Ann had a wonderful life. She had been working for ten years at her job as a bank teller. She was content and had no inclination of changing her job. Her husband was in the trucking industry and loved what he did. And she was blessed with a three-year-old daughter.
“I felt like I had finally reached my point of everything being in the right place.”
When news came out about the pandemic, at first she wasn’t worried, but in mid-March, her whole family got really sick. Her daughter got it on a Monday. Her husband got it on Wednesday, and she got sick on Friday. It was shocking how bad it was. To this day, she thinks that she has post-traumatic stress disorder because of her experience.
“I had an incident right before I got sick where I was sitting on the couch and my lungs went entirely freezing cold. It was the strangest sensation I’ve ever had in my life.”
At the time, she laid down and thankfully came out of it, but that was just the start of what was going on. The whole family had fevers of 103.5o. She just kept checking to make sure that they never spiked more than 104o. It was scary and definitely beyond the worst flu that she had ever experienced.
There was definitely a cardiovascular aspect to the illness as well. Her husband had something going on with his heart that he never figured out and didn’t tell her much about because he didn’t want to scare her. Later, when she went out for a walk to get her lungs working, she would find that her legs would often tingle as if they were asleep.
Their daughter got over the virus in four days. It took her husband two weeks to recover, and perhaps because Ann had complicating factors it took her three weeks. She has fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, and is overweight. They’re certain they all had Covid-19, but at the time they were not tested.
Two weeks after she got sick, her job closed. The experience of seeing her family sick and being herself sick weighed on her mind. She wondered whether she should go back to her job. The virus could come again, and she heard that the second time could be worse.
“I started to fear about leaving my family motherless because I felt like I’m the most likely one to not pull through.”
She also worried about her daughter. There was always that 1 in a 100 possibility that her child could die from it. What if the statistical anomaly fell on her daughter?
She started doing a risk assessment on their family’s life. Although her husband couldn’t work remotely, her husband was not a people person and he had very little contact with people, so he was at low risk. He also had a great boss who had been very supportive when they had been sick in March, and promised to cover anything medical about Covid that wasn’t covered by insurance.
Her own company did a great job of protecting employees. All financial advisers were not allowed in the branch without masks. They had shields. Everyone was observed carefully by the company. If employees were with a client longer than nine minutes, they were videoed. She had a lot of exposure to physical money, but from her research, surface contact was not the primary method of infection, airborne droplets were.
The real issue was her daughter’s daycare. It wasn’t that the center wasn’t protecting the children; it was that they couldn’t stop the children from playing with each other. Some parents believed the pandemic was political and weren’t taking precautions, and their lack of care was concerning. Their children could get it and the play with hers. She also encountered issues like when a guest teacher came in to read a book without a mask. It didn’t seem safe.
She had once chosen her job over her life, and she wasn’t going to do it again. The virus could mutate and get worse. She just kept on thinking about what if she lost her husband or her child. It would be her fault. She had a discussion with her husband, and he supported whatever she decided. He just wanted her to be happy.
“I thought I’m at least going to go back and face the world. I also felt like it had been months since I’ve had any of their input, and they’re all smart people [at my company]. I wanted to hear their thoughts.”
Ann’s job reopened on June 1st, but she continued remotely because although she had the most seniority, she was in the lowest position. She went back to work in July.
Two weeks later, her whole family was sick again, and the company put her into quarantine. The chances were very rare that Covid-19 had struck again, but seeing her husband get sick made her think more seriously about the germs that she could be bringing home. If her husband hadn’t gotten sick, she wouldn’t have thought about leaving.
She called Human Resources twice and talked to them about how she was feeling. They tried to come up with solutions to reduce her exposure like working part time, but because of daycare costs, she would just break even if she only worked part time. It wasn’t feasible and taking a leave of absence would leave her company shorthanded as they wouldn’t be able to bring anybody in to sit in her spot. She didn’t want to do that to them.
She decided to resign.
“My boss kept avoiding my calls. I think he knew what that call was going to be, and when I said it I almost retracted it right away, and then I heard a little voice that just said, ‘Just let go.’”
After telling him, she immediately regretted her decision. She wanted to call back. She cried a lot that evening.
“I didn’t realize the cure is worse than the disease right now, especially for people with preexisting mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.”
Ann has had mental health issues since she was nine years old. When she was young, she was depressed and learned to put on a smile even though she didn’t feel like it. When she was fourteen, her parents brought her to a counselor and she got medication, which unfortunately had a negative effect. She attempted suicide. Currently, that medication has been banned for use with teens, but its effects had not been known at that time. After her teen years, Ann saw counselors and later she went back to medication. However, antidepressants don’t seem to agree with her and cause her more anxiety. She has been battling depression her whole life. Leaving her job knocked her back down.
