To Wear or Not To Wear a Mask

anxiety judgement mental health work life balance working mom Jul 29, 2020

#Anxiety #MentalHealth #WorkingMom  

I am sharing a social media post made by my niece who lives in Canada. She lives in the province of Québec but drives one hour each way, five days a week to work in the neighboring province of Ontario.


Like most young working-parents, she and her husband struggle to balance full time jobs and the education and social life of their children. Additionally, they have adult family support roles and actively contribute to the communities they live in.


I am incredibly proud of my niece for everything that she does and for selflessly sharing insight into the complexity of being an essential worker and a severe anxiety warrior.


I have not disclosed her identity to protect the privacy of her family.



For all of you who are hiding behind the mask of judgement, please pause a moment to consider this true story.



As shared, edited only for clarity:



“I have written this post about 100 times in various ways but every time I thought “No don’t post this, it will just stir the pot.” so I haven’t, but as time goes on, I need for MY mental health, to say it and get it off my chest.


Covid-19 . . . what it has looked like, felt like and has been for me....


When it started and everyone was sent home to be with their families to be safe and isolate, my husband and I were both deemed essential, so we went to work every day as per usual - except there was nothing usual about this simple action anymore.


Our building was locked up, no customers allowed inside, curb side pickup was set up (which was good but meant so much extra running for us staff).


Some of my coworkers talked about COVID-19 ALOT... between that and the constant talk about it on radio, TV, social media, and of course, everyone who called, it was mentally EXHAUSTING and really took a major toll on my mental health.


I would come home from work drained, and just wanted my bed upon walking through the door.


My kids felt lost, they couldn’t see their friends (and although our best attempts to explain to them what was happening and why they couldn’t go to school or to see their friends) they longed for that interaction, and rightfully so because I did as well!


I missed my friends! FaceTime calls weren’t enough. I wanted to hug them, play cards with them, I wanted to have things normal again!!


Then there was the childcare thing. No one wants to watch kids during a pandemic, which I understand completely, (I also know I wasn’t alone in this) but with both us being (deemed) essential, and we didn’t know what germs we may contact and bring home or potentially make our children carriers, we didn’t want them to go anywhere either. And with my mom and her husband being deemed essential as well, that meant they couldn’t help either. Fortunately, my mother-in-law stepped in to care for the girls.


However now, we have wondered many times if one of us should be taking a leave from work because of potential germs we could be bringing home because, what if now, we have unintentionally given her and/or my father-in-law the disease?


More anxiety!


Then border patrol started!  (between Ontario and Quebec)


It was for the most part OKAY but one night (even with my letter from my employer) I had a police officer argue with me about why I would be deemed essential, like, UMMMM, I don’t know but my boss has clearly written me a letter and he needs me, hence essential!!


More anxiety!


Then they start the rule (that) you couldn’t bring groceries home anymore from Ontario  (I work in Ontario) that was a real pain as I always get groceries after work, but okay I’ll shop and support local as I believe that is equally important, however certain stores were refusing to allow me to buy my groceries because I have been out of province and not isolated for 14 days regardless (did I mention I HAVE TO GO TO WORK.


 Okay, soooo now I can’t buy groceries in Ontario but I also can’t buy them in Quebec... riddle me this!!!!


More anxiety!!!


Thank God for K&L Dairy... (I was able to get almost everything I usually bought in one swoop) so we switched, and we started getting groceries there all the time. They were fantastic! Thank you for giving me some relief!


But the real breaking point for me was about a month-ish into the isolation.


I came home from work. It was a Thursday night and I was particularly tired from my day.  It was 6 PM and like many parents, I was trying to get this damn homeschooling work done with my kids when they are tired also and all they keep doing is arguing and fighting and refusing.


I decide to scroll through Facebook to give myself a mental break AND what do I see?!?


Fresh baked bread, delicious meals that people have cooked, people posting about all the home projects they have actually had time to complete, and the thing that sets me right off is someone posted how COVID has been a blessing for their family and how it has given them the much needed extra time to re connect!


I look up - my house is in shambles. My husband is making Kraft Dinner and Pogos because we are literally too tired to make anything else and I start to cry.


UNCONTROLLABLY because I wanted to read a book, cook some bread, clean a closet, and day drink!!!


