2021 was worse than 2020
I’m having a hard time putting into words how I feel about 2021 and I’m not sure if that’s my brain fog from long COVID, my ADHD medication no longer being effective, or my brain just giving up on me.
I almost started this by talking about how I thought 2020 wasn’t so bad and then I looked up and read what I wrote for the end of 2020, Nobody wants to reflect on 2020, and it began with, “I have never felt more mentally exhausted in my life.”
And here I am in 2021 and the only reason I don’t feel the same level of exhaustion is because I nearly had two nervous breakdowns, quit my job, got a new job, quit that job, and am going back to my old job. December I haven’t worked and it’s been a slow release valve for me in getting me less stressed. I’m doing good in December. It’s the rest of the months that will make this a depressing read.
The pandemic continues and all I can think of is how one of my best friends told me he feels we lost. We lost this fight. Only 80% got vaccinated here. The idea of that number increasing by 10% feels highly unlikely. This is likely going to be our perpetual failure for who knows how long. The people who listen and do the right thing will have to deal with a constant process of things opening and closing, being limited in stupid ways like no popcorn but you can still see the movie, and feeling like everything they do isn’t worth it. Meanwhile the others will either be partying up, yelling at a teenager because they can’t order fast food without some cloth over their mouth, or they will be dying in a horrible fashion.
I hate the term “new normal” because this isn’t normal. This shouldn’t be considered normal. We will never get used to this nor should we. Unless COVID finally mutates into something less dangerous, we will be dealing with this for a long time. We need new answers in 2022. We need something more than boosters and flawed lockdowns. Closing the bars at 11PM isn’t going to stop a viral mutation. Anyway.
I started the year thinking I might lose my father, watching him in extreme pain on a couch after cancer surgery because the hospital pushed him out as fast as they could for “COVID safety” reasons. I didn’t know how to handle any of it. I should have taken a leave of absence from work but I’ve never had to deal with something like this. I took a little time off but I should have left work. My father is good now. He survived it. He’s going to try to work a few more years before retiring but he can’t work the factories anymore. I couldn’t be happier he’s finally out of the factory life. It nearly killed him. A literal petroleum build up in his system from the years.
I took my two week vacation in February and early March not because I had somewhere to go. I took it because I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The exhaustion from the previous year, from previous years, seeing what my father had to go through and there being nothing I could do except walk his dog for him, the stress from work, I needed to recharge my battery. I had all these plans to write and work on projects. I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing for two weeks. That’s how I fought the nervous breakdown. I just shut down and waited for the battery inside me to charge.
Things got a little better after that. I had a nice visit from my mom who loved standing at the Detroit River and just looking out. I went to Erieau beach and got one of the best sunburns I’ve ever been inflicted by. Because I was sitting and leaning in the sun I was pretty much burned everywhere except a line under my chest.
In the summer despite not having vacation days anymore and the pandemic raging on I still found a way to head to Tobermory. I had a government camping site set and it wasn’t canceled until days before I was supposed to go. They waited until the very last minute and then allowed camping two weeks later. I ended up camping on a private farm near Meaford about an hour away from Tobermory. Nothing was going to keep me from heading out there. It ended up a great trip and I’m glad we also went out to Meaford and the unfortunately named Fred Raper Park. Give it a visit sometime. The sunsets are incredible.
The rest of my summer was spent fighting off what felt like a nervous breakdown again. At least I didn’t have raccoons falling out of my ceiling again but I spent an hour biking out to Sand Point Beach in Windsor (if you’re not from Windsor and wondering what a beach with such a basic name could be like, let me tell you: it’s maybe a football field long of sand we call a beach) just to feel like I was somewhere other than my home. Late in August, I went to a farmers market. It turned out someone there had COVID. Two weeks later, heading home from the beach, I started getting the sniffles. I thought it was a summer flu. It was COVID.
I’ve already talked about it but the time off I had due to COVID was necessary. I was sick but at least I had some time off. When I returned to work, something was off. I just felt like I couldn’t do this constant trip to a nervous breakdown. I took a new job and quit where I was working after four years. I barely looked into the deal of my new job. I just needed something new to break the cycle.
