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“I’m incredibly lucky. For now.”

Mike and Augie
By Michael Briddon

Boston, MA
United States

I go back and forth, hourly, between “this is all going to be ok” and “this isn’t real life.” I’m failing consistently in my fruitless effort to balance a full-time job and pay attention to my three young children. (My wife is fortunate enough to have a full-time job, too, which adds to our complicated daily equation.) I have asthma. I worry constantly about the family I have in my house and the family I’ve known for my 39 years. I worry a lot about my dad, who is in a nursing home and in poor health.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky.

Like most everyone I know, my mental health is on life support right now. Some days are good, some aren’t. I see so many things—empty shelves at grocery stores, kids with masks on their faces playing in the front yard, friends losing stable jobs—that would typically register as “oh my god” moments that are seemingly normal. They are getting more normal every day. On Day 1 (Day 1!) of our quarantine, I broke down in tears on a call with two colleagues. I kept saying I was fine, but I couldn’t stop crying. It lasted about two minutes, but it felt like two hours. It was a combination of hopelessness and uncertainty, I think.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky.

Work has been more stressful than ever because of this new situation. I’m so fortunate to work for a flexible, thoughtful organization like IHI. At the same time, I feel immense pressure to keep projects moving forward, to get useful information and education to our heroic customers in the health care workforce. I fear I’m not checking in with everyone on my team often enough. I worry about them, too, because I care deeply about their well-being and happiness. I wonder what our organization will look like in a year. Certainty and optimism have turned into questions and concerns.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky. 

My kids—ages 6, 4, and 1—are a constant source of joy and worry. They give me a hug when I need it and add immeasurable stress when they run around the kitchen table 36 times in a row while I’m on yet another call about how quickly we can publish this website of stories. I’m doing everything I can to keep things normal for my kids. I explain that we need to stay at home “to keep everyone safe right now” and show them (kid-friendly) videos of how viruses spread. I try to find their favorite foods when on very rare trips to the grocery store. I give them 10-minute bursts of attention to read them books, explain Kindergarten worksheets, and set up hopscotch boards on the sidewalk. I let them watch too much Disney+. I worry, first, that they’ll get sick and, second, that they are being scarred for life.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky.

My mom and my sister live together and are fortunate to have each other. I check in on them daily, asking how everyone is feeling. I relay highlights from the copious amounts of news I’ve consumed and try not to overwhelm their optimism with my cynicism. I also stay in touch with my wife’s family, including my sister-in-law who is a nurse at a local hospital. She’s pregnant and I’m scared for her. I don’t have a great relationship with my dad and rarely talk to him. I fear I’ll never see him again. In fact, in the back of my mind, I think I’ve settled on the reality that this outcome is likely.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky.

I had a cold last week. It was mostly a runny nose and a productive cough, but I was still worried. I took my temperature at least twice a day for several days. No fever. I kept smelling stuff, too, to make sure I still could. I’m feeling better now and have chalked it up to a run-of-the-mill cold. But I have asthma and I’m reading a lot about “underlying conditions” and “bad outcomes.” I also hear stories about healthy, fit people (like me) that lose their lives to COVID-19. It makes me wonder if I’ll make it through all of this.

Still, I’m incredibly lucky. For now.

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