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?

On alternate universes

I have spent the last couple of days working on the graduation video– or, at least, the “celebration” video, since technically we’re not supposed to call it a graduation (or use Pomp and Circumstance) if it’s not high school. One way or another, though, I’ve been working on it. The final project is going to end up being somewhere in the 35-minute range.

I used to do quite a lot of this type of work at a previous school, when I was one of the folks responsible for the morning announcements. The announcements themselves were no big deal, but we’d shoot commercials and little skits and stuff like that all the time to keep the kids paying attention, and it turned out that I wasn’t terrible at video editing, or at least the type of video editing you can do with a cheap camera (or, now, a smartphone) and iMovie. In an entirely alternate world, I can see a version of me that does this sort of thing for a living. There’s something very satisfying about it, honestly. There’s no world where I’m contemplating a career change or anything like that– if for no better reason than I don’t actually have any idea how you break into that field, and “I’m good at iMovie” probably isn’t going to be enough to get me any interviews.


The bike has finally shipped, and is currently slated to arrive on Tuesday, although I suspect it might arrive a bit quicker. This means that I now get to start obsessing about bike helmets, which is going to be extra special fun because I have an enormous head– seriously, I can’t ever find hats that fit– and therefore bike helmets that 1) fit me 2) I can afford and 3) I am willing to wear are going to, simultaneously, not exist and be sold out everywhere.

My wife’s foot remains in a boot, and I’ll need her to go with me the first time I ride anywhere so she can call the police when I crash and die, so I’ve got time to … I dunno, build one, I guess.

(Oh, also: bike helmets are not built for bald dudes? I have done a little looking around and I feel like any helmet that has actual holes in it is going to be fodder for the weirdest sunburn of all time, and I am not looking forward to that.)


I am beginning to be concerned about this fall. If we are back in class, we, or at least the adults, are probably going to be mandated to wear masks. I have not, to date, been able to spend more than about fifteen minutes in a mask without panic attacks becoming a real problem, so eight hours— to say nothing of eight hours where I’m expected to do something other than curl up into a fetal position and concentrate on not thinking about my breathing– is gonna be … let’s say troublesome.

I have a couple of surgical masks on hand, and I’m going to try one of those the next time I have to go anywhere, because getting cat food at Target (which, apparently, doesn’t actually sell pet supplies any longer, or at least ours doesn’t, or at least they’ve hidden them well enough that I couldn’t find them anywhere?) damn near killed me tonight. It was bad, y’all.


It still, despite the video and despite the fact that I haven’t actually been in my classroom since the middle of March, not quite hit me that the school year is basically over. I finished my grading today; I will finish my actual grades this weekend at some point, and Monday is some staff meeting types of things, and … that’s it. I’ll have survived (more or less) my first year back in the classroom in a while. More thoughts on this later, I imagine, once it actually manages to wash over me and it feels like it means something.


8:05 PM, Friday, May 29: 1,745,606 confirmed cases and 102,798 dead Americans.

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.

Mental health update

The portion of my brain that is able to view the rest of me dispassionately would like to report that it is fascinated at how much legit fucking emotional stress I am experiencing at the idea that Bernie Sanders might be the Democratic nominee for President, an experience that I’m pretty certain I’ve never had during a Democratic primary before, and I’ve been paying attention to these things for a minute now.

The rest of me … well, it’s glad that that one part is fascinated, I suppose. It would also appreciate it if it could motivate me to grade something or take a shower, now that it’s 4:30 in the God damn afternoon.

Nope

I wasn’t feeling well yesterday– had a one-day case of the stomach flu that’s been going around for the last couple of weeks, I think– and I was in bed for the night by six, so I didn’t post. Today I have been in a simmering rage for the entire day for no clear reason that I can identify. In a few minutes I’m going to take one of my “only on really bad days” brain pills and try and get an assignment pulled together for my 7th graders tomorrow and I think that’s going to be all I can accomplish for the day.

Something more normal tomorrow, I hope.