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  • ericaanne

COVID Shutdowns

Updated: May 27, 2022

The kidney stone debacle was behind us. We were sitting at just over $30,000 in medical debt. Nick's mental health was at an all-time low. I was still hiding our medications. I was still hiding his car keys at night. I wasn't sleeping, and neither was he. I was crying myself to sleep most nights. He would still wake me in the middle of the night describing how he planned to kill himself that day. But, he was finally able to go back to work.

It was good for him to be at work and away from his video games. It forced him to engage with the real world, even though he was distracted most of the time. We shared an office at work, which was both good and bad. It was good because I could keep an eye on him, but it also meant he would regularly turn around to me and tell me how much he wanted to die.

"I can't do this, Erica. I can't even get through the day. My OCD is all I can think about. I feel so awful the whole day that I have a hard time feeling bad for patients when they tell me about their pain," he would tell me.

It was stressful. We were still new to Colorado and the only people we knew were the ones we worked with. I didn't want to tell anyone at work what was going on because I was concerned that they would consider Nick incapable of performing his job.

It was extremely lonely.

In January, there had been the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States in Washington state. It was now early March. I knew the virus was spreading, but I figured it would be like the Ebola outbreak - a bad enough virus that a decent number of people got infected, but not bad enough to cause shutdowns. On March 5, 2020, the first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Colorado. By March 13th, Colorado had its first death. On March 25th, the state went into lockdowns. On March 27th, I finally got my clearance from US Immigration to travel outside the country... except I couldn't because the borders were closed.

The American federal government considered chiropractors essential workers. The Colorado state government issued a statement regarding guidelines for providing chiropractic care to patients during lockdown. Essentially, you'd have to be able to argue that a patient's health status would regress or worsen if they did not receive care. We worked in a personal injury practice, which meant that all of our patients had been in car accidents. As a result, most of the cases we saw fit the guidelines to receive care. Nick and I were lucky. This meant we were able to keep our jobs through the shutdowns - a luxury not everyone had. However, there were new rules at the clinic and one of them was this: you should only be at the clinic when you are treating patients.

Nick had only just returned to work. And because he had only worked for a few weeks before his kidney stone, his patient load was low. As a result, he was at home playing video games most of the time... again.

The fighting only worsened.

He would try to justify the video games by saying it was something he "enjoyed doing". I kept responding to him with "if I replaced your video games with alcohol, the amount that you're playing would be considered an addiction". He would justify it by saying that there are gamers out there who play over 100 hours per week and make money on Twitch TV doing so. He was now hoping he could make that his career path, too. His life plan was turning into playing video games, living in an RV, and living off the money he hoped to make from Twitch.

This wasn't the life I wanted to live.

I would go to sleep some nights and wake up to him in the same position at his video game console that I left him in. I'd find wrappers from snacks all over the room. When I asked him if he had slept, he would lie to me and say he went to bed and got up early to play.

In the mental health world, we would call his video game behaviours an "avoidance behaviour". The only time he wouldn't notice his OCD was when he was playing video games. He was avoiding his OCD at all costs.

The COVID lockdowns not only worsened his video game addiction, but they also worsened his mental state. His suicidal ideations worsened. His anger worsened. His work ethic plummeted. Trying to get him to go explore the surrounding areas was nearly impossible, and when I did manage to convince him to come, we'd often have to leave early because his symptoms got so bad.

Nick, sitting on a rock on one of the few hikes I managed to convince him to go on.
One of the few hikes I managed to convince him to go on.

The lockdowns worsened my mental state, too. I was now living in Colorado, where I knew nobody except Nick. I couldn't lean on Nick for support. I could barely even do things with Nick. I couldn't go make new friends because of the lockdowns. I couldn't go home to see family, nor could they come see me. And there was no end in sight.

All I wanted to do was run, but there was nowhere and nobody to run to.

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