Skip to content

Mental Health


I read an article the other day that said more people were having vivid dreams during this pandemic. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, suggested the spike in dream recall is a side effect of the slower-paced lifestyle some non-essential workers are now leading and how a dramatic change in routine can lead to more vivid dreams.

I haven’t noticed a difference in my frequency of vivid dreams, but perhaps this is because the pandemic hasn’t shifted my day-to-day all that much. Despite that, however, I do feel a deterioration in my mental health overall.

My dreams can generally be classified into three categories: regular dreams, vivid dreams, dreams that don’t feel like they’re mine.

My regular dreams are like the ones you most likely have. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t. They can generally be traced back to whatever random thought was knocking around in my subconscious before bed.

My vivid dreams are often realistic and mundane. Once I dreamt about wanting to drink a Pepsi, but having to pee really badly. In my dream, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t pee (and I’m glad I didn’t figure it out because I woke up having to pee).

I have this third category of dreams that I don’t tell people about, mostly because I find it a bit hard to explain and it’s often accompanied by weird/confused looks by others.

In my regular and vivid dreams, I am the star of my dream. I am the vehicle of the story. Everything is happening either to me or around me. If I’m having a conversation with someone in these types of dreams, their responses make sense because it’s all part of my own subconscious. There are no surprises in these dreams because they’re made up of bits and pieces of myself and my experiences. 

But every once in a while, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a place that isn’t mine. I remember years ago I once had a dream about an ex. Except, it felt like I had come in in the middle of the dream, like entering a room where people are already in mid-conversation. 

I heard years later from a mutual friend that my ex had a dream about me around this time. 

The other night I had a dream I was at my Grandma’s house (on my Dad’s side). This is important to point out because I never dream about her or her house, just my Grandma (on my Mom’s side). I went through the front door into the long driveway to meet my aunties, who pulled up together in a big SUV. 

There were 2-3 people in the driveway, walking past me to get to a back unit behind my Grandma’s house. In real life, this back unit doesn’t exist, but for some reason, it existed in my dream and I was not surprised by the people walking by. One was a woman with long dark hair, probably in her 30s. As we walked by each other, we made eye contact and there was a moment where I felt unsettled by the interaction before I woke up. It felt like I startled her by our eye contact, as if she was wasn’t supposed to be there. 

I woke up feeling very uncomfortable. I still feel uncomfortable.

Urgent Care Diaries

Back in January, I swear I had COVID-19. Nobody believed me.

I was in Vegas for a work function and a few days later had these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath/shallow breathing
  • Cough

I went to Urgent Care, but they scoffed at my concern that I had coronavirus.

“But you weren’t in China,” the doctor told me.

“No, but I was in Vegas for a week during Chinese New Year,” I explained. “There were a lot of tourists at the casinos and I have an autoimmune disease.”

“Either way, we don’t have a test for it, so we just have to treat accordingly.” The doctor gave me a breathing treatment at Urgent Care, then sent me home with a prescription for an inhaler and flu medication.

Eventually, I got better, but the shortness of breath never really went away.

I ended up going back to Urgent Care two more times since then.

Fast forward to this past Monday. I woke up with body aches, as if I had been hit by a truck, still shortness of breath/shallow breathing, and cough. No fever, though.

I went to Urgent Care about five minutes before it opened, hoping to get a breathing treatment and a new prescription for my inhaler. A woman wearing a mask was waiting outside, removing it every so often to sip from her thermos.

“Where’s your mask?” she asked.

“Don’t have any,” I explained. “Can’t find them now in the stores. Everywhere is sold out.”

“I got mine from Ebay. The markup wasn’t too bad and it came quick.”

The doctor arrived a minute or so before 9am. We waited a few minutes and then followed her inside. I opened the door with my sleeve.

From the waiting room, we overhead the doctor and nurse discuss the fact that the entire office staff called out sick and neither of them knew how to work the computer system.

