In which I require psychiatric help

I am going to be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future. New Covid cases in Indiana and in my county have skyrocketed since our school board made the decision to return to school, (scroll down and select the state) and I don’t actually expect the kids to be back for very long, but I am going to keep teaching from my house, and I’m currently working out exactly how that’s going to work with my various and sundry co-workers who are affected by this decision.

Now, this is not the reason that I’m working from home, but as this whole thing drags on it’s becoming more and more of a problem: masks give me panic attacks, and nothing I’ve been able to do has been able to fix that. Furthermore, none of the masks I’ve found have really made much of a difference, although some are better in some ways than others. Now, to be completely clear: this absolutely does not affect whether I wear a mask in public! I’m just fucking freaking out while I’m doing it. If I’m outside my house and not in the car, I’m wearing a mask, and I’ve noticed that if I’m talking to people it’s generally not bad, so it might be that an eight-hour day where I’m constantly talking to students might not be as bad as I think it is. But I had to go into my building twice today (don’t ask) and I discovered a new wrinkle to this whole thing: even the mildest physical activity makes it a lot worse. Like, say, climbing stairs to get to my classroom. Both times I went upstairs today– a single flight, mind you– I was damn near ready to claw my face off by the time I got to my classroom. I start focusing on my breathing, which leads to heavier breathing, which quickly turns into a really nasty spiral that I don’t like at all.

This is not a call for excuses to avoid wearing masks (and, for the record, my issues with them date to well before Covid-19 was an issue,) it’s a call for strategies for dealing with panic attacks. I’m already on Effexor for anxiety issues, which I continue to think is a lifesaver, but I’m not going to up my dose just because of mask issues, and I’m not convinced that would help anyway. I need, like, concrete strategies for how to trick my brain out of falling into a panic spiral every time I start thinking about my breathing. Because one way or another this is going to keep being a thing for a while, and I need a way to deal with it. Anybody have any suggestions?

In which this is never going to stop

Had a full-blown Teacher Anxiety Dream last night, where I was in my first Chicago classroom in my first post-certification job, and I decided midway through class that I needed to quit. Only somehow I was also still working in my current district, only at a different school, and I was very concerned that everyone understood that I was quitting only the Chicago job and not the Indiana job, because the Indiana job was better.

And then, because I was quitting, I had to talk to the assistant principal about it, only it was my current assistant principal, which in the weird awareness of dreams I knew wasn’t quite right but couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t right. And she brought me downstairs, carrying the few possessions I’d decided I was taking with me, and then I realized that the building had been extensively renovated on the bottom floor, somehow looking like yet another middle school, one I’ve never actually worked in, but hugely ornate and gorgeous inside the rooms.

I’m pretty sure I actually woke up and fell asleep at least once during the dream, too, and went right back into it.

Stupid brain.

Last night’s anxiety dream

Sunday night’s dream was that I was late to a concert and then when I got there I was the only person in a mask, plus a nice little dab of high school anxiety. Last night, I had a dream where I was the only other person nearby while a cop was being brutal and abusive toward a Black woman at a traffic stop, only I couldn’t figure out how to get my phone to record a video and by the time I managed to parse the UI he already had her in his car and had driven off.

The really ridiculous part is that the dream also included the post-arrest Twitter rant I went on, which was about, not policing, not a description of the arrest … but about how app designer’s obsession with subtle UI elements has led to a world where something simple like “I want to record this thing happening in front of me” requires me to carefully look at every part of the screen in case there’s a tiny, 50% transparency circle in the top right corner that I’m supposed to naturally realize means “record.”

Which, uh, isn’t how my phone works at all— the “record” button is literally giant, centered, and red– but hey, dream.

More later. If nothing else, I know Mark Oshiro put up another video from Remember that I need to watch and post.

OK I’m done now

I made an attempt to leave the house today– we have something we need to pick up from the post office, and my wife is home today too so we’re not abandoning the boy to his own devices all day, and I thought I’d go ahead and take the hit and go pick up the thing at the post office and maybe hit up Target or something for some printer paper, which we also need to print out his thousands of e-learning assignments.

We have two aging N-95 masks in the house, and my wife has been wearing one of them during grocery trips. I checked out the other one and decided that the elastic didn’t seem likely to hold up for the duration of my trip, so I grabbed one of my bandanas, which, folded properly, makes an acceptable mask– I couldn’t blow any air through it, which, I understand, is the standard to look for for these things.

Turns out that the line at the post office was long, reaching to the door, which got me a dirty look from the dude who I came within six feet of while attempting to actually enter the lobby in the first place. Then I forgot the number for my damn PO Box (I need to write it on the key; this is not the first time this has happened) and while I was putting my key in the wrong box I got hit with a full-fledged nope nope nope nope nope get this thing off your face off off NOW panic attack.

So, no standing in line, no even finding the right box– I hightailed it back to the car and sat there for ten minutes or so, trying to get my heart rate back to something approximating normal and looking up my damn PO Box on my website (PO Box 2663, South Bend, IN 46618! Send me stuff! I’ll never actually pick it up!) and it never actually happened so eventually I just went home. It was a good 10 minutes after I got home that I started feeling normal, too.

This has happened once before while trying to wear a mask– those of you who have been around a while and have really good memories might recall me trying to wear a faceless mirror mask for Halloween one year, and that was before I was actually on anti-anxiety meds.

I guess I’m just gonna stay on quarantine for a while longer, then.


2:28 PM, Monday April 20th: 766,212 confirmed infections and 40,905 deaths.

Graaaah cannot brain

… you ever have one of those days where you are convinced that you have several hundred tasks, mostly mid-sized or smaller, that all need doing today but at any given moment you can’t remember what any of them are? And simultaneously you feel like you’ve been working on those tasks all day but actually naming anything you’ve done is also something you’re not capable of?

… what’s that you say? That’s every day now? Oh.

Damn.


2:09 PM, Friday April 17: 679,374 total confirmed cases; 34,180 Americans dead.