I’ve always been the type of person who prefers to stay home on any given occasion—a homebody. So, when this new directive to stay home was put upon us as a way to minimize the spread of COVID-19, I was quite fine with it. In fact, I believed it would not be a problem for me. But something changed a couple of weeks ago.
For those of you who do not know, I am a high school English teacher with five classes of students. When remote learning began almost 4 weeks ago, I would wake up when it was still dark outside to prepare my lessons. Then, for approximately 6 hours straight I would “teach” and grade assignments, not giving myself a proper break or rest period between my classes. On some days, there were phone and video conferences to attend. By the end of the “school day”, I was mentally exhausted, my eyes were strained, and I found myself always feeling irritable. That was only after 2 weeks of remote teaching!
It wasn’t until the third week that I realized I was terribly depressed. Every day was all about my lessons, interacting with my students, and grading their work. I stopped communicating with Dan and I stopped taking care of myself, as my weekly hair and nail care regimen fell to the wayside. I stayed in my pajamas all day and ate junk food on a consistent basis. And when I noticed I had gained a little weight despite my daily exercise, I started to feel extremely sorry for myself.
A supportive phone call from my cousins and sister helped me put things in perspective and they gave me very useful tips that I used to balance my workday. But the ongoing support from my husband, I believe, prevented me from having a nervous breakdown. I was doing so much for work, trying to “get ahead” of the never-ending flood of work that teachers are known to have. And now, it felt like I had even more work just to ensure that students did not “disappear” during class. Also feeling overwhelmed with making sure all of my students understood the material I was giving them and finding new ways to convey that information to them, I was doing way too much and Dan saw that. If it wasn’t for his quiet support, I really believe I would have started down a dark path of self-destruction.
Because Dan does not have a schedule like mine, he promptly started taking care of things around the apartment so that I didn’t have any more to do. He made the bed, prepared our lunch, went to the supermarket, made sure I stayed hydrated and continually reminded me to take breaks and move around once in a while. Even on days when food did not interest me, he made sure I ate a little something. And I was very aware of his support. He never made me feel ridiculous for doing too much, understanding that my way of teaching is very different from his. It wasn’t a discussion, I didn’t tell him to do these things; he just knew to do them.
After a particularly hard day one afternoon, I told him that I usually watch Disney movies when I’m feeling low. So, he declared that every day from now on, we’ll watch a different Disney movie to unwind, which was a fun addition to our daily routine.
And perhaps once or twice a week, at Dan’s request, I venture outside the apartment to go for a walk with him. I do prefer to stay inside and not bother with the gloves and the mask and the washing of the hands when coming back inside. But I know that it is important to get some fresh air. And I do always feel somehow refreshed on our return.
The past few weeks, more than any other time, I came to learn and understand the power and importance of spousal support. I believe my depression would have worsened within the past couple of weeks if it had not been for the way Dan chose to help me through it. Of course, the feelings of being overwhelmed have not completely disappeared and every once in a while, my situation has me feeling a little distressed. What I do then is think about how fortunate I am that I have my health, my family and friends, and that I am still able to work and get paid during this challenging time. And most of all, I’m thankful for a loving, understanding and supportive partner.