I pull my hair up then immediately drop it. “Everything is fine” I say to myself. “It’s Ok.” For two days, I ignore the angry pink blotches on my ears. “It’s nothing” becomes my mantra.
When I was 10, my mother noticed my ears were bleeding. It didn’t make sense. Did I scape them? I couldn’t remember. As the months wore on, my ears bled on and off. She asked the pediatrician. ‘Oh, she must have hit it with her curling iron’ he surmised. But a year went by and my ears bled. Mom silently watched. In my quiet times, the times I shut down, I rubbed my ears until they bled. ‘High anxiety’ they labeled me. “Give her time, she’ll grow out of it” the doctor said.
Often, the blood would drip from my ears onto my shirt. I changed a lot of shirts through middle and high school. “Can we talk about it?” my mother would ask. I rarely answered. How can you say “I’m overwhelmed” to someone who had enough to deal with?
More years passed. Nothing changed. My mom said it was a blessing and a curse. Sure, not great to see your kids’ ears bleeding but it was a really quick way to see when your kid felt overwhelmed and address it.
I dated the man who would become my husband who wondered, “What the heck is going on with your ears?!?!” “Um… curling iron burns?” It worked for months until he figured out, I was either unnaturally clumsy or something was amiss. I finally spilled the beans. “Stress makes me rub my ears. I don’t realize I’m doing it.”
We got married. I sought help. Started addressing and managing emotions. Eating healthy. Working out. Things calmed down. The bleeding ears stopped. Bliss. For fifteen years.
When my ears gleamed that bright red, I held my breath. “They’re just red. Calm the heck down. Everything is fine…”
But it’s not. My ears are bleeding.
I sat at our kitchen table. Hair down to cover my ears. My son whispered something in my ear. I leaned over, forgetting, brushing my hair back to listen. My husband stared. “Your ears.” He didn’t have to elaborate. I knew the jig was up.
“Yeah” I said. “We can talk later”
In the quiet of our room, I pulled my hair back. He inhaled. I don’t think he was prepared for the damage. “I got this. I’m fine” I said.
But I’m not. The stress of the coronavirus has brought back old habits. My clients are high risk. My parents. High risk. I worry for them. My ears bleed for them.
A couple days ago, my vet called. Vet? Yup, we got a pup. Haven’t been able to update yet. She’s brand new. Five months old but she’s got a past. We are the third owner in her short life. No shots. We’ve been working with a vet to ‘catch up’. She had a test for four parasites. Tested positive for three. One of them contagious to humans. Ever heard of Giardia? Causes diarrhea. Yeah, that’s what I need in my life. A dog with diarrhea contagious to humans in the middle of a toilet paper crisis in a family of six.. most of whom are very small children who don’t understand “DON’T TOUCH THE DOG!!”
“The dog has got to go” my husband says firmly. He called all over town until he found a vet that could board her while she worked through a week of meds…while I worked through my own issues.
That is why I married this man.
“It’s too much for now. She will be perfectly fine. Perfectly safe” he said and off the dog went.
These are crazy times. Obviously I can’t tell you how to cope. I haven’t figured that out. But here’s what I can tell you. My ears are a sign that I’m overwhelmed. The limiter has been hit. I’m embarrassed. But I appreciate that my body is VERY clear as to where my limits are.
Physical health and safety trump finances. Mental health trumps finances.
We can do this. You can do this. Take Facebook, Twitter, Instagram off your phone. Stay home. Take walks. Cancel that trip even though you’ll lose money. Protect those ears…or whatever your limiter is. Mitigate stress anywhere you can. Hug your kids. Breathe. Hang tight folks.
We got this.