Today was a very big and special day for me. Today is a day I have been waiting on since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and changed all of our lives. Today was the day I received my first dose of the vaccine.

To understand the magnitude of how COVID-19 affected my life, I need to share a little bit more about myself and my issues. All of my life, for as far back as I can remember, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. One of the main things I need to stay balanced is to have all of my ducks in a row. By that, I mean that I have to always have a plan B, C, D, etc. to function as a sane person. When I say a "plan," it involves too many details to list. A sudden change in plans or no way of escape will send me over the edge. Over the years, I have been able to learn to control it but it's always there in the back of my mind.

The pandemic brought my mental illness to the forefront. I could not escape COVID-19. It felt like it was right outside my door, trying to get my family. All of my routine daily checks and balances were shot and replaced with a numbing state of fear, dread, and isolation. The fear of leaving my house became a real thing and only added to my preexisting issues.

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I wasn't afraid of getting the virus myself. I was afraid of getting it and giving it to my son who is immuno-compromised. Just before the pandemic became a global concern, my son had been airlifted from Owensboro to St. Vincent's hospital because of a life-threatening and unknown virus or something. We had no idea what it was or what we were dealing with. It involved an extremely high fever, his throat swelling shut, and an attack on other organs. He spent a week in Intensive Care on a ventilator. This happened after a week in the hospital with something unknown the year before, and the life-threatening accident that ruptured his spleen the year before that. It had been three years of sudden attacks on his life.

Mentally, COVID-19 was the last straw for me. As much as I have learned over the years about my mental illness and how to live with it, my fear COVID-19 would attack my son was overwhelming. I felt helpless, my row of ducks exploded, and my anxiety was taking over.

You must also understand that one of the things that I use to keep me balanced is my connection with other people. I need others around me. I feed off of their energy and it fills me with peace. Being alone and isolated was the worst thing for me. Luckily, I had my loving and understanding husband and my son during the quarantine.

But, what I missed desperately were my two other children, their partners, and my granddaughter, who had to stay away from us to protect Hayden. I missed my sister and brother, my nieces and nephews, and I missed my dad who has Alzheimer's. I knew I was losing time with him that I would never get back. To protect my son, I had to sacrifice time with family and so did he.

My son has been through Hell and back but has survived the storms that came his way before and during the pandemic. Now, we see a light at the end of the dark and lonely tunnel for all of us. My son, husband, and I have all had our first dose of the vaccine and it fills me with so much joy. I got very emotional after receiving my first dose today.

I am so grateful for all of those people who are on the front lines of this virus. All of the healthcare workers and scientists who help us move through our pain, suffering, fear, and anxiety. Every one of them is a hero. I'm also thankful for the people who shopped for my groceries when I could not, and all of the important essential works who put their own lives on the line, every single day, for the rest of us.

The pandemic did give me a new sense of strength. I was forced to overcome and smash my "bully" of anxiety just by having to leave the comfort and security of my home studio and go back to work. It scared me to death, but I had to do it, so I did. By doing so, I started to feel better and a little more like myself. Being around others, helped to revive my heart, soul, and creativity.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine today was a thrilling and incredible feeling. It was like the clouds had cleared and a weight had been lifted. The vaccine brings hope for tomorrow that we will once again be able to live our lives without fear of this devastating virus. Schedule your vaccine. I'm telling you, it feels great!



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