Sweet, beautiful soul, I know you are weary. I know your mind could have never comprehended the pain, sadness, frustration, and grief you would come to know. The day began like any other day, didn’t it my dear? You woke up struggling to get out of bed, or you jumped up from the bed with joy for a new beautiful morning. Then, suddenly, the world changed. Everything you held close was stopped immediately in its tracks and all the while the world stood still while you place the stethoscope around your neck knowing this day was just the beginning.
You had your doubts, how could a virus you heard about in December truly cause so much destruction and grief in your world? Then, the schools, restaurants, airports, and your favorite stores began to close. Their windows became dark, and it was if time stopped in that moment. Yet, your brain continued to tell you that this would only last a few weeks. Everyone will do what they need to do, we will work together as a country and we WILL win this battle.
Each day as the world continued to stand still and you continued to pull yourself together and place your stethoscope on the chest of each new human you met, you began to realize you, too, were human. You, too, were at risk and all the strength you had known and the safety you had felt from behind the stethoscope began to slowly wash away. Yet, you had to continue. You knew it was not the time to feel what you were feeling. It didn’t matter if your life was at risk, you had to help others. You trusted that those around you would do the same, because you surround yourself with beautiful humans.
You know life is too short because you’ve seen those last breaths and you soak up every single moment you can. Of course, the people around you would want to do the same. They know they can trust you and you pour your heart and soul into every moment of guiding them through the same scientific information you are receiving. Your hope is as big as a mountain and your heart is still so full of love even though it stays hidden behind that strong exterior needed to get through each day. You continue to laugh, keep your dark humor, and smile as each moment passes. You grab a few extra bottles of wine, whiskey, or lemon water, whatever your choice, to quinch your thirst after a long day of caring for others.
Slowly, you begin to realize the words you are sharing may be coming from your heart and that beautiful mind, but those around you can’t see past the fog that is being put in front of their eyes. You’re confused because not long ago a difficult day meant you had told someone their family member had passed, and now a difficult day is indescribable because the people you would call after those difficult days now have no desire to hear your thoughts on the “virus.” So after intubating patients, holding hands while last breaths are taken, talking to people who were gone a week later, and still bandaging up wounds after a child falls from their bike, you reach out to decompress and are met with words of anger, fear, doubt. Your heart is so heavy. These are the same people who respected you and asked for your guidance and now they are angry as you share words they do not want to hear.
Instead of being their hero, you are now being called a sheep. You are weary, you feel lost, and so alone. You protect those you love from the thing that could potentially take their lives and, yet you miss out on moments with those whom you may never see again. Your heart is so torn. You struggle to find the words and when they notice your quiet, you realize the damage has already been done. Yet, you must go on. You must keep working. You must continue to care for those who may lose their lives and continue to push aside those feelings you recognized in the beginning. You know the risk and, yet you continue each day. You’ve been told this is what you signed up for, but the truth is healthcare is a calling not a volunteer list. You know that this was never the plan and you know EXACTLY how to make it stop, but it’s like you’re screaming into a dark abyss and your words fall deeper into the darkness never making their way to those you wish could hear you.
As life returns to “normal” your heart feels heavy and, yet there is still no time to stop. There is no time to process everything you have witnessed, everything you have heard, everything you have felt and the fear that has built up inside of you each and every time you have zip up that white bag and wished you could comfort the crying family. Knowing you can’t because this isn’t what you signed up for. FaceTime calls to tell someone their loved one needs to say goodbye or speaking to a family member over the phone to let them know their loved one has passed. The coldness of the past 18 months seeping into every part of your body. The sadness of the loss breaking your heart one moment at a time. The words and actions of those you trusted and loved leaving you feeling lost and empty.
The show must go on, right? Every day you wake up and you realize the world has changed, you have changed, you have been living in a traumatic situation and your sympathetic nervous system has been engaged for far too long. You have lived in fight, flight, or freeze so long that calmness feels terrifying. Not only has the pandemic taking the lives of far too many, but it has stolen the peace of even more.
You are not alone sweet soul, and the show does not have to go on every moment of every day. You can rest your weary heart and mind. You can breathe and know that people were only able to meet you where they were willing to go. You have stood and are still standing on the side of fear that many people will forever avoid because the burden is just too heavy. You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to grieve, you are allowed to laugh, you are allowed to make those dark humor jokes that keep you moving through each day. What you are not allowed to do is give up! You are not allowed to believe those hateful words of people calling you a sheep or a liar. They are simply not true my friend. Some people are unable to meet you on your side of the battle, not because the battle is wrong, but simply because you are a warrior, and your path is simply too difficult for others to follow.