiple lives is devastating. I worked with several opioid related deaths in my former job, a killer that like COVID, is hard to put a stop to. A senseless and sudden tragic death. Where there was one, there were three more. My heart goes out to those navigating an epidemic during a pandemic.

At the end of the day we are all in this boat of what will tomorrow bring. More cases, more mandates, more restrictions? .....more therapy. I'd love to think if I stopped talking my issues and everything else would get better. I know that isn't the case. Perhaps its so American of me to be over my depression. I know I have a group of people who are all in. Who would rather listen to my story than the alternative. I need to stop letting old patterns of everything is fine surge to the top. I know I need to work back up to everything is fine. My limitation of fine is still minimal. I kind of hate that. How do you communicate with your people when things aren't fine? I struggle with feeling I have maxed out that credit line. I know nobody is thinking why can't she pull it together, in reality I know I have kept my act together quite well given 2020.

On new years eve I remember thinking 2020 was going to be the year for us Morris'. We quietly celebrated just us four and looked forward to new beginnings. Well Lee did finally reenter the work force and I apparently decided to be an amateur blogger. We also apparently entered hunger games.....

As 2020 seems to have gone for us all, may the odds be ever in your favor.

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