“Are you under any stress?” 

My doctor, bless her heart, had the audacity in 2020 to ask me if I was under any stress that might be contributing to my reason for visiting her. 

“Well,” I started from under my mask, “allow me to unpack this . . .

“I’m carrying the emotional weight of my three kids. They can’t see their friends. They haven’t seen them in months. They are feeling the strain of not being able to just go and play like kids should be able to. They are doing school online, which is just assumed they can do flawlessly, without fully functioning technology and expected to have the same academic performance as in-person learning. It’s breakdown roulette in our house on a daily basis. Sometimes I hit the jackpot and I get all three melting down on the same day, or multiple times a day. I have no idea some days how I get from morning to night. Large doses of caffeine are required and then I worry what kind of long-term effects that will have. They are worrying about everything happening in the world and how scary it all feels. I don’t have the answers for them for a lot of the questions they ask. They panic over every cough and sneeze they hear or experience. I have to be their friend, teacher, chef, hazmat, maid, mom, coach, cheerleader, therapist, and comforter. Leaving the house was a mess before all this and now, anytime we leave I have to make sure we have masks and masks have to be in the car and in my purse and in my pockets. Don’t even get me started and the conversions we had with our kids about what happens if there is no more toilet paper ever again!”

I carry all that.

My husband and I are both working from home, competing for bandwidth, and trying to maintain some work/life balance. He’s also going to school online and that leaves me to create conducive learning environments for him as well. Our makeshift offices in our already deemed too-small house are not ideal. There are a lot of restless nights and exhausted mornings. Somehow we’re home so much but have much less time for the things that need to be done and intentionality in our own relationship. The activities we are used to being able to do are shut down and Zoom isn’t cutting it for outside the home interactions. We have to keep ourselves and our kids safe and healthy, which feels impossible. Plus there is the working parent guilt just staring me in the face while I’m trying to make breakfast and participate in conference calls.

We are just trying to make through one day to the next. We are grieving the loss of normalcy on a very deep level.

We worry about our parents and families in other states and see their stats fluctuate. We worry about our family in areas with rioting happening and injustices as well. The constant feed of conflicting information about our lives right now is enough to drive anyone batty.  

I carry all that.

Basically, I’m an emotional pack mule. 

If every worry, tear, furrowed brow, sanitized hand were a piece of luggage, I would be carrying a million pounds on my back. It’s a load I carry to lighten the load for others but at some point, I’ll barely be able to get one foot in front of the other. I’ll just slowly being trudging long, praying for rest and relief. I feel it, too, at the end of every day. I plop down on the bed, if I make it to bed, and hope that tomorrow will magically be different. Instead, I just end up saddling up for more heave-ho. What’s that you got there? Panic and anxiety? Throw it up on the pile, I’ll meet’cha there!”

My doctor, hearing all this, recommended mediation and yoga. 

I thought several profanities in my head, stared blankly at her, then added a new priority parcel to the already way oversized load: find new doctor. 

Hey mama, it’s OK to set that mental load down sometimes.

Nickey J Dunn

I'm a full-time wife, mom of three, employee, OCD Irish Aries. I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest, now living in Phoenix. I'm passionate about my family, writing, and writing about my family. Mental health, anti-bullying, and body-positive advocate.