It’s been awhile, obviously. A combination of busyness and lack of interest kept me away from blogging for months, but the more I read other bloggers’ quarantine musings, the more I want to add mine to the mix, so here we are.
I’ve been working from home full time since March 16, and I love it. I’ve often wondered how I would handle being full time remote, and I’m happy to announce that I handle it approximately seventy bajillion times better than I handle being in an office. Since I started at my current company four years ago, I’ve constantly struggled with my desire to be left alone coming into conflict with seemingly everyone else’s desire to come to my cube to chit chat whenever the spirit moved them–which was frequently. Now that I work from home, I am finally, blissfully unbothered from the beginning of my day until the end of it. I can listen to music without headphones whenever I want. People talk to me at scheduled times, not whenever they feel like interrupting me. I don’t have anyone hovering over my shoulder. It’s heavenly, and for the first time basically ever, I don’t dread going into work every day. (Now I only dread it some days 😉 ). I would be quite surprised if my boss let me become full time remote permanently, but who knows. It’s a brand new world out there.
(Incidentally, this desire to be left alone at work appears to run in the family. I was telling my aunt this a couple weeks ago when I called to say hello, and she mentioned that she feels the exact same way about work, as does my mom. I used to think it was sad that my mom would go to her car to eat her lunch instead of eating in the break room with her coworkers. Now I get it! Who knew that introversion was genetic?)
I clearly picked the right year to take a step back from any sort of race-related running goals and begin to explore running for running’s sake. The Shamrock Shuffle was cancelled, which worked out great for me since my training had been dismal and I was very confident I was going to turn in a personal worst at the race this year. I’m officially still signed up for Rock ‘n’ Roll’s 12K in Chicago this July, but I have no expectation that that will actually happen. Those were the only races I had paid for prior to the shutdown, so I haven’t lost much in that department, especially since Shamrock, to my great surprise, refunded our registration fees.
Rock ‘n’ Roll has hosted some free virtual races, and I’ve done a 5K and 10K with that so far. I technically did the 8K as well, but I forgot to register for it (whoops), so I didn’t get credit for running it. Won’t make that mistake again! I’ve enjoyed the virtual races a lot more than I expected. They motivate me to not phone it in on every single run, which is nice. I’m not setting PRs by any means, but I am running much harder than I would run otherwise (like with the 8K – most of my weekday runs are done at a 10:30-11:00 pace, but I averaged 9:44 on my 8K, and all of my mile splits were sub-10:00). Rock ‘n’ Roll will send you a medal (and face mask, because 2020) if you pay them to, but you can also just do the races for free and not receive any swag, which has been my method up to this point.
I’m usually putting in 13 or so miles per week. The running and biking paths near my house, unsurprisingly, have been crawling with people since this all began, so I generally opt for the grossest possible days and do my runs then. Cold, windy, rainy days are my sweet spot for optimal social distancing while running. I’ve started wearing my Buff and pulling it up over my face when there are people around. It’s extremely uncommon to run with a Buff in my area–I usually see one other runner wearing a Buff or other face covering, at most–and I’m curious to see if that will change at all as this goes on. I would guess that a lot of people view it as unnecessary because social distancing is possible on these paths–in some places, you could easily give people 20 feet of distance while passing if you wanted to–compared to a city sidewalk, where distancing is totally unrealistic.
My strength training/overall workout routine has suffered mightily now that my “gym” is made up of two five-pound and two 10-pound dumbbells. Since the summer of 2018, I was in a nice routine of three strength workouts, three runs, two low-impact cardio (elliptical or stationary bike) workouts, and one dance class per week. I now, in general, do three runs, two strength/cardio hybrid Fitness Blender workouts, and one virtual dance class per week. My usual dance class isn’t available, but I discovered that the Broadway Dance Center in New York has an impressive weekly lineup of Zoom classes. It’s cheaper than my normal class and more appropriate for quarantine, since the classes are all one-offs rather than eight-week sessions that build to a performance. Strength training has been much harder to replace due to my dire lack of equipment. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of fitness in that department through all of this, but what can you do? I suppose something is better than nothing, even if my something feels woefully insufficient. I also don’t like that my activity level in general has gone down. Hitting 10,000 steps per day got harder after I moved from the city to the suburbs last summer, and now it’s downright impossible on days I don’t run. My sleep, however, has been phenomenal–I’m averaging more than an hour more of sleep per night than usual–so at least my FitBit is proud of me in that department.