“I think they said they haven’t been cleaning,” the woman said to me, standing up immediately from her seat. “I think I’ll wait outside.”

“I’ll let you know what they say,” I told her. “I don’t have mask on anyway, I’m fucked. You might as well wait outside and I’ll relay the info they give me as soon as I can.”

She laughed and then excused herself to wait outside the clinic.

The doctor came out to the front desk and explained they had no way to check people in as neither of them knew how to use the computer system. “Where did the other woman go?”

“Outside,” I laughed. “I told her I don’t have a mask, so I’m fucked anyway, so I told her I’d relay the information to her after rather than have both of us sitting here.”

“That was nice of you,” the doctor replied. “But don’t think like that. You’re not fucked anyway.”

She sounded maternal, so instinctively I smiled politely and said, “okay.”

A manager from another Urgent Care location arrived shortly after. While taking my vitals in one of the rooms, I asked how she was doing and thanked her for working that day.

The doctor examined me and went through my list of medications. I had forgotten I was on a steroid for my Ulcerative Colitis. She said it was an immunosuppressant, but also probably made my symptoms not as severe as they could be. She said she couldn’t tell if I had COVID-19, but my symptomology is in-line with the virus, and recommended I do drive-thru testing when it’s available later in the week.

I was sent home with an inhaler and some antibiotics (on the off-chance I had a sinus infection).

I’ve been eating salami sandwiches for days with no end in sight.

note: there are no masks here.

The New World

A lot has changed in the last week.

A week ago I was in work overdrive prepping for my big event and this week I’m wondering if I have enough toilet paper and food to last through Gov. Newsom’s mandated-quarantine here in Los Angeles.

LA has turned into a ghost town. The electronic signs on the freeways warn the public about COVID-19 and my mother updates me daily about which counties are closed near her and about how she learned how to make her own hand sanitizer. The last part is less surprising (my mom is crafty like that), but I feel uneasy about the state of the world.

My friends and family are panicked, but me…I’ve just kind of numbed out. My emotions are flattened and have been replaced with a sad apathy. It’s a Xanax-induced numbness that offers little understanding of my feelings and only wants me to lay on the bathroom floor in the dark.


At this point, I find myself asking if death is a better option than my current situation of being lectured all day, every day.

The Overwhelm

Dissociate, verb: disconnect or separate (used especially in abstract contexts).

At a certain point when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I begin to dissociate. It doesn’t happen immediately or all at once, but more like I slowly find myself drifting off or imagine myself exiting the room inside my head.

I used to do this as a kid. It was a necessary survival tool in my house, especially post-divorce. Now as an adult, my ability to dissociate/disconnect discretely is depending on how much bandwidth I have in a situation.

My work responsibilities are centered around hosting an event that was supposed to take place this weekend. I raised a very large sum of money from sponsors. People were/are in the process of flying in from around the world to attend and spent a lot of money on dresses and other arrangements.

Late last night the Governor of California released a statement urging the cancelation of Los Angeles events expecting more than 250 attendees. I texted my boss the news while half-asleep, rolled over, and passed out. I’m guessing sleep was the only way I could escape my anxiety and exit the room.

This year’s event has been particularly difficult with Dan’s passing in December. He was integral to the event (not just in terms of job responsibilities, but energetically as well) and his absence has left a painful void for me and my co-workers. There hasn’t been much time or space for unstructured, overwhelming grief. For the most part, we’ve had to chug along as if he was just on an extended vacation or grieve in short, structured breaks between work.

Depression is so inconvenient as an adult. As a teenager, there is space to be messy, to fall apart. As an adult, especially if you’re a successful adult, the confines of real life make it very difficult to allow yourself to experience the full extent of your feelings.

There’s not much I can do at 6am to fix the situation. I know I will spend today on the phone with the venue, meeting in-person with my boss, and creating an action plan for our most likely canceled event. But right now, I’m exiting the room.