That new job ended up an independent contractor position which I was initially guaranteed hours which turned into no guarantee. I was given about three hours of work in October. The guy who hired me quit soon after. I then had to pick up the slack of people who quit and several people wanting web work already disappointed with the work they had got. I had no time to really get situated. I also was dealing with long COVID and didn’t know it. My brain fog was getting worse than when I had a Vitamin D deficiency. Every day it got a little worse until I couldn’t do work at all.
I shouldn’t have to explain anything but I feel the need to about this so I don’t get, “fuck off you’re lazy” eye rolls. When you have brain fog, you can picture the work you want to do. You know how to do it. And then you sit down to do it and you can’t get to the next step. Time will just breeze by. One minute it’s 10AM and you’re starting your work. You’re getting something done, and then suddenly it’s 4PM and you only half finished it and can’t get it out to complete it. It’s like your entire body is giving you the response it would to not touch something because it’s hot. It’s a paralysis of the brain. You can still do small things, little shots of dopamine like text messages or photos. But doing something that takes more brain computing, takes more thought process? It’s like someone asking you to walk up to a person you care about and kick them. Everything in your body is fighting you from doing it, and doing it feels wrong.
After a solid month of work I was falling constantly behind on, I quit the new job. It was an absolute nightmare and incredibly disorganized but I can only blame myself. It was work I was able to do if my brain was fine. I’m sure someone would say, “Don’t blame yourself” but what I mean is, there’s an Aaron that could have done it and the Aaron I am now could not.
Probably the neatest thing that happened that year was I was going through my backup hard drive and finally found a folder from a project I did 14 years ago which included photos of downtown Windsor bars and clubs. I made a post on Facebook about it. It was shared over 600 times. A second post nearly 200 times. CBC ended up doing a story on me and the photos. They often call me a photographer in it when I stressed most of the photos were not mine. Ah well. I’ll take it. I should try to get Twitter verified with it…
Around this time as well my emotional well being was being well supported by friends. One took me to a Dizzy concert, the other let me pay him back on a ticket to July Talk. These shows helped me feel a little normal again and not so worried about my money way behind. I didn’t get my EI until today. I haven’t been paid from the independent contractor job yet. That I will blame them on if that cheque isn’t in soon. Despite COVID numbers going back up again, I had a lovely Christmas and was happy to see my family healthy and relatively happy.
Going back to my old job will be interesting. It’s better pay and less hours. They needed me back. The work is easy enough to do even if my brain is still a scramble. The less hours will mean a little less pay overall but the increase will make it hard to notice. I also have a loan I’ve been paying off for years that finishes in January so I’ll be starting 2022 on a good note. Oh and with my EI coming in I’m no longer in a bad position financially. Bad as in can’t pay rent or bills bad, which I was on… December 29th.
I have a train to catch at 6AM to spend New Years Eve with my father so I’ll end this now to say that December was a good end to a terrible year. Last year I said, “I have time but I’m spending so much of it recovering” and that ended up more of 2021 than 2020. It’s possible that ends up 2022 as well. Heck, this is one of the last things I said in my end of 2020: I want 2021 to be the best year of my life.
It ended up one of the worst.
So how can I be hopeful? How can I read what I wrote last year and not feel like this is just going to be worse or the same?
For starters I had two shots of Reunion Moonshine before writing this. Feels like it’s kicking in. But I guess I feel like I hit the bottom in 2021. I didn’t even talk about how I fell off my bicycle and landed on my wrist and it’s never been the same. The doctors have said there’s no breaks or anything they can do. I can barely lift a 40lb freeweight anymore and my wrist is sore by the end of the day. It’s even sore just typing this.
After everything I went through in 2020 to now everything I’ve gone through in 2021, I want to treat December like the end of a losing streak.
Be sure to check out my end of year playlist on Spotify under The Sweatdown: December Sweatdown 2K21
“Can’t get enough
Got your head in the clouds
Don’t know where we’re goin
Guess we’ll just figure it out
It’s hardly afternoon
The world’s burning but it’s better with you”
– Chief “Better with you (the world’s burning)”