We’ve had a couple of brushes with the virus in my family. One family member suspected she had contracted the virus while traveling right before quarantine started (like, she got home 24 hours before it started). She had a lot of fatigue and some chest tightness after returning, but since this was way early on and she had been traveling domestically, she wasn’t eligible for a test. She had an antibody test that came back positive, so she might have had it, but who knows how accurate her antibody test was. My brother also almost certainly had it. He lives in the New York City metro area and about a month ago, he and both of his roommates came down with low-grade fevers and completely lost their sense of smell. None of them were eligible for tests, either, but it seems nearly impossible to me that they could have had anything else, given their location, timing, and symptoms.
I’m a bit suspicious that I got it in Hawaii, though that’s purely suspicion. Four days after arriving, both of us on the trip came down with a mysterious, nearly full-body rash. We initially suspected an allergic reaction to our sunscreen (though it seemed wildly unlikely that we BOTH would’ve been allergic to the same sunscreen, especially since it was just Banana Boat, and we’d both used that variety of Banana Boat in the past without issue), so we switched to a hypoallergenic sunscreen and the rash just got worse. Benadryl didn’t touch it. From the get-go, I thought it was a virus (though not the virus – this was the end of January, long before corona seemed like a serious threat to the U.S.). It’s didn’t hurt or itch – it just looked horrible, like every single pore on our faces, ears, necks, chests, stomachs, arms, and legs had been pricked with a pin. On the flight home, I got knocked out with awful cold-like symptoms – sinus pressure, fatigue, headache. I had that for a few days after we got home, and then randomly relapsed two weeks later for a few more days, which has never happened to me before. I had my annual physical scheduled two days after we arrived back from Hawaii, so I brought up the rash while I was there, as it was still active at that point (as were my cold symptoms). The doctor didn’t know what might’ve caused it, so she sent me to the dermatologist who also had no idea what might’ve caused it (but didn’t suspect the sunscreen, because the rash wasn’t on my back, but sunscreen had been). The dermatologist wanted to take a skin biopsy to get a clearer idea of what was going on, so she took a punch out of my arm (leaving me with an ugly scar, sigh) and sent it off to the lab. I was officially diagnosed with perivascular inflammation, and when the dermatologist’s office called with my diagnosis, the PA said that perivascular inflammation is caused by a variety of things, including prescription medication (wasn’t taking any), vitamins (I was taking one I’d been taking for awhile, but only I was taking that and we both got the rash), or…a virus.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time–“the time” being the second week of February–but as the weeks wore on, I started to wonder more and more if maybe that rash had been triggered by a virus, and maybe that virus was SARS-CoV-2.
Fast-forward two months, and what’s the newest buzz about COVID-19 symptoms? Skin reactions, especially in people in their teens and 20s with no other symptoms. HMMM.
Obviously, Hawaii was full of tourists from all over the world, and I feel confident that every single thing we did, from lounging around the pool areas at the two hotels where we stayed to passing through multiple airports to more tourist-focused activities (a full island bus tour of Oahu, Pearl Harbor, the Road to Hana in Maui) either put us in direct, close contact with other tourists or people who would have interacted closely with other tourists. A not-insignificant number of tourists to Hawaii come from China, South Korea, and Japan, which all their first confirmed case of Covid-19 before my trip. Heck, even the U.S. had its first confirmed case of Covid-19 before my trip, and the majority of tourists in Hawaii are U.S. citizens. With what we know about the transmissiblity of the virus, I don’t think it’s all impossible that I could have encountered someone asymptomatic or someone with mild enough symptoms that, in January, wouldn’t have triggered any suspicion. I doubt I’ll ever know. Even if a fail-proof antibody test comes out and I test positive, it still probably won’t confirm when I got it. Of course, everyone these days seems convinced they had it without knowing it, so I could just be one of the masses clinging to unrealistic hope. I’m acting like I haven’t had it–washing my hands manically, wearing a mask when I go out in public, social distancing–which I think is what really matters for now, anyway. But I am curious.
This has been a very weird time to be a person with health anxiety. You would think that a pandemic would make things way, way worse, but oddly it’s been a lot better?? My anxiety about all the ways my body could malfunction and kill me (or the bodies of loved ones could malfunction and kill them) has been way down (though admittedly, my anxiety in general is historically at its worst during the winter, so that fact that we’re solidly in spring by now probably has helped me out a bit), and I haven’t been as continuously anxious as I would have expected if you had told me a year ago that I’d be living through a serious global pandemic in 2020. I still have anxious moments, of course, but when my therapist has asked me how I’m doing, overall, I feel like I’m not really doing much worse than the general population–and that, I think, is what’s at the root of my health anxiety feeling diminished.
