Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Covid Chronicles. Chapter 7: Freakout

Read chapter 6 here

Friday, March 20

The developing coronavirus story has challenged everyone’s coping mechanisms. Last Friday, Andy seemed not to be dealing well with the onslaught on news. He called me from work a couple of times, as well as on his drive home. I could hear the anxiety in his voice and sense his mind racing, his nerves stretched tight. I encouraged him to spend some time with JoAnna and me over the weekend since he didn’t have any plans. Not even disc golf, even though there was an unseasonably beautiful Sunday in the weather forecast. Gently keeping at it, JoAnna convinced him to join on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the chicken soup and apple pie she had just made provided the incentive. (Not to mention Saturday’s chili!) 

He arrived at the house shortly before I roused myself from a nap. I first heard JoAnna’s voice from the kitchen, to where she recently moved her desk, and figured she must be on yet another conference call. (They went on all weekend.) She sounded too playful. Then I heard a deeper, and familiar, timbre and realized we had company. 

(The desk had previously been tucked into the ‘Presidents’ Room’ closet. We moved the high table that had been next to the kitchen window into the family room. It provides a better perch for a turntable and speakers. JoAnna likes to rearrange the furniture every now and them, but this is the first time it’s been related to a pandemic.) 

While JoAnna was on a late-afternoon conference call, Andy and I talked in the family room, the TV tuned to “Everybody Loves Raymond” — something light. I heard a slight quiver in his voice, and as our conversation proceeded, he increasingly obsessed about the coronavirus news. A spike in the number of deaths in Italy. The growing number cases in Wisconsin. JoAnna’s brother’s Facebook rants. 

Click. Dad goes into counselor mode. 

“Now is a good time to cut back drastically on social media,” I suggested. “Especially if you want to put yourself in a calmer frame of mind.” 

“I know,” he replied, his voice straining.  “But sometimes I can’t help myself.” 

“Find something to do. Watch a movie. Read a book. Go outside. Spend time with family — like you’re doing now.” 

And that last suggestion is what served to elevate Andy’s mood. He was back to normal by the time he returned to his apartment. He even sent us a thank-you text message. 
I just want to say thanks for helping my mood today guys. You are the best parents a son could ask for. I love you both!!! 
After he left, JoAnna confided that Andy was crying when he first arrived. 

“He worries about you,” she explained, “because you’re in a vulnerable group.” 

“But I’m a healthy 70 year old with no underlying health conditions. It would be different if I were like Bill.” (My deceased brother-in-law, who had a host of underlying conditions and would have been extremely susceptible.) 

As it turned out, Andy got over his anxiety attacks. 

I texted him on Monday, using our 3-way chat (Andy/Jo/me) just to reach out and reassure myself that everything was OK with him. 

ME: Will be interested in how your day goes at work. Things have changed so much even since Friday afternoon. Looks a Thursday county board meeting and other meetings will be virtual. 

ANDY: Yeah not really updates I saw about our work yet. Still running as normal. (At the end of the previous week, management floated the idea of employees working at home.) Still having a really hard time concentrating. 

ME: Tune out as much as possible. Easier said than done, I know. ANDY: I’m trying to. Doesn’t help that coworkers talking about it too. Aggghhh just a crappy situation. 

ME: Stay strong 

JOANNA (injecting some humor into the conversation): Don’t worry. Your mom is at the Emergency Center and has things under control. (She wasn’t making up the part about the Emergency Center. This was her last day working in her usual mode.) 

ANDY: I’m working on tuning it out but I just feel like I’m about to break down.

JoAnna suggested he ask his supervisor about counseling options at work. I encouraged him to stop by the house after work, have supper with us, hang out. Better than spending the evening alone in his studio apartment.

Andy called me around 1:00, sitting in his car and experiencing a panic attack. We talked for about 15 minutes, long enough so that I felt assured that Andy was in a proper and steady mood to return to work. He even provided verification – unsolicited – after the call ended. 
Dad thank you!! I feel so much better after just telling myself to stop worrying about this all. I’m doing all the right things. Honestly you were right. I was just over worrying and just stressing myself out. 
 When he showed up at the house a few hours later, his mood could almost be described as ‘chipper’. 

His regular evening visits with us helps him stay centered. He’s still unable to avoid social media, but at least he does so more sparingly now. He’ll spend the weekend with us, as the spike in cases in Wisconsin and elsewhere is making most people want to shelter in place. 

(The map, the number of cases provided by the Wisconsin Department of Human Services, is current as of yesterday afternoon. It is updated daily at 2 p.m. On Wednesday, 107 cases were reported.)

Read chapter 8 here

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