It’s April 22, 2020, and I’ve officially lost it. I’ve scrolled through my IG feed more times than I’ll admit. I’ve watched (what feels like) all of Netflix.
I’ve done every single workout video on YouTube. I’ve walked around my entire neighborhood 500 times. And color coated my already perfectly organized closet.
I got back from a run about an hour ago. I showered, dried myself off —put on yet another pair of comfy cute pj’s, and sat on my bed.
I sat and I stared. I stared at the wall like what now? Seriously. What now?
Unfortunately, I don’t know. I don’t know when this shit is going to end. And I certainly don’t know what life will look like once it does. What I do know, however, is how I’m feeling at this particular moment. Because I’ve been self-quarantining for over 30 fucking days. So yeah, I also know I’m going crazy AF, which is why I thought you might be too.
Because this whole COVID-19 social distancing six feet apart thing isn’t easy. It’s necessary, yet, boring and tedious and is affecting us in more ways than we may have originally thought when this whole thing started. Same shit, different day. Stay home, they say. And yes. Stay the fuck home. Because I’d rather be bored, safe, and healthy than laying in a hospital bed attached to a fucking ventilator. But still, it sucks. Here are three reasons why.
1. I’m kind of depressed and bored AF.
Because we’re not designed to exist alone —and quartine is lonely. Yes, it’s essential in order to mitigate this virus. But there’s a reason we were made to live and thrive with other people. For the majority of human existence, we lived in small, intimate “hunter-gatherer” communities. Scientists who spend time studying modern-day “hunter-gatherer” groups explain that social isolation and loneliness are largely uncommon among them. Why?
Because group members spend the bulk of their time —practically all day, every day —in the throngs of friends and family. Even Americans from a few generations ago benefited greatly from the abundance of community life, which for the short-term has just about disappeared. On one hand, if you’re self-quarantining with family like I am, it’s a beautiful thing to get extra QT. But maybe it’s just you. Regardless, none of it is normal. Take Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach, FL as an example.
It’s a street normally filled.
Filled with people talking and walking and eating and shopping. Laughing with loved ones as they people watch down to the now-closed beach. It’s an eerie silence that’s hard to wrap my head around. So with this temporary new normal, we’re told to retreat into the sealed comfort of our fortress-like homes and/ or apartments. Does it make you sad that you can’t leave unless it’s for some type of essential product or good? Are you running out of things to occupy these endless days?
According to Dr. Laura Hawryluck, attending physician at Critical Care Medicine who researched quarantines during the SARS outbreak, 49 percent of those quarantined will eventually show signs of PTSD. Hawryluck also found that 51 percent will experience symptoms of depression. It makes sense. I mean, we’re being forced to do something (we don’t actually want to do), which can be particularly distressing. Partly because we’re at the mercy of other people. Our government. And this damn pandemic.
That right there can lead to feelings of helplessness and uncertainty about the future.
It’s all just a little unsettling. Because extended periods of time where nothing changes can push people to look inward. Evolutionary Psychologist from Knox College in Illinois, Frank McAndrew says, “For those unaccustomed to such introspection and rumination, the experience can lead to negative emotions, and in extreme cases, a blurring of the boundaries between what is going on in one’s own mind and what is actually happening around you.” Damn. That’s deep and kind of true. I’m definitely on edge.
2. I’m anxious and fear real life won’t ever resume.
On one hand, I know staying home is the right thing to do. And doing things at home that create a sense of change and purpose, like rearranging the furniture, cleaning the house, reading a book or writing (like I am right now), can help generate stimulation. But on the other —when anxiety sets in, it can be hard to shut your mind up long enough to get anything done. That’s not including the fact that there’s still a chance you or someone you love can contract the actual virus. As precautious as we might be with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and social distancing, sometimes, —shit just happens.
And this thing does not discriminate. That’s why it’s important to quite literally be six feet apart from anyone you come in contact with. Like when I’m driving, it’s not me that I’m scared of. It’s other people. It’s also normal, especially right now —when we’re trying to limit our interactions with others, to fear going to the grocery store. Or running out of supplies. Like toilet paper, which has had the biggest glow-up since freaking cauliflower (but that’s beside the point). Because it’s a strange time.
Most of us are working from home —if we’re working at all. So yeah.
3. I’m also angry and irritable.
And rightfully so. The loss of agency and personal “freedom” associated with isolation is frustrating. Life is frustrating RN. It’s at a standstill, yet, time is still moving like it’s business as usual. Except it’s not. It’s anything but and I’m restless. I want to do anything other than what I’m doing. But I can’t. And that makes me kind of angry. It makes me mad that we’re in this situation, to begin with. I know it won’t last forever. I know if we all stay at home, eventually, we’ll flatten the curve, and life will resume. But damn.
And not knowing can fuel our fear of the unknown.
That said, there are things we can do to increase our quality of life —even if we’re stuck at home. Dr. Neil Greenberg, a Professor of Psychiatry recently conducted a study looking at the psychological impacts of quarantine. His analysis tells us that it’s vital to maintain strong social connections during isolation. In this digital world, it’s relatively easy to initiate a zoom or facetime chat with someone you like. There’s also texting. Or, taking it back old school —why not pick up the phone and call friends or family.
I recently joined TikTok and OMG. That ish has me laughing for hours. Simply try anything that will make you feel less alone. Because normally, we get our social contact by going into work or by interacting with people day-to-day. That stuff just happens as a matter of course. But in times like this, Dr. Greenberg emphasizes, “We need to be proactive and reach out to people.” In doing so, he adds, “It’s likely to help others —who might not want to bother you. Or, who have mental health problems of their own.”
Because as humans, we need that feeling of community.
We need to connect with others. On all levels, we crave some sort of purpose. Loneliness by definition isn’t a lack of company. It’s a lack of purpose. So whether you want to facetime, exercise with yoga or YouTube videos, draw, read, or write —do something that will help keep your mind active. Your body moving. Feel the sun on your face and take a walk. Organize. Go through old pictures. Give yourself a manicure. Cook something you wouldn’t normally make. When in doubt, get enough sleep.
Because when we sleep, we heal. I mean, don’t you feel better after a good night’s rest? I do. I feel better when I eat well too. Because we are what we eat. If needed, consider *telehealth options for psychotherapy. If you already have a mental health doctor, reach out to see if they can continue your sessions virtually. If not, you can always make a list of your anxieties. It’s oddly therapeutic to see them written down. It kind of takes away their power. Just try not to think catastrophically.
Instead, focus on what you can do and accept the things you can’t.
One way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? Sounds cheesy but there’s something to it. Because it prompts your brain to focus on the positive. It can put things into perspective. Because it’s all relative. If that’s not your thing, you can download an app for mindfulness or relaxation exercises. Because there’s always another way. There’s always something else to try.
I also want to point out that by sticking to your version of a structured daily routine —you can preserve some semblance of order and purpose despite the unfamiliarity of isolation and quarantine. Above all, try to focus on the altruistic reasons for social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Because by taking these precautions, you’re reducing the possibility of spreading COVID-19. You’re protecting those who are most vulnerable. So whatever it is you’re feeling at this particular moment, chances are, someone else is too.
Because we’re alone together.
*If you’re interested in learning more about Brightside Health, —my virtual mental health clinic, start with a free assessment, and go from there. They offer telehealth video chats with a certified psychiatrist and personalized prescriptions delievered directly to your home.
Brightside did not pay me to say this. I just want to share what has worked for me.