But I can’t because I’m essential and have to go to work every damn day!


Now, I do understand we are EXTREMELY lucky to have a job and know with 95% certainty I will have a job post COVID and many, many Canadians don’t have this, but damn these changes are TOUGH, TIRING and FRUSTRATING.


More Anxiety!!


Now flash forward, things are starting to open up, life seems to be resembling some form of normalcy and there are (more) changes but manageable ones; one direction in the aisles at stores, maximums on the people allowed in a place ... hand sanitizing everywhere you go, but once again, I can go to a patio have a beer with a friend.. life is good finally!


Then the big one hits me!


In the past week, they announce mandatory mask (wearing)?!?!


I preface this next part by saying... I understand masks, I get the regulations, I fully support the stop of the spread and the need to try to eliminate the probability of a second wave.


HOWEVER- I have claustrophobia.


I also have EXTREME anxiety... I was actually medicated for anxiety for a while a few times in my life because I couldn’t self-manage my anxiety.


I have worked EXTREMELY hard to not need medication and to be able to self-manage 98% of the time.


Do I have bad days?  Absolutely, but I also have more great days than bad, BUT the problem I personally have is that when I put a mask to my face. I start to panic.


Not just a little panic but heart going to explode from my chest, palms sweating, knees week, sweating kinda’ panic... full on uncontrollable panic attack!


So, this brings me to what I saw last night that scares the shit out of me.


There is a video circulating, and you may or may not have seen it (about) a man in Tim Hortons without a mask; 3 officers take him down forcefully for not wearing a mask and one officer is without a mask!


They are saying here in Quebec it can be up to $6,000 fines, however they also say if you don’t have to wear one if you have a medical reason/condition.


Did they ask that man? The answer is no, well not in the video anyways, maybe he had a medical reason to not wear one.


I am scared to death this will happen to me somewhere or that someone will aggressively approach me because I am not wearing a mask!


More anxiety!


Now, I just want to hide away in my house because I’m afraid of being verbally attacked, but I can’t because I have to go to work and I have to feed my family.


Comments like “well it’s only for a few minutes to get your groceries” or “we all find it uncomfortable” or “what about a different type” those are not actually options for me, none of the above are!


My heart is pounding writing this for you all to read, because I know right now someone is rolling their eyes and thinking I should suck it up, but if you have never had a debilitating panic attack you won’t understand why it isn’t an option.


So I’m leaving you with: When people say “new normal” there is nothing normal about how we are living, spending months not hugging our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, children, grandchildren... being forced to close our business and in some cases lose everything as a result, being forced to wear a face covering while being told medical exempts are acceptable without a note or proof, but that actually isn’t true because a business can refuse to serve you or you can get a fine, all the while living in fear because you fall into that category.


I have lived in fear of this virus ( as I know many have), of being a carrier and spreading to my kids, my in-laws, my mom and her husband, in fear of not seeing the ones I love ever again (heaven forbid something happened to one of them), fear of how I would get the basic needs like groceries for my family, fear of being laid off, losing my job or my husband having that happen to him, fear of if today was the day the border police would decide that my job isn’t essential and I need to go home and isolate, fear of my kids losing their school year, fear of a million other things, more ANXIETY!


We are 5 months into this and no end in sight and now I am back to being afraid again, just when June seemed to have a turn around and things seemed to be returning to some form of normalcy.


So, in conclusion, if you see someone without a mask, PLEASE be kind.


Not everyone who is not wearing a mask, regardless of age, is being ignorant to the regulations or trying to defy the rules. They could be fighting a battle you know nothing about.


If you see an essential worker who hasn’t had any form of break from the start, be kind. They are mentally exhausted.  There have been a million changes. Everyone has overwhelmed them unknowingly with constant talk about COVID and the changes in our world. And above all else, if you can’t be kind, stay at home and be rude to the people in your own 4 walls because the rest of us are just trying to do our best with this crappy hand we are dealt.


I have shared my struggles and I know I’m not only the one feeling this way, and I’m not seeking pity, I just don’t want to have rocks thrown at me, or be yelled at or any other thing.


So please, choose kind!


Please don’t post any negative comments or you will be deleted and at this point, I only want supportive friends!


Thanks for taking the time to understand a different side of Covid.”


#BeKind #AskBeforeYouJudge