the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Love in the time of COVID

Greetings from Quarantineland®! Isn’t it so much better to endure this ongoing, agonizing, terrorizing bullshit if you just think of it as an amusement park! And, whoa, does this Lady of Perpetual Depression hate amusement parks! Sing it with me: EXCLAMATION POINTS!

How much do I hate amusement parks? Let me think. And this right here is me giving you a heads up that I am operating on approximately zero amounts and containers of sleep. Blank quantities. The dose of sleep? Nil. Diddly nope nope nope.

I hate amusement parks more than I hate coconut-flavored anything, the very idea that La Croix exists (y’all need to stop with that shit), black licorice, AND — this is going to define the expanse of my hatred — Mike Pence’s very lonely scrotum. Is that an image or what. But here we are. Some of us are in various areas of the park, and I happen to be caged in a moderately-to-low stressful area. For instance:

Pete’s case of COVID-19 did not kill him. Or us.

We have plenty of food and water and Internet access and a backyard in which we frequently lounge and have an early evening snack before dinner as we throw sticks and balls for a dog who is made of universes unknown. She was born of the dust and heart of stars that have had to collapse and give themselves to other life.

She is her own constellation.

This puppy is a puppy and comes with all things puppy, of course, and I am typing these words with arms and hands and fingers littered with giant gashes from gnawing puppy puppy-ness. And too much has happened for me to discount that she came to me — she is the family dog, yes, don’t argue with me about this, shut up — but she came to ME straight from Coco. I can get into that later, but just know that Birget McBirgergurgles Kierke Keebler Cracker Crumbles arrived having earned a degree in That Blended Family of Ashdown and Armstrong with Coco as the esteemed professor.

(I have to edit this as I am writing it to say that Marlo is in my office attempting online school work DO NOT GET ME STARTED I WILL RAGE and she found one of Coco’s tennis balls that she used to fetch endlessly. And she just said, “She was so much more of a person than a dog.” And I did not start sobbing. At all. Not for a second or three whole minutes. Nah. I HAD TO GET UP AND WALK AROUND FOR TEN MINUTES WHAT THE HELL.)

I don’t want to get into that now even though that would be really uplifting — PUPPY! A puppy who does “Forgive Me Belly” when she knows she’s done something wrong and will roll over to show you her STUPID PUPPY BELLY, perk up her arms like a rabbit and look at you like, “I’m so sorry, I’m just dumb.” Even though she knows she’s smarter than all of us. Hello, student of Dame Eleanor. You cannot fleece me, you sweet and marvelous asshole. Coco is laughing so hard right now.

So. We need to talk. A few people have sent me email and commented here and there about their loved ones whose depression and anxiety during this quarantine have plunged into depths that have no bottom. And I want to take a minute to address this, for you who suffer and for those who live with those who suffer.

How to explain… I guess I should start by saying that anyone who makes a snide remark about how people in other parts of the world have it so much harder than we do can suck a lonely Mike Pence scrotum. Pain is relative. Period. End of argument. Go away.

It goes like this.

Pete will see me standing near the sink in the kitchen, a rag in my hand from having scrubbed all the countertops. Again. Fourth time in one day. I’ll be staring out the window above the faucet, tears in my eyes, concentrating, holding it in, holding it in, holding it in. And what he doesn’t know is that I want to peel every inch of skin off of my body. I am on fire in that moment. I want to grab the back of my skull and pull the whole goddamn thing off, starting from my neck all the way to my forehead. I am in so much physical pain FROM ANXIETY that I have to focus — really focus — on a leaf outside the window and memorize the lines of how it hangs from a tree in order not to jump out of that window.

Now, you may be one of those idiot shit heads who says, “Heather needs to check herself into the hospital. She is not well.” If you ever fucking say those words to ANYONE reading this who has experienced that kind of moment that I had at that sink, you deserve all the horrible things that have ever happened to you in life. You do. Straight up, go to hell.

I am not here to make nice about this.

This… situation? Is that what we call it? These circumstances? This is for those who don’t understand why we’d be tearing up and staring out a window above the kitchen sink. And I need you to hear me. Your loved one needs you to hear me.

Sometimes we wake up and our entire body is screaming at us. Our spine feels like it is splitting in half. We have almost irresistible urges to tear out our hair because it would momentarily distract us from the the pain that has taken up residence in every single molecule of our body. And we don’t know why. Why do we feel like this? We don’t want to feel like this? Why? WHY? PLEASE MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP.

