Just over seven months ago, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) was declared a global pandemic. A few days later, the governor of my state (California) issued a “shelter in place” order that still remains in effect today.
People are now getting out and about more often and more businesses are open, but the virus case count, hospitalizations, and death rate remain high and are actually escalating as we move into the cooler months. Any hope of this crisis dissipating in the near term seems to have been dashed at this point. Who knows how long this will last and how devastating it might be?
Early on in this crisis, I wrote two posts related to what’s going on in the world and how to stay sane:
I also touched on how I was feeling a little bit in another post that was mostly centered on wardrobe issues. Since that time (June), I haven’t written about the pandemic at all. There have been two reasons for this…
- First of all, I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling. I felt a lot of numbness more than anything else for a long time, or maybe I just didn’t want to feel what was there.
- Second, once I tuned in more to my feelings, I found that they were quite dark and I didn’t want to write a predominantly negative post. I always try to be more upbeat here, or at least end my essays with some helpful conclusions or suggestions that might be useful for readers. I didn’t want to add to whatever fear and negativity you might already be feeling.
I Want to Be Real
The above is all true, but more than anything else, I want to be real in what I write. So while I could just continue my trend of either not posting at all (it’s been almost a month!) or only writing wardrobe-related posts (which are of course still real but maybe not as timely or helpful right now) because they’re easier (even though they often take more time to complete), I’m not going to do that today. A close friend convinced me to share my feelings about this altered state we’re all in. She told me that my open, honest, and heartfelt posts are the best pieces that I write and that I often put into words what other people are feeling.
So here goes… I don’t know how this is all going to come out, but I’m not going to censor myself and I’m just going to “let it flow,” so to speak.
I feel depressed and hopeless. When people started talking about the “new normal” months ago, I fought that concept tooth and nail. I didn’t want to embrace all of the doom and gloom that was being spewed out by the media. That position didn’t mean I didn’t take the virus seriously because I did. I followed – and continue to follow – the recommendations for hand-washing, social distancing, and (begrudgingly) mask wearing, but I just didn’t think it was going to last this long. I thought that we’d maybe have to alter our way of life for a few months, but now there is really no end in sight and I feel distraught about that.
I Don’t Have a Full Life – And It’s Gotten Smaller
I created this blog to try to help myself and others define and cultivate fuller lives for ourselves, but I feel like I’m failing miserably in that pursuit. I feel like a fraud, especially now. Despite starting Recovering Shopaholic, with the tagline of “Trade your full closet for a full life,” in January 2013 and trying to further that effort with Full Life Reflections (tagline: “Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment… in a chaotic world”) beginning in January 2018, I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress in creating a fuller life for myself.
My life has long been very small, partly because of struggling with chronic pain for many years and partly due to my extreme introversion and emotional issues. But prior to March of this year, I did have more of a life than I do now in many respects. I enjoyed going to movies and to the gym, as well as shopping and running errands. I was in a book club (that’s still happening via Zoom, but it’s not the same) and got together with friends two or three times per month. My husband and I dined in restaurants on a regular basis and went for walks along the water at least a few times per week. Now, with the exception of the walks, all of that is virtually gone. Of course, there are still errands to be run, but it’s now fraught with anxiety and the dreaded masks.
I really hate the masks, although I fully understand why they’re necessary at this point in time. They’re hot and difficult to breathe through and they obscure everyone’s faces. Whereas we used to smile and say hello to each other, now all we see are other people’s eyes and they’re usually looking down rather than at us. Everyone is afraid of each other now, as any one of us could be harboring a potentially life-ending pathogen. I feel like I’m in a horror movie that isn’t going to end in two hours like usual. Who knows when it’s going to end? Some of the doomsayers are mentioning 2022, while others are predicting that our lives will never get back to what we used to consider “normal.”
I Don’t Know How to Feel or Act
The truth is, I don’t know how to take that. I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know how to act and how to be. What I feel usually vacillates between numbness and wanting to scream at the top of my lungs. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my family and many of my friends again. I worry that maybe I will never see some of them again, especially if people like my high-risk mother and moderate-risk father were to contract the virus. They’re in their mid-to-late seventies and live in an area with a lower concentration of Covid cases, but the risk is still there and it worries me.
I know I have it better than many other people, particularly those who have already lost loved ones to this nightmare of a disease. I also know that I’m better off than those who are working on the front lines, either in a medical capacity or at an essential business like a grocery store or warehouse. I know I’m more fortunate than those who have lost their jobs or homes as a result of this pandemic or are struggling to pay their rent and bills.
