Week 2-3 Covid! Hooray!

Oh my god. What the fuck was that?

So, I was going so well. I was powering out of week 2, ready to grab week 3 by the horns, and took a beautiful sunny Saturday in the garden to regroup and take some downtime for my mind before revving up for the new week.

But by around midday on the Saturday, I sat down on a metal chair outside my chookyard (where I have a milk crate as an ottoman… it’s my favourite place in the whole world aside from San Diego, basically), and I couldn’t really get up again and pick up a rake to do any more work around the veggie patch.

I felt very, very strange.

I just sat there for ages, feeling strange.

Before long, my husband came loping outside towards me. He lopes. He doesn’t walk. He’s long.

“I feel so strange,” I said to him. And I reached out to him and held on for dear life, because I felt so wobbly and teetery that I was a little afraid. I’m quite scared of being unwell. The flu has nearly killed me before, and it was so traumatic that now I experience a whole lot of fear at the slightest hint of flu.

By the next day, I was in the roughest neighbourhood of Covid Town. Coughing, spluttering, headaching, snotting everywhere, and just totally sapped of energy. I didn’t really get up for about 5 days or so unless I needed to use the bathroom or get drugs or do something essential for my husband or child. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my sense of taste or smell. I made chicken soup on Sunday knowing I was about to get really sick. So we just ate chicken soup for a couple of days.

Seeing as children statistically aren’t as likely to be dramatically affected by covid, I was less worried about my daughter, and this turned out to be a sound assumption. Despite coughing a bit and testing positive to covid-19, she has remained as bouncy, active and argumentative as ever. She’s totally fine and has had a lovely time of her week home from school. As for her parents… different story. For a few days, all we could manage was a dreary tag-team effort in looking after her and ensuring she had meals and varied playtime and learning opportunities and all that. We both suffered hard with severe symptoms, and while my husband is mostly better, I’m still pretty sick. Like the months following my pneumonia, I have unfortunately returned to Ventolin dependence, and my soreness and fatigue are greatly increased. But that’s by the bye. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. I’ll recover in time, I’m sure. And we got loads of family time together. We’ve seen a whole lotta Spider-Man movies, and had some lovely conversations about self-control, and taking responsibility. Spider-Man really is such a great family conversation-starter for themes like emotional self-regulation, and decisionmaking, and self-control. Kids need Spider-Man.

In the meantime, my uni classes have powered ahead without me, and at ECU there’s no mechanism for off-campus students to report their covid-19 positive status. They really only allow for on-campus students to do that. So I’ve been concerned that my absence from the online discussions for the past week have been noticed and that the lecturers will think it’s because I don’t care and don’t try. It’s not that at all. I’ve just been way too sick to sit at my desk until today.

Online students really are at a disadvantage, no matter which way we look at it. In so many ways, it’s absolutely brilliant that university education has progressed to the point where a single mother or someone with disabilities or very few dollars in their bank account is now able to access a university degree almost 100% online. That’s something that I didn’t have access to back when I did my Advanced Diploma of Music. But if you ever have to make a decision about whether to study online or on campus, try to study on campus, because it is definitely advantageous to do so.

Today’s lecture was pretty great. When you study concepts like culture and diversity in the context of therapeutic practice in first year and then revisit those themes again at a higher level, something about it brings about new thinking and new reflection for you. Nothing about the lectures and readings I’m doing is new to me, and it’s all written to cater to the people who just have white ancestry or just have no lived experience interacting with people from other cultural backgrounds. Like my lecturer said today, the figures tell us that only 30% of people regularly socialise with First Nations People, but I agree with him when he speculates that the figure is probably little less than 30%. Cultural competence simply isn’t something the community in general has achieved. How do I measure that? Well, it’s not safe out there to disclose to just anyone that you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. I had to listen to a completely ignorant comment about First Nations students the other day from someone who works in public education, and I just despair sometimes. I didn’t bother “going there” with this person, because at that level of ignorance, it will take months of schooling to even scratch the surface.

It’s good that classes like mine are being offered. I just wish everyone could get the opportunity to get their heads across these super-fundamental concepts. But this is the world we live in. This is the real world. And I have to process the reality that people will come into my therapeutic setting and say things that are incredibly racist and incredibly ignorant… but they will be my clients, and I have to respond appropriately. Racism is something that has bothered me my entire life, since I was my youngest daughter’s age and experienced racism for the very first time. When I lived amongst the Chinese community in Castle Hill, I had no idea racism existed. While other children learn what racism is by having a teacher or parent explain it to them, I learned the hard way. My family moved to an extremely white, extremely racist place, and I learned what racism was by being called words like “gook”, “ching-chong” and “nip” by other children, and then going home to ask my mother what those words meant.

The trauma and the disruption that racism inflicted upon me and others like me throughout my too-short schooling years cut so deeply that even as a 42 year old student of psychology, it is one of two very great mountains I must (mostly) climb before I can confidently go into clinical practice. Leaving highschool early because I could no longer bear the racist bully was something I’ve never forgiven this country for, and it set me on a path of aimlessness and sadness that I didn’t ever really find my way out of until I was 35 and resumed my schooling.

But… forgive I must. Today, there’s another 17 year old who needs a grown-up mental health professional to listen to her because she too is experiencing racist bullying at school with violence in her home from the very parent who endowed her with that shining black hair and beautiful almond eyes. She bounces back and forth… bullying at school, bullying at home. She finds her way into my clinic somehow and there she rightly expects someone to understand. Not just know an “approach” for. To really understand.

For her, I go on.


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