Anxiety as a chronic problem (rather than anxiety as a normal, temporary reaction to a threatening circumstance) is always viewed as an overreaction or catastrophizing of a situation. Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of things that could kill anyone of us at any moment (house fires! Gas leaks! Deadly physical conditions, including anything from cancer to meningitis to sepsis to a brain aneurysm to appendicitis to blood clots! Carbon monoxide poisoning! [Those are my anxiety-provokers of choice.] Car accidents! Plane crashes! Mass shootings! Tornadoes! Hurricanes! Earthquakes! The list goes on and on!), but realistically, the chances of any one of things happening to you on a particular day are usually small. If you worry about someone having meningitis because they can’t move their neck, they have a crushing headache, a sky-high fever, and a rash, that’s not anxiety: that’s your fight-or-flight response telling you to get them to the hospital ASAP because they could be severely ill. If you worry about having meningitis because you and everyone you love have meninges that have the ability to swell, that’s anxiety. I frequently fall into the second category.
However! Nowadays, it’s not at all an overreaction to worry that the virus could be anywhere, and you could contract it at any time. That’s reality. An intense desire to wash your hands anytime you touched something you fear might be contaminated is no longer a maladaptive behavior. It’s literally what the CDC tells you to do. It’s like suddenly everyone has gotten on my level, and “my level” is no longer problematic or unhealthy–it’s exactly how you’re supposed to behave.
Like I said, it’s weird.
Life in General
I anticipated that my life would change dramatically in 2020, though unsurprisingly, I did not quite envision that it would change dramatically in the way it did. My original plans for 2020 included becoming a homeowner, getting a dog, and maybe even changing departments within my company, if the stars aligned. All of those things are off the table for now, as this is not really the environment in which I want to buy a home (which consequently means no dog, as my apartment doesn’t allow them) or leave a stable-for-now job (other changes at my company have made the department with the position I was eyeing substantially less stable than my current department). It’s not the end of the world by any means. I’m very happy in my apartment and wasn’t chomping at the bit to move out, and while there have been times where I wasn’t happy with my current career path, these days just having income at all is my gauge for career satisfaction. The entire outside world has turned upside down: no reason to intentionally turn mine upside down when it’s meeting all of my needs.
I’m a little disappointed that those things won’t happen this year, but my desire for stability FAR outweighs my desire for those sorts of changes, so I’m really, truly okay with it. I’m more disappointed about other things I expected to do this year that will no longer happen: a conference I was excited to attend in next week, a trip to Seattle to see my grandparents, spending some time at home in Michigan over the summer, more Jonas Brothers concerts, assuming they toured again in 2020 (which I anticipated they would).
On the other hand, I’m also now able to do things I thought wouldn’t be possible due to my initial 2020 plans. I didn’t think I’d plant anything this year as I expected to move during the summer. Instead, I’ve started a nice little container garden. I planted four heads of lettuce that said they could grow in containers. The garden center also had chamomile and peppermint, so I came up with the bright idea of DIY-ing my own tea this summer. I drink a LOT of chamomile and peppermint tea and thought it would be fun to try to grow own plants and dry the tea-making parts. Will any of it work? Who knows! If not, I invested 10 whole dollars into this project, so I won’t be too torn up if it doesn’t. I’d like to plant flowers, too. Hopefully (?), we’re done with freezes for this year, so maybe that will happen this coming weekend.
I very much need a haircut. I haven’t had a haircut in any capacity, not even a trim, since July 6. I originally hoped to get it cut in early March, but that obviously didn’t happen. I’m weeks away from my hair approaching fall of 2011 lengths, which was both the longest I’ve ever allowed my hair to get and the period of my life where I learned I do not look good with long hair. But alas, I’m guessing a haircut is weeks away at best, if not more. I have a feeling I’m going to become quite adept at top knots if this continues.
So there you go! 2700+ words about my past two months. Today, I venture out into the real world (other than the grocery store, that is) for the first time to go to the dentist. Last November, I had a crown placed on a molar I managed to grind a crack into (#anxietyproblems). The area around the crown has hurt whenever I chew anything or eat food that’s not room temperature for the past two weeks, so the dentist considered that a visit-required emergency. If I’m extra lucky, I might need a root canal! Woo! What a time.