Some of you are like me and we throw ourselves into tasks: organizing the Tupperware drawer in the kitchen. Organizing closets that have not been opened in years. Oh, the American Express bills from 2012, I am so glad I kept you! Vacuuming, scrubbing, polishing. Blowing leaves. Pruning bushes. Sweeping and sweeping. Projects. So many projects! If I can swan dive into a project I can distract myself from the pain.

It is so hard to admit that.

And sometimes these moments of pain can be fleeting, which is even more perplexing. We can be so excited to jump into work. We can be so exhilarated knowing just how much we can and are going to get done, and then… suddenly… we’ve been pushed off of a cliff into worry and inexplicable apprehension. We become fretful. We feel a shattering emptiness. We fear. And even though there is so much to fear, we don’t know what or why we are fearing.

What to do with us.

How do you pull us out of that deep crevasse. No question mark. Because, well. Fuck. You are already dealing with your own emotion about being stuck in the house with a 10-year-old who will not stop humming — humming is fine, elsewhere. Actually, no. Humming is never fine. Humming is worse than all the lonely Republican scrotums in the world. It should be punishable by firing squad.

And you know how I feel about whistling. Right now, today, here in my caged area of Qaurantineland, if you bring a whistler anywhere near me I will dismantle that person’s body and you will never find the head.

You are dealing with being confined, all of your own frustration and how to cope with it. But this person you love is losing it. At least, you think they are losing it. It feels like they are losing it. It feels that way to you and to them. And I am no doctor. I hold no degree in psychology, so take this solely as the manic rambling of someone who is experiencing Losing It®:

We need our moments.

We need to cry and, please, let us cry. We need our projects, and I know. Our projects make absolutely no sense to you WHY ARE WE ORGANIZING NAPKINS FROM IKEA BY COLOR. Why? Because right then, right at that second, our spine is splitting in half. And napkins stacked from red to orange to yellow to green to blue to violet? Well, that is our Valium.

These circumstances have opened up this knotted part of our brain to take over the kingdom of our soul. It is these circumstances. Some unknown traitor opened up a secret door and let an army of demons conquer our cortex and now we have plotted ways to lock the humming 10-year-old into a trunk. We’d give her snacks, maybe, but just enough to make her scream, “PLEASE! I PROMISE I WON’T EVER HUM AGAIN!”

Now, that is some fucked up shit. You can’t even believe I wrote that. I sure did! I just wrote that! But you know what? “Writing that” is exactly the same as someone’s need to wipe countertops obsessively. To clean all of the windows in the house. To want to hear the washing machine cleaning another load of towels.

It’s also exactly the same as someone’s need to sleep for hours and hours. To weep in the corner of the bathroom with the door closed so that no one hears them. To get in the car and drive to another state and back if only for the silence. To self-medicate with anything and everything that will numb the reality that WE CANNOT MAKE SENSE OF WHY WE FEEL LIKE THIS PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

What to do with us.

We don’t know what to do with us. We are so confused. We do not understand this invasion and that makes it even more terrifying.

And so I’d say, to us and to anyone living with us, every stupid but actually very not stupid Mormon cliché I ever learned. Love, be kind and patient. Listen. Embrace us and all that is us. Let us vent every moronic thought that has entered our spiral of Things That Will Go Wrong (we are really good at this, you cannot possibly beat us at this, don’t even try). And don’t come back with, “Well, it’s super healthy to worry about things you shouldn’t be worried about!” Because, guess what. We have a trunk. And a lock. And we know how to use them.

Rub our feet at night. Draw us a bath. Allow us our moments of paralyzation and stupidity. I AM LEARNING THIS WITH THE HUMMER, IT IS JUST TAKING SOME TIME, HERE TO BE UPFRONT ABOUT THINGS, I AM A HAMILTON AND CAN YELL A ROCK INTO SUBMISSION.

Most of all, please know that we absolutely do not want to be experiencing this. We are embarrassed and ashamed and afraid and staring at leaves to HOLD. IT. IN. We love you and so desperately want to be loved.

Hold us and tell us, “It will be okay.” And if we pull away, pull us back in — again, PULL US BACK IN — and hold us in an embrace so that we know you really mean it. Repeat it, again and again, softly but with gentle authority that you know it’s true. So that we will believe you. Or at least try to believe you. We want to believe you.

Hold us knowing that we need and hear every word you whisper into our ear.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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