As the pandemic rages on around us, I am finding myself retreating inward. I am reflecting on the times and recognizing that though this time at home has been good for us in many ways, it has also been destructive in more ways than I’d care to admit. To keep my wits about me, I’ve been taking daily walks and practicing yoga and meditation. I’m becoming more aware of how social media has affected my mental health and am reducing my time spent consuming it daily. I’ve even taken up more hobbies such as photography, painting, and organizing to work off all of my anxious energy. Although these have been worthwhile attempts to keep myself sane, I still find myself battling depression.
In the process of finding myself in yet another depressive episode, I’ve found it harder to communicate whether it’s a text, DM, FB message, or tweet. Don’t even get me started on my irrational fear of a Zoom call, FaceTime call, or even phone call. It’s hard to communicate verbally because I am exhausted from the internal conversations I have with myself each day. I am constantly internalizing every interaction or social media post and when it becomes too much, I shut down. It’s been easier to shut down than to deal with the influx of emotions and physical effects of depression these days; especially since I’m not required to leave my couch for the foreseeable future. In all of this, I find myself more achingly desperate for a picture of what the future may hold so that the haze will lift.
I’ve been deeply grieved by the inability to hang out with my friends and experience errands without anxiety reminding me of this virus in each moment. I can’t see past the now to wonder what a new normal will be for us or how I’ll be able to navigate public spaces again. It’s truly been jarring to no longer experience the outside world as before. I think my biggest fear is that I don’t know what this means for how we will be able to navigate relationships from here on out.
As an introvert, the initial 3 months of social distancing was honestly so refreshing. I didn’t have to expend additional energy in face-to-face meetings or spend hours hyping myself up to do a hang out or even speak to strangers. It was like getting a piece of myself back from all the fake smiles and forced laughs that have to take place when my social battery has died. As I observed the struggles of extroverts, I thrived…until I didn’t. I suddenly felt like a flower growing tall only to hit a wall that caused me to grow awkwardly and painfully. The 4th month came upon us and I genuinely wanted to eat out again or go shopping without fear (and having to use excess amounts of hand sanitizer!) and meet up with friends for girl talk. But the fear, and overall caution of dealing with the unknown, allowed me to keep myself inside a little longer.
We are entering our 5th month and many people have made it clear that they want normalcy. State governments have allowed the pressure of their constituents to force re-opening far too soon and we’ve seen cases increase exponentially. The reality of our new normal has me dealing with the emotions of having to eventually enter the public realm again and I am fearful of developing an agoraphobic condition. The truth is: I don’t know if I’ll feel safe in a few months or even when there’s a vaccine—which may not be for a year or more. I just really don’t know. And I’m afraid of how this will affect the relationships I have and what they will look like in a Post-COVID19 world.
Although the world is opening up again, may we give each other the grace to go back into the world at our own timing. My deepest desire is that we don’t lose the people around us while we figure out what’s right for us and our families. Especially for those of us dealing with compromised mental and physical health. Many of us will have to learn how to interact without physically being together and maybe give up on being anti-technology to maintain the relationships we have. However, this doesn’t mean we have to answer every video call or text because despite being at home, it doesn’t mean we have more time or energy. During this time, we will still have to maintain boundaries (or create new ones) to keep ourselves together both mentally and emotionally. And finally, in this new reality, we will need to create space on how to carry our new “normal” into how we relate with one another whether together or apart.
I don’t have any answers for how we can better navigate relationships when we’re anxious, depressed, and stressed about the state of the world but I hope in the end, we don’t give up on the people around us. If this year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of sticking together and standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. This pandemic isn’t nearing it’s end any time soon but as the ancestors say, “we shall overcome” as we always do.