This piece was originally published 960 days ago, WAAAAAAY before Covid-19 was a worldwide pandemic sort of thing and therefore WAAAAAAAY before all y’all learned what it is like for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or a long recovery from an illness or injury by being locked up in the same 4 walls for weeks and months on end.
I laughed when the friend who called my life Groundhog Day 961 days ago called their life in this quarantine Groundhog Day. I was certain I had written about it then… Ha! Guess what?! I did.
And my sass and the pertinence is just too perfect.
A few days ago I woke up wanting to find a way to share what my days have been like for months on end to, if nothing else, put an end to the, “oh, you’re so lucky you don’t have to do anything!” commentary that I have heard all too often. All day I tried to find a lighthearted way to describe my every day, starting 7 different posts only to delete them, and then, just like magic, a friend referred to my current situation as Groundhog Day. As I laughed aloud at the perfection of that comparison, I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner.
You all remember that classic Bill Murray movie from the early 90s where he plays a weatherman sent to cover Groundhog Day and then lives the same day over and over for we aren’t sure how long before he finally wakes up in tomorrow having been changed for the better, right? I remember the first time I saw it I thought it was kind of funny but it didn’t strike me. I mean, seeing a toad of a person change into a caring soul is lovely. We’ve all seen one version or another of A Christmas Carol and we all get the warm fuzzies from seeing Scrooge change. But so what?
After my friend made that comparison, I decided to watch Groundhog Day again and to my surprise I found it to be much more charming than I thought any Bill Murray movie was capable of being. I mean, it’s Bill Murray. I also found it to be profoundly apropos to not only my situation but to that of everyone I know with chronic conditions and those who may at any point have been in a long term recovery, hospitalization, or home-bound situation.
When I was first hospitalized and then again when I sent to recover at home (moreso when I came home and earned the much coveted “homebound and not allowed to do anything status”), everyday was so much the same it was mind numbing. I couldn’t keep track of the days because nothing substantial ever changed. Wake up, meds, breakfast, more meds, lunch, nurse (“yes, I pooped today; no, I don’t want to kill myself; yes, I’m taking my meds as prescribed; no, I don’t have any questions”), another round of meds, nap, dinner, meds again, and bed… My eye is twitching just thinking about those days.
Then, I started to try to find ways to make my days interesting and make them stand out from each other. Reading wasn’t enough to fill my soul so I started to hate it. I’ve gone through at least a dozen different series until I’ve now run out of series interesting enough to watch. True story: I watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones in a week so while some of my friends hated Littlefinger for YEARS, I only had to despise him and hope for his eventual death for a week, and because everything was so fresh in my mind, as I watched I got to see my predictions happen hours after I felt certain eventualities must come to fruition remembering details and conversations others hadn’t seen in 6 years. I solved every case Sherlock Holmes ever addressed (my record was only needing 2 clues to get it). Crafting, cooking, washing my baseboards with a toothbrush, sleeping as much as possible to cut down on the amount of time I would need to fill. I tried everything. But those things didn’t really do much more than changing the moment because tomorrow would always be another obstacle to be overcome with its monotony.
Then came the desperation. This was where Murray’s character tried to kill himself a dozen different ways. Let me be clear, I didn’t want to or try to off myself. However, all the doctors, the home nurses, and my friends all saw me sink into an angry and dark place and some of them started to panic, which only made me angrier. At this point, my stump was rotting and despite everything I said to everyone about what my body felt like, that I could smell infection in my skin and taste it in my mouth, I wasn’t treated for infection because of a couple (completely asinine) medical technicalities: no fever, fabulous white cell count, and blood cultures coming back clean. Then, when someone finally listened to me (thank you, Dr. Simpson) I needed to have my stump shortened because things had gone too long unaddressed and I needed a central PICC line to be able to receive antibiotics daily to address the two severe infections that were eating away at the bone and muscle in my stump. I think it’s safe to say that no one would have gone through that without being angry and depressed.
At the other end of that, I finally reached the place where I stopped thinking so much about the illness and injury and started to finally focus on doing what I could do for myself, for others, and to be happy. I got on iTunes and started looking for songs I loved when I was a kid, oldies that made me want to dance and sing, and adding them to the playlist that it’s impossible to frown when listening to. I started writing here and I started two book specs. I picked up the violin again. I started to talking to friends I hadn’t spoken with in too long, finding a few friends I hadn’t spoken to in decades. I made it my goal to make someone else smile every day, someone not living in my house.
Amazingly, despite the still significant amount of boredom and the seemingly constant setbacks in this recovery, I started to wake up with a smile on my face. I still see the possibility of getting back to work and society being pushed farther off, I still have dozens of restrictions on what I am and am not allowed to do, and I still wonder how I’m going to pay bills and continue to adult, but these things are no longer the all consuming worries that overshadow my entire day.
So am I living in Groundhog Day?!
Oh, yes, very much so.
But I feel like I’m getting closer to the part where I’ll finally wake up in a tomorrow instead of another today. So at least I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
Originally published 16 September 2017.