Fear and The Frontline

Written by: Kylee Doty

When I was about seven years old, I was terrified of closed water slides. I was especially afraid of the kind where the inside was painted black. They were the only thing that gave me severe anxiety. I would loathe water parks for the sole reason that the water slides were there, existing, but above all else, I hated that I was afraid. So much so, that at one point I had had enough and started forcing myself to go down them to dilute my fear. Since then, I have faced my fears by doing everything but running away. I hug my fears, and hold them close until they can’t breathe; that way, they aren’t holding me. That being said, I guess it would make sense that during the coronavirus pandemic, I took a job in healthcare that might appear distant from my field of study in communication.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve never feared the illness, but I do fear death. The position I accepted is an Activity Aide in a nursing home, and almost immediately after my two-week-long orientation, I was faced with an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 cases. I went from my serving job of two years, where I would come home annoyed because I smelled like fryer oil, to coming home to my roommate with a plastic bag to put my scrubs in right away as to not transmit any of the sicknesses that could have gotten on my clothes. I got bruises on my cheeks and nose from my N-95 mask. It was completely different from anything I’ve experienced, and while I wasn’t afraid for myself, I prayed for the health of the residents. 

A little while ago, I experienced my first death. It felt strange. I’d never had a job before where I had to worry about people dying. As a deep empath, the emotional aspect took a toll on me and it was evident to everyone close to me. I found myself, once again, hugging fear. 

I’m not writing this to try and make anyone afraid of anything. To be honest, it’s more about loving people more than your sense of security. A lot of people asked me why I chose this job, during this time when I’m studying something completely different, but the thing is, communication applies to every job. 

Just recently, a resident told me, “Kylee, I like you. You give me someone to talk to.” and my heart shattered because, like most of us, I take talking to people for granted. The residents in nursing homes and the patients in hospitals right now don’t have the luxury of talking to people whenever they want. They don’t get to put on their mask and go shop at Target, and they surely don’t get to sit down at a restaurant for their favorite meal if it happens to be their birthday. If you were a resident or patient at Christmas, you didn’t see your family. But I get to be that family for some of them, even if it’s just for a little while. Maybe this article just helped me recognize why I felt drawn to this job. I don’t know.

When you sign up to help people, you’re signing up to give a little bit of yourself away. I am confident that if more people took a moment to take care of others, the world might be a little softer, a little gentler, and a little more kind. The people I work with are brave and smart and helpful, and while we may be (definitely are) desensitized to certain aspects of the healthcare field by now, the core remains the same: to help people live but to also help them retain a sense of being alive. It could mean a coloring book, a delivery pizza order, or their favorite candy. It could be just holding their hand. It could be telling them it’ll be okay until they believe you, even if it’s just a little. It could be Bingo (even though that’s when I get sworn at the most).

One of my favorite authors, Bob Goff, says that the edge of something is the best place to be because you get the best view. Being in healthcare for the first time isn’t easy, especially right now, and I realize there are a lot of people who deal with much more trauma than I have. People are often difficult, but they need someone to love them regardless. Let me invite you to lean into fear, because after all, chasing your fear means it can’t chase you.

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