I’m more fortunate than a lot of people, so I often feel guilty for being so forlorn over the current state of my life. My husband is healthy and still has work, albeit less than before this started. He’s doing much better than I am with all of this, mostly because of his continually upbeat, “glass half full” attitude that I truly wish I could embrace. He still has a life, as he continues to go to work and do some of his outdoor hobbies. He’s not at home all day long like I am, which didn’t used to bother me as much as it does now. My two cats continue to do well, but if there’s ever a problem with either of them, I’m not even able to accompany them into the vet office. I just hope and pray that they won’t need anything beyond a basic check-up until all of this is over (but will it ever be over?!).
Ready to Change, But Then Everything Stopped
Ironically, just before Covid (I hate that word with all of my being!) descended upon us, I was ready to dip my toe into the pool of a bigger life. Despite my health challenges and social anxiety, I had joined a few new Meetup groups and was going to push myself to actually go to the meetings. But then everything stopped.
At first, it wasn’t too bad and we were all in “survival mode,” thinking that if we did all of the right things, we could resume our “normal lives.” But that didn’t happen. Not everyone did the right things and what the rest of us did wasn’t good enough. And baking and Netflix weren’t enough to keep me (and likely many other people) out of the pits of depression.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety all of my life. For years, I haven’t had much of a social life and my life had gotten progressively smaller, but I always had hope that it could change. Knowing that so many other people were out there enjoying their lives helped me to believe that it was possible that I could get to a better place where I would be healthier, less depressed and anxious, and more engaged with other people and the world. I also hoped that maybe I could find a part-time job either at home or out in the world where I could connect, contribute, and earn some decent money. Now all of that is on hold, seemingly indefinitely, and I feel despair.
Can You Relate to What I’m Feeling?
I don’t know how much all of you can relate to what I’m writing. Perhaps some of you had a lot more going on in your lives than I did, but now all of that is reduced or even gone. Perhaps some of you live alone and feel even more isolated than I do. Perhaps you’re coping better – or even worse – than I am. The sometimes trite and overly stated saying, “We’re all in this together,” is true now more than ever. When has the entire world faced the same challenge? Never before in our lifetimes has this been the case, so why do I feel so alone?
So if you ever wonder why I have been writing so much about wardrobe-related topics in recent months, this is why. I have other topics that I could write about, but I don’t feel able to uplift or contribute solutions the way I’d like to. While the suggestions I shared back in April still hold true, I’ve been challenged to take them on myself as this pandemic – and blistering uncertainty – has dragged on and on and on.
Working Toward Acceptance
But what else can we do? I think what I need most of all right now is acceptance. Although I don’t need to embrace that this “new normal” (I still hate that phrase) will last forever, I do need to accept that it’s our reality for now. I need to find a way to have a fuller life in spite of the isolation, the doom and gloom, the masks (still hate those, too!), and the uncertainty. Kicking and screaming about how much I don’t like what is isn’t getting me anywhere other than more miserable.
I don’t like the masks, but the weather is getting cooler and they won’t be so uncomfortable during the winter. Also, they cover up the wrinkles and discoloration that have become more and more prevalent on my rapidly aging skin (which contributes to my social anxiety). I really don’t know what I’m going to do with myself, but I have to figure something out because I’m going to go crazy if I continue to be so isolated and depressed. I need to find a way to forge a new life for myself in spite of the pandemic and all of its restrictions, fear, and anxiety.
I Don’t Have Answers, But Maybe You Do…
So in this post, I don’t have answers. All I really have is thoughts and feelings that I’m sharing in case they might provide some comfort to anyone out there. Although I don’t wish my levels of anxiety and despair on anyone, I know that I’m not alone in feeling what I do. Perhaps what I’ve shared might help someone out there to feel less alone, to feel that somebody “gets” how they’re feeling through all of this. If so, then it was well worth it to put myself and my feelings out there.
What I’m going to do now is try to find some “baby steps” I can take to get to a better place, to try to forge a fuller life in the midst of the deep uncertainty we’re all going through. I will write about that soon, but what I’d like to do now as I close this post is open things up for comments.
Any type of comment you’d like to leave is welcome, whether it’s to chime in with your own fears, anxieties, or anger – or if you want to offer some advice and wisdom to those of us who are struggling. I know we all deal with difficulties and uncertainty in different ways, and I also know that some of you are navigating these treacherous