First person: ‘Everyone is tired of Covid. If only it were tired of us.’ | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

First person: ‘Everyone is tired of Covid. If only it were tired of us.’


It happened suddenly. One week most everybody entering the library was masked, with the few who weren’t automatically stopping to grab one from the box by the door and put it on before going further. The following week – the last of 2021 – naked-faced people began walking in as if it were no big deal. Which it absolutely was. And possibly, as you read these words, still is. Most have been very decent about masking up. But until now, the mask-optional entrance was something we hadn’t seen since the library re-opened in February of 2021. 

Tantrums are also on the rise, I’m sorry to report. The first workday of 2022, I asked a woman to pull up her mask twice. The second time I let her know that she would have to leave if it happened again. It happened again. My manager and our security guard stood by while I told her she had to go. The friend she was with was outraged. 

“Over a MASK?” she said. “OVER A MASK?” 

When my manager explained that properly-worn masks are required in all city buildings, the woman began spouting the F-word. They walked toward the exit, her friend facing the door and she walking backward, yelling about how we weren’t a health care facility or hospital and accusing us of not having hand sanitizer (my manager responded by pointing to our two hand sanitizing stations) or washing our hands (we just stayed quiet). 

I will spare you other stories of what we’re experiencing on a daily basis, but the bottom line is this: Everyone is tired of Covid. If only it were tired of us. {Insert heavy sigh here.} We’ve gotten vaccinated. We’ve gotten boosted. We’ve worn masks. We’ve rearranged our lives around remote school, postponed or cancelled countless events, trips, medical procedures, dinners with friends, plays, concerts, and things I’m sure I’ve forgotten to remember. And still, it’s not enough. 

But – there’s always a but, right? I’m alive to write this, and you’re alive to read it. That’s something. And like it or not, we’ve been forced to figure out ways to make our lives work inside what basically amounts to real-life dystopian fiction. I’m not going to say I’ve gotten good at this pandemic thing. But I have gotten better. 

Last year at this time I was sliding into what turned out to be a pretty nasty bout of depression that was affecting every aspect of my life. Because of my family’s history of depression (including a parent who died by suicide) and decades of involvement in mental health advocacy and stigma reduction, I recognized what was happening.  That didn’t make the anguish bearable. It did, though, give me the ability – and permission – to address it. 

By June, I was back to a more functional version of myself. Then, in December came some feelings I recognized as red flags. Things I wouldn’t have considered a week before were turning into issues. Prioritizing daily tasks was becoming an increasing source of anxiety. What if, instead of the thing I was thinking about doing, there was something more important and immediate I should be doing instead? When I caught myself second-guessing work interactions and beating myself up for minor mistakes, it hit me. This was how last year’s depressive episode had started. It was a real “A-HA!” moment. It was also a gift. 

I made it out of this particular hole once before. Because of that, I am able to reflect on what worked and share it in the hope that it might help someone else. I also learned something simple and powerful this time around. 

Two things that really helped last year were finding someone to talk to and establishing some routines. That’s broad, and deliberately so. Someone to talk to could be a wise friend, a mental health professional or a coach. It’s whatever – or whoever — works. In my case, it was a coach. While scrolling through an online group, I perked up at a response to a post that mentioned a calendar book for non-linear thinkers. It came with a coaching session that turned out to be helpful enough to keep me coming back. It’s a bit of a disservice to call it a calendar, as it includes pages for weekly, monthly and quarterly reflections and habit-tracking. It also categorizes daily activities as “hustle/play/push/move.” 

Keeping the calendar became one of my lifelines. Baking challah every week was another. The calendar kept me organized at work, a necessity given my inability to focus in a job with different start times, desk shifts that vary from day to day and multiple meetings, programs and training sessions. The reflections helped remind me that I was functioning. Baking challah helped get me out of my head. It made the house smell wonderful and tasted delicious, reminding me on a weekly basis that I could make good things happen. Giving it away helped me remember that being anxious and sad didn’t take away my ability to make other people happy. 

Everything I did to get better involved self-care. Which, while I was sick, felt exactly like what I should be doing to get well. Once I did, it started to feel a little self-indulgent, like a reward for something I hadn’t done enough to earn. So I stopped rewarding myself, until I realized that what I was calling “self-indulgence” was still self-care.  As we move into the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic it’s important for all of us, prone to depression or not, to remember this: “Indulge” yourself, and do what you can to make other people happy. 

Amy Waldman is a Milwaukee-area librarian.