The other day I posted on my Facebook page that I thought I had PTSD from living under the reign of Trump and Covid-19. But that is not accurate. Come to find out, I may have something called “pandemic trauma and stress experience (PTSE),” according to Dr. Gail Saltz, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, as was reported to Nicole Karlis of Salon.com in the article: “It’s not just you: Why everyone is super exhausted right now.”
For me the exhaustion started with the hope of getting the vaccine as a high-risk human. Stress, thy name is trying to hunt down a Covid-19 vaccine, especially as a senior citizen. I don’t know about your area, but my vaccine hunt was a “Where’s Waldo-like,” frustrating trip through pharmacy/hospital hell. When the vaccine first came out, I was told by our local press (and my doctor) that I’d qualify for the top second group to be given the shot (1B) because I have several comorbidities—one of them being old age, another being gloriously chunky, and the rest of them being none of your business.
When the time came for my group, I signed up everywhere there was a whisper of getting a vaccine appointment. Rumor had it that my doctor’s office might have 300 slots if I got there fast enough and kept calling and nagging them. (“Nope. Nada. No can do,” they said.) Two hospitals were rumored to have the shots but none that were affiliated with my doctors. (I was beginning to think this was a race thing because no Black person I knew had been able to procure a shot in my area.) I signed up on my county health website. (Eleanor, who?—don’t call us, ‘cause we ain’t gonna call you!) I heard about an obscure pharmacy in my town that uses the cutesy old English spelling of double p’s to describe its establishment—all I had to do was send a text to get on their list for a vaccine appointment, but apparently, they ran out of shots the day before I signed up. (They ghosted me like a Dickens specter, but never bothered to tell me that I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting vaccinated). National news said one of the largest pharmacies in the land would offer millions of shots, and all I had to do was go online and sign up, but every time I logged on (day after day after day after day) every single appointment was booked. (“W of the T of the F,” I thought, “I escaped the ghetto, certainly I can outsmart a stupid pharmacy website!”)
With my laptop in hand and my phone by my side, I stayed up through the night one evening mainlining caffeine, pinching myself to stay awake, and watching the sequel to the Gilmore Girls. (The revisit with the girls left something to be desired, BTW.) At exactly two minutes after midnight, I logged onto the big pharmacy website, and Eureka! There were open appointments…although it took me a lifetime jumping through all the pages of questions they demanded like, “of these gazillion addresses listed, which one do you remember as a place you might have lived thirty years ago?” (Are you shittin’ me, giant pharmacy store? I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last week!) By the time I finally escaped their Indiana Jones death traps and clicked on “submit,” and received two dates (one for each 2-shot vaccine), I thought I had won the lottery. (Hallelujah, praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus!)
I bragged to everyone I knew that I had done the impossible and had gotten an appointment on the giant pharmacy website. I had done what other mere mortals could not do. My friends were so jealous. I gave tutorials on how to go fishing for a vaccine appointment at two minutes after midnight when the pharmacy uploaded the new slots. I was flying high! (Note to self: pride goeth before the fall.) Until…until the nation-wide pharmacy sent me an email three weeks later that my first appointment had been rescheduled. (Same time—different date.) Okay, okay…just keep breathing, I told myself—stay calm. You’ve got your foot in the door. They can’t abandon you now. (Oy, I am so naive!) Two days before my first shot, I got an email which announced that my rescheduled appointment had been cancelled and they had no idea when it would be rescheduled. (“We’ll call you and reschedule— promise.” Liars! They never did.)
I finally did get my first vaccine (still waiting on the booster), but not through any of the multitudinous sites where I’m waitlisted. I had to go through a backdoor channel because the sites that were supposed to do their job never got their shit together in my town. (What a fuster cluck!) I’m absolutely exhausted over this hunt to keep me alive. I felt as if I were an addict trying to get a hookup. I don’t want to hear any more news reports about Black people being reluctant to get the vaccine, because this is one Black person who had to move Heaven and Earth to get a needle shoved into my arm, and I’m still waiting for the repeat.
Now I’m contemplating a world where I have more freedom. I’m trying to wrap my head around reentering that world. Apparently, that concept causes extreme anxiety too when a pandemic is winding down, if Dr. Gail Saltz is to be believed. Where do I go first? How far afield should I go? Should I trust airplanes? Should I go by car? How do I proceed? Where will I be safe? What should I wear? Will any of my dress-up clothes still fit? Should I wear one mask or two? Will I be safe around the unvaccinated? Apparently, 50% of Trump supporters are anti-vaxxers and won’t wear masks—what do I do if I run into these Neanderthals other than beat the crap out of them for being so selfish? What if I get sick from the booster shot? What if…? It hurts my head.
I think I’m going to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and deal with it tomorrow—maybe sleep for a few more months. Maybe catch up on the old Gossip Girl series while munching on a box of chocolates and Chinese take-out. YA literature pablum at 72 years old, wrapped in chocolate, accompanied by baby steps to reenter the world is all I can handle right now. Just trying to get vaccinated wore me out for at least another year.
Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a humorist who is an award-winning voice-over performer. In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!). Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.” Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker. If you don’t believe me, just ask her!
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