April 7, 2021. In line at the Woodland Community and Senior Center to receive the first Moderna vaccine dose.
The moment the needle plunged into my left arm I began to feel anxious and lightheaded. My doctors encouraged me to get the first COVID-19 vaccine available to me. That day came on April 7th.
I felt reluctant to get vaccinated for fear that my skin conditions psoriasis and eczema might flare. But getting COVID-19 sounded much worse, so I relented. Once the needle came out of my arm I knew I could not go back.
I wrote on my Everyday Health blog that I don’t like needles. I can tolerate them now, but I generally feel a bit dizzy after a needle prick. This one felt much worse than others, however. It must have shown on my face. A nurse roaming the area where those recently jabbed waited fifteen minutes stopped to check on me. “I feel a bit dizzy and woozy,” I told her. She offered a Gatorade, which I reluctantly accepted.
As I write this, sheets of rain are pouring down on our house. It’s about midnight, and with wind gusts up to 60 mph I doubt I’ll go to bed anytime soon. This storm is one of the strongest I can remember.
Power surges flicker the lights, but the electricity remains for now. I’m passing these tense moments by writing—something that has brought me comfort over the years when under stress. It helps me break from the paralysis that comes when something traumatic comes. This is definitely one of those times.
The Storm that Exposed a Leaky House
Strong storms that shake the windows do come most every winter here in the Central Valley of California. I grew up in the Bay Area where the storms hit first before moving to the middle part of the state. When I lived in Southern California similar storms would come as well.
One winter, though, exposed every weakness in the townhouse where we lived in Diamond Bar—about 25 miles east of Los Angeles. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day a series of storms dropped half a foot of rain in a matter of days. The house began to leak in no less than seven places—all at once.
I stayed up most of the night monitoring the small window under a downspout on the second level. Heavy rain overloaded the gutter and downspout, which was half clogged with leaves. A sheet of water began to stream onto the window. We learned that night that the installers the previous owner hired did not seal the windows properly. The water passed through the window as if no seal existed at all.
I quickly punched out the window screen then grabbed a cookie sheet to deflect the water away from the house. Once the rain subsided, Lori and mopped up the large pool of water in the house. We then cut a piece of tarp to cover the window—not easy given the height of the window above the ground. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Another window, in a bedroom above the garage door looking out over the street, also leaked along the inside of the window from the top. That water seeped into the wall, which started to come out of the drywall. I cut out a hole in the wall to get a better view, then devised a way to divert the water coming down a 2×4 in the wall to a bucket below. Water from that storm just about filled that five-gallon bucket.
The roof leaked too—onto the furnace in the garage, from the second story above the kitchen sink down into Lydia’s bedroom on the first floor, and into the attic. Thankfully, the homeowner’s association sent a roofer to inspect and fix those leaks. I never had a problem with the roof again.
The Inept Window Installer
Besides the two leaks from the bedroom window and the side window in the living room, two other windows had minor leaks. I quickly surmised that the installers botched the job when they replaced the original windows in the townhouse a few year’s prior.
The previous owner lived nearby, and told me I could contact him if I ever needed anything. Did I ever need some help after that week of storms and window leaks. He gave me the phone number of the window contractor, a friend from his church. The window contractor replied he could come look at the windows that week.
This year happens to be one of major milestones. I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree after seven long years of undergraduate work that has been riddled with health setbacks. I will also be turning 25. It feels like a prime opportunity to reflect on my life journey and how it’s been shaped by living with bipolar disorder. While it certainly hasn’t been easy, I’ve grown in ways I likely never would have otherwise.
A developing diagnosis
When I began experiencing mood swings as a young teenager in high school, I would have never guessed their implications for the rest of my life. I was certainly moody in ways many teenagers experience, but it was when I began self harming and daydreaming about suicide that I knew something was very wrong.
I remember a fellow classmate pointing out the scabbed over cuts on my wrist and asking what happened. I quickly pulled my sleeve over the evidence of my tumultuous mind and blamed the cat. They didn’t seem convinced but didn’t push the issue further. That moment of fear, guilt, and shame at my actions was a clear sign to me that I was ill. However, it wasn’t until much later that I finally asked for help.
That moment was one of the scariest of my life. I knew once I told my parents about my cutting and suicidal thoughts that I couldn’t go back to normalcy. But at that point, normalcy was locking myself in my room anytime I wasn’t at school. It was sitting in the dark with sharp blades, crying for reasons unknown to me, trying to push out the intrusive thoughts that constantly berated me. Although I wasn’t fully conscious of it, I had reached the point where I couldn’t live that way any longer.
As I predicted, life changed drastically. I began seeing a therapist weekly and started medications. The initial diagnosis of depression didn’t seem to quite fit, but having a name for all of these unwelcome thoughts and feelings seemed to help. While this time of my life is extremely blurry, I know I struggled desperately to regain a foothold but the ground seemed to keep slipping out from under me.
The Wonder Woman I Knew–A Mother’s Day Poem (Lori)
I will start with Beauty, You always were that to me— Green eyes, copper hair, and long flowing dresses, The color of your lipstick and faint smell of hairspray, Fill my early childhood memories with good things.
Then there was the test of Strength, Mom, you got really sick. The doctors couldn’t figure it out, Some even believed you made it all up; But we found a doctor who helped us understand As you lived with a chronic health condition for many years. You kept on going, living your life and in that resilience Found a way to help others with similar conditions.
Ohh my dear mother, you were the Love. I rarely had reason to doubt it. You were constantly by my side, Through every up and down I faced. In my teen years you showed me that Love must sometimes be tough, But always believes and hopes for the best, In me—your only child.
The Grace and dignity you showed, You extended it to many others. No one was excluded from your circle Of friendship and loyalty. You laughed with others in times of joy, You held the hand of a friend suffering from terminal cancer. You taught me how to connect with people in meaningful ways.
I speak the Truth, I testify, To these things that you were and still are, Even though you have left this earth. You never wore a cape or carried a lasso, But you were a wonderful woman, A Wonder Woman to me.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Quarantine Nail Party (Lori)
Those who keep in touch with me on social media know I enjoy giving myself manicures. Manicures (and occasionally pedicures) are fulfilling to me in two ways: self-care and to show my creative side. I am happy to share my most recent manicure in this entry.
Why nail polish? Isn’t it sticky, smelly, time-consuming, and troublesome? If I am being completely honest, it is all of those things. If you can pull off the perfect at-home manicure, it seems to start chipping or peeling off as soon as you get it done.