This morning it was 1°C (about 39°F for you Americans), so I decided to do something I haven’t done for about a month: go outside for a walk.
Since March 16th, when I started working from home for my employer, I have only set foot outside my home at all for four or five absolutely essential trips: a drive to the nearest mailbox to mail a letter, several trips to the nearest garbage dumpster in my apartment complex, etc. Frankly, I have been borderline terrified to leave my apartment at all during the pandemic, even though I know I could go outside, as long as I stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people.
I have already explained, via this blog, that I have several underlying health conditions at the age of 56: I am significantly overweight, and I have hypertension, type II diabetes, and asthma. All four conditions (which, of course, are interrelated) put me at much higher risk for a severe, possibly even fatal, case of COVID-19 if I should become infected with this novel coronavirus. So I take this very seriously.
Way back in 2005/2006, when I was an avid H5N1 bird flu prepper, I scoured sites like FluTracks.com for the best information I could find on how to cope with an influenza pandemic. I created a pandemic stockpile, which included things like surgical gloves, respirator masks, eye protection, hand sanitizer, garbage bags, disinfectant, non-perishable food, printed guides on how to care for the sick, etc.
Yes, I went completely and utterly overboard. But the peace of mind it gave me, when it would appear that H5N1 was going to turn into a pandemic, was worth every penny I spent on those pandemic preps. (The H5N1 influenze virus was unlike the current SARS-CoV-2 virus in two ways: first, it was much deadlier, with a mortality rate of about 60%; second, it was extremely poor at human-to-human transmission, which is why it pretty much burned itself out and never became a pandemic. Thank God for small mercies. We weren’t so lucky this time around.)
So, today, I pulled out my first mask from my 15-year-old stockpile and put it on, using the following handy instructional video from Singapore General Hospital (and, before you berate me for not donating my masks to a hospital, I remind you that they are all fifteen years old and well past the expiration date, still good enough for me to use, but which would be rejected by a hospital).
Also, my 81-year-old mother is a skilled, lifelong seamstress, and she telephoned this morning to tell me that has made me some cloth masks, which I hope to drive across town and pick up sometime later today (practicing proper social distancing throughout). She will probably leave them outside her home for me in a plastic bag hanging from her outside stair railing, and we will no doubt wave and yell a brief conversation at each other through the closed window. I usually spend Easter dinner with my mother and step-father, but of course, that will not be happening this year.
Anyway, back to the reason I started writing this blogpost in the first place: I. WENT. OUTSIDE. FOR. A. WALK. (Somebody please alert the major news media 😉 )
So I threw on my warm coat and knit hat, and wrapped a scarf around my face over my mask. Here’s what I look like. (Aas you can see, it is still firmly winter in April up here in Winnipeg; there’s patches of snow on the ground in places, and we aren’t going to see leaves on the trees and tulips popping up until the end of May at the earliest):
I’m certainly not going to win any fashion awards, but it did the job. I put on my winter gloves, and went out for a short walk to the nearby shared elementary school-junior high school-high school grounds, located on the other side of the small forest you see behind me.
I paused at the top of a small mound, and looked around me. The wind felt good on what skin I was exposing to it, and I could hear the birds chirping. To my left, a good distance away, a man and his young son were kicking around a soccer ball on the basketball courts. To my right, a lone woman walked around the oval athletic track near the high school, again well away from me. A flock of grumpy Canada geese, newly returned from the south, picked grumpily at the dead grass and squawked at each other. It felt good.
On my walk back, I encountered a woman carrying a grocery bag. I gave her a wide berth, waiting until she got far ahead of me before I followed her path back to my own apartment.
And so, a milestone: I went for a walk. I came back inside, washed my hands thoroughly (while singing Happy Birthday to myself twice in a row), and carefully removed my mask according to the instructions in the video I posted above. Call it a successful test run.
Overall, this has been a rough week for me. I am still struggling at times with anxiety and depression. Some days have been better and others have been worse. I have tried to limit the number of times I run to check my news sources, and I think that that has helped me a bit. I have also been using Apple’s FaceTime pretty much every day with my best friend (who also happens to be my ex-boyfriend, something which is not that unusual in the gay community of a smaller city like Winnipeg):
(*sigh* I need a shave, badly...that’s me in the smaller picture up top…)
This pandemic is going to be a mental health marathon for me. In addition to my biweekly telephone discussions with my psychiatrist, who dispenses my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication and engages me in talk therapy, this week I have also entered into a brand new arrangement with the friend of a trusted friend. This friend-of-a-friend, who has worked as a certified peer support specialist and as a crisis hotline volunteer, wants to explore developing a virtual mental health support community, possibly even a business, in Second Life. I am to be her guinea pig. 😉
We will be meeting up virtually for counselling sessions, perhaps via text or voice chat in Discord, or perhaps even in Second Life, where we were first introduced by our mutual friend, whose judgement and wisdom I respect a great deal.
I have found over the years that it indeed helps to have counselors that you can turn to as a safe space, a sounding-board, people who are not your friends (because you can easily burn out even the most patient of friends with your struggles and issues over time). A therapeutic relationship, with a clearly-defined patient and counselor role, can make a big difference to a person with mental health issues.
So that’s about it for me today. I plan to use my Easter long weekend to clean my apartment, go shopping and socializing in Second Life, and do a little blogging.
Stay safe and stay healthy!