Someone Google searched Railroad Wife Support. Here is my answer.
Women, we are living some crazy times today. Some of you were made for this: homeschooling, OCD cleaning, and keeping your RR sanitized. We need you right now! The rest of us are losing our damn minds!
Healthcare spouses… I see you. I am you! I am exhausted, tired, stressed. You can demand overtime from me, but unless you’re paying my childcare I can give you what you get. Every single day I wonder if that’s the day I bring it home. Every one of you who work outside of the home… Even go to the grocery store!!!! Crazy times are upon us and worse are still ahead.
Look, I was never meant to be a 1st grade teacher. Add homeschooling to being a full time student, working full time in an ER, and volunteering with a nonprofit and you have one high strung sanitation worker.
Here is my letter to you… You, railroad sister, are NOT alone. We’re all mostly isolated while our men go out in packed vans, some sick but scared to call off because of a RIDICULOUS attendance policy their carrier refuses to suspend. Not having adequate cleaning supplies between crews, Oh the list goes on.
I am going to break some things down for you, dear friend. I hope this helps you a little.
- The people you love are happy and healthy. If this thing has already made its course through your home, or you’re waiting very anxiously for the first fever to hit, stop and look at the people in front of you. Smile. Hopefully they smile back. Maybe they will ask you for another snack just because you made eye contact. Keep these people, even the far away ones you are so very worried for, in the most positive place in your heart. If you shut down, let the depression creep in and stay, you will continue a downward spiral and lose out on the unique opportunities this quarantine has brought.
- You can be present and still fight. We are fighting for the health and future of the people around us. Understand you are not fighting people. People are not the virus. It does no good to be angry at the person who came to work sick. None. Your anger will not change that person’s decision or undue any harm done. Be present. Be in the now.
- Don’t let your negative thoughts go unchecked. How? Call someone you trust and say them out loud. Admit it in the air, and get it out of your body. If your fears are crazy, I hope someone calms your ass down. If they are valid, then find comfort in solidarity. Sometimes just knowing someone else shares your concerns is enough to allow you to put them aside for a moment.
- Nights are the worst. Especially if your RR is away. The house is quiet, and I have the worst stress dreams wondering what insane reality awaits the next day. I like to spray lavender on my pillow and play a guided meditation. There are plenty of free apps. Listing to someone talk about something calming and completely unrelated to COVID 19 helps my brain focus and kind of rest. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, I urge you to try this. Sometimes I take melatonin too and fall asleep before the meditation is over. It’s great.
- Here is an exercise I sometimes walk through a few times on very bad days.
- Think of happiness as a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being the most depressed you’ve ever been. 10 being euphorically happy. NOTE: Happy is ANYTHING above a 5. Most people go through the day at an average of 6. IF YOU ARE A 2 YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GET TO A 10!! Again, anything above a 5, you’re doing great.
- If I am at a 2, I think of things that might bring me to a 3. If I get this low it’s likely I am either tired from stressing all night and/or hungry. If you are a 2 and realize maybe you haven’t eaten yet, DO IT! Something as small as a snack can bring you to a 3 or 4.
- Okay, I’ve had a snack. Now I’m a 3. A little better but definitely not happy. I try to move through the senses, so I’ll rummage my lotions, maybe take a bath with some essential oils. The ultimate 3 to 4 scent for me is my RRs cologne. Cheesy but true. And now this is starting to feel like a well-being scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts are fun, right?
- I am sooo close to being back to at least indifferent which is considerably better than depressed. This one is hard and you might have to make a stretch for it. This might be that last resort call to a friend, or doing a hobby you forgot about after crap hit the fan. Do whatever you can to move yourself from that 4 to a 5 or 6. This one is going to be far more personal and might take a little work. But coming out of that funk is important right now. We have to be creative within our various confines.
For many of us, our worlds have been shrunk into a tiny box with a few other people all competing for the same space. Like my kids when I’m in the bathroom, but 24/7 in every room of the house. Maybe you’re an extrovert and seeing your RR walk out the door makes you a little resentful. I don’t blame a single person for how this situation affects them. While every house situation is different, we all have something in common. Our spouses walk out that door and when they come home things might never be the same. This is a risk we all take every time they leave, not just now with the world at a standstill. It has always been dangerous, just not for everyone involved.
Here is a hard truth: It is likely that everyone will catch this virus. Just like the flu. Until there is a treatment or vaccination, social distancing will only slow the transmission rate. It’s not likely to go away after a week or two of being good people, washing our hands, and staying inside. Doing so gives high risk people a fighting chance. You or your RR might be high risk. Or your babies. I’m terrified for my 3 year old daughter with a history of lung problems. This thing is real and so are our fears.
No, things will never go back to the way they were, but it doesn’t mean we quit. We’ve already been through hell! We don’t quit when things get hard. Ask yourself how many times you handled the worst of days all on your own? You can do this. Hang in there. This is like the worst long distance borrow out ever: your hot water heater and furnace go out at the same time and a tree falls on your house. Shit hit the fan. You breathe, you handle one thing at a time and put one foot in front of the other (by the way, I wish none of the above on anyone).
We might be losing our minds, but we are some of the most resilient people who live their lives on last minute changes. You can handle a lot. This will pass.
Feel free to comment with how you get yourself over that “hump”, from being sad to being okay again. For solidarity.