As we continue to share testimonies from Black women across North Carolina through our Her Testimony campaign, we would like to thank everyone who shared their experiences of navigating this pandemic via our online survey. The survey is still open for any adult who identifies as a Black woman residing in North Carolina and wants to share how COVID-19 is impacting their life. To learn more about the Her Testimony campaign, please visit here.
Today, we offer a testimony from Derria Dixon who provides mental health services to residents of Eastern NC, alongside her husband through their organization, Dixon Social Interactive Services. Prior to supervising Dixon Social, Derria worked in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a mother of two and the caregiver of her mother. This conversation took place in late April and has been edited for length and clarity.
Here is Derria’s testimony.
How has this experience affected your daily life?
Well probably like so many people–not knowing that the scientists don’t even understand the pandemic, so it has been kind of scary. With my science background, I listen to science. I believe in science. But then when the experts don’t know and they are learning, and you’re learning as they’re learning, that’s a scary experience. The community reaction to– it as far as getting all of the toilet paper and there’s no meat and not knowing how the virus really spread — they’re kinda guessing. It’s been wild.
For you specifically, what has been a low point while experiencing this pandemic?
Not knowing what to do. My kids are out in California. And LA, you know that’s where one of the first cases was identified. I just wanted to know that they were okay. I was concerned about them. And also, my mother lives about two hours away from me. She has a lung condition. Sarcoidosis. I wanted to be sure that she was safe. What should we do for her to make sure she’s safe? So all of those uncertainties on how we are going to do this. I’m the primary caregiver. I have a brother. He helps, but I’m the oldest. It’s my responsibility. I guess I could say that they were low points.
I have faith in God. For the most part, because I identify to my core, which is my faith in Jesus, I haven’t had any really low low points. I am always able to go back to the word and remember his promises of protection and how He is going to provide. And how He is going to protect. That has kept me from having low low points.
I want to know more about your role as a caregiver. You are a mother and a daughter. How do you navigate taking care of them from afar?
So when I think about my role in this — I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a friend, I am a supervisor.
Because of my nurturing nature, I’ve had my hand in everyone’s life, making sure that they are okay.
At least I’ve tried. And it probably has helped me in the process too because I’m occupied with making sure that people are okay.My husband, I have to remind him of the recommendations, the social distancing, and washing your hands. I probably aggravate him but I feel like I have to ask him the questions. Did you use your mask? Also my children –I’m not so concerned with my daughter. But it’s my son. Making sure that he knows that he needs to do what he needs to do as far as protecting himself. I don’t know, maybe it’s a man thing. But I think he sees the seriousness of it too. He’s in that generation. You know the generation of people that were on the beach during spring break? I don’t think he would have done that but he’s kind of wondering, “What’s so bad? I’m this age and it’s not going to affect me this much.” But I think he’s caught on to the fact that it could hurt someone else.
And as far as my mother, I’ve been shopping for her so she will not have to go to the grocery store. Doing shopping two hours away and getting it to her has been interesting, but it has been working. And as far as being a supervisor, making sure that our staff is okay. Being in the process of making sure that the clients are okay because we are deemed as an essential business. So making sure that we have everything possible that we need to make sure they are protected. Even in the community, being a friend, we provided computers for children to do their schoolwork at home if they didn’t have it. So I’ve been kinda busy, Barry and I — my husband’s name is Barry, doing those things.
What’s been a high point for yourself in this moment?
I think the high point is finding out about zoom. Zoom has been wonderful because we’ve never used zoom in our business. We always had round the table meetings. Now we’re zooming and it’s so efficient. It saves time. The communication is great, not just for the business, but for family. We have family meetings on zoom. My son is graduating May 8th. He’s getting his Masters in engineering management and we were so excited about going to his graduation at Duke. So now it’s going to be virtual. But we’re thinking about having a virtual party too so family and friends can all be together on the screen and celebrate with him. So that’s been a real high point. Finding other ways of communication. I love zoom.
What have you been learning about the needs for yourself? I have heard you talk about other people but what are you learning about for yourself at this moment?
I think I’m learning, because we have so much time, there are so many things that I have on the back burner that I continue to put on the back burner.
But now is the time to take those things off the back burner and to start doing them.
I find myself still making excuses to not do those things. Like writing a book–there’s a book that I’ve been writing for a couple of years. Reorganizing my closets.
What are you learning about the needs for your community?
My husband and I pastor a small group, so we’re using zoom during this time. Usually it’s a house church so we go from house to house. What I’m finding they’re needing is really just a touch. Getting together. Everybody is excited to get together because of the distancing. That’s the biggest thing I’m finding that people need. To reach out. There are some people that I have to call that are a part of our group. One lady is suffering from illness so I reach out to her and a couple of others. For the most part, everybody loves to come on and see each other’s faces. Give kiss signs. And all of that.
In the neighborhood, when we’re walking, everybody just likes to say hello and make a gesture of wanting to communicate because of the distance.
It’s like we all are in this together.
It seems like everybody has that frame of mind in the community where I am. Now when I think about some people in my community — the lack of information. That concerns me. When you go out, they are not practicing social distancing or just seem unaware of what they need to do as far as safety is concerned. I think that is a need in some populations.
With your mom, do you drive her groceries or send via delivery?
Either me or my brother take it to her. Now her town, they made it so that visitors cannot enter. It’s a port town and a lot of tourists come. And so we had to get entry passes to go to Beaufort. I either send it through my brother or I’ll take it directly.
How have you been adapting under these conditions?
Well, I’ve been trying to go by the recommendations. I’m used to standing six feet away. At one point it was a problem with masks. But it seems to be easier to find. Even when they lift the stay at home restrictions in North Carolina, I’m still going to follow it. I think that I convinced my kids that they need to too. So I think I’ve adapted pretty good as far as the safety part. Now I have slacked as far as the cleaning in the house. I was one time crazy with it. Wiping everything down. But it’s like, maybe that’s not all that necessary to do. But adapting — I think so many things that I have adapted to, I’m going to keep for a minute.
When it comes to your work, are you going into the office or working from home?
The administrative staff and management, we have them work from home. However from time to time they need to go into the office. But because everybody is not there, it is easy to practice social distancing. There are times when I have to go to the office and I make sure I have my mask on when I have to be around so many people. I think we might try to keep that practice in the office as far as social distancing. And also allow them to work from home more. We would have never known that until this pandemic. It’s really been working. I am for us doing a lot of work from home.
Yeah, I see that as a trend. Where have you been finding joy?
I’ve been finding joy in my faith. In the word that where He promises to protect us and provide for us.
I can’t imagine going through Covid-19 without a relationship with God and in not having that blessed assurance during these uncertain times.
That is where I get my number one joy. And then being with my family. Me and my husband have time to catch up and be able to talk to my kids more because they are home and have more time to catch up with me. That’s been a joy to talk to family more.
What are your hopes for the future when we emerge from this crisis?
My hope for myself, I would say, is to not to take for granted the daily blessings that God has given us.
Take advantage of every minute of the day to do something that is purposeful. That’s my hope for me. To see the importance of moving forward in my purpose as a woman, as a supervisor, as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife. To take that opportunity and continue to move forward in a positive manner.
For my community, it is my hope that everyone would take the opportunity to find and stand on that solid rock, which is Jesus Christ. And to be able to have that blessed assurance for uncertainty times such in what we are experiencing. That’s my hope for community.