“You don’t realize when you give up your job that you lose your identity. You lose your clients that you love and care about. You don’t get to talk to them and have that interaction that keeps you healthy.”
She now wishes that she had explored other options for her daughter’s daycare. There were other locations that she has since uncovered that were better than her center. She had eliminated them because they were more expensive, but she had not thought about how fees get less expensive as children get older. Now, it seems to be too late.
It’s been tough. In the middle of August, she was feeling really down. She realized that she was grieving for her job, and in the grief-process scale, she was in depression, which she sees as the last stage before acceptance. She hopes she will feel better soon.
She won’t know whether she made the right decision to leave her job until 2022. She is concerned about what will happen in the winter and early 2021. A part of her predicts a resurgence of the virus and possibly a more serious one.
“There may come a day where I look back and I say, thank God I made this decision. The other part, too, is all the other insanity in the world, not to go into politics… but just people going crazy for all different reasons.”
Most people put their money in banks, and clients come in from all walks of life. She felt a little protected being in a small town, but they were definitely not immune to robbery. While she was working at the bank, she did encounter a robbery. The experience scarred her for life. That people are now coming into banks wearing masks may have triggered that memory. With economic problems, people are bound to get more desperate. What is going to stop them from making the horrible choice to attempt a bank robbery while wearing a mask?
“I can tell you that the training with the company I was with, in terms of robberies, was perfect. It was spot on. It’s exactly what you should do. Only one percent of robberies result in death. However, I also live in an area where people carry and would speak proudly of what they would do if someone came in, and that is where your problems start, when a client decides that they’re going to be the hero.”
The future is too uncertain and too risky.
Because she knows she is suffering from depression, Ann has looked up therapy options. Her normal therapist retired two years ago. She prefers remote options, but it is looking like sixty dollars a week, which she can’t afford since she left her job. Regular counselors are much more expensive. She only met her previous therapist about once every three months because it was one hundred and fifty dollars each visit, and her insurance wouldn’t cover it until she reached an astronomical deductible, which was never hit. It would actually be cheaper for people without health insurance because a session would only be sixty dollars.
“Even sixty dollars a week for someone that doesn’t have a job – it’s not really going to work out for them, and they’re going to need it the most.”
To Ann, it really seems like society doesn’t care about mental health.
“I think we’re going to see an increase in loss due to suicide, due to addiction. Those are going to be deaths that are technically connected to the pandemic, so whether they actually got Covid or not, that’s going to be a hard side to it because of the fact that I know people look at it as they just should have decided not to take their life because it was something that we all had to do, be isolated there. People lost their jobs and life is going to go on in some kind of way, but that’s just not how mental health works.”
Ann acknowledges that she wakes up and has suicidal thoughts that she has to fight. She’s used to fighting them because they are not entirely new. They’re just more pronounced now.
“I also know what it’s like to face that moment when you’ve made that decision, and I know that is a decision that you regret more than leaving your job.”
She’s sure that the people who succeeded in killing themselves also had that moment. She was just thankful that when she had that moment, she made the phone call. It saved her life, and she will never forget it.
“When you get to that moment, you know that it’s not what you want to do.”
Some feelings don’t go away. For Ann, she has learned to live with them, work around them, and cope. She knows that when she gets to the point where she needs to reach out to someone, she’ll look at her daughter, grab her water bottle, and go out to a park. She’ll just leave the house and go somewhere.
It takes a lot of strength to do that, but she made the choice to put her family above her job. Her daughter’s wellbeing is important.
“I joined a lot of home school groups and one of the moms there said that the days are long but the years are short when it comes to children. I think the same thing is true with a lot of things, you know, when we look at how fast time is really going by and then we look at how much we take for granted. Especially the pandemic has taught us how many things we took for granted.”
Ann says she used to be a lazy stay-at-home type of person when she had time off. She regrets being a passive mom and not doing things and taking her daughter out. But now she makes a point of being more active.
“We went on one of our iconic trips of the year. We always do. This is the first year she could look at ice cream and pick what she wanted, and watching her do this with a mask on, and I just thought, ‘Wow, what a moment.’”
When Ann looks at the decision she made, she’s not sure if people should make the same decision she made. She thinks the pandemic situation is going to get worse before it gets better. If people do make the choice to leave their jobs like she had, she wants to warn them. She, as a mom, grieves for her job.
“It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to grieve your job in ways that you never expected. And that to some degree does make the cure worse than the disease, but at the same time, I don’t know how else we’re going to get this under control. And we all do what we can.”
Read more about mental health struggles with how long-term care lockdowns are sacrificing mental health. Or watch more stories on fuconomy’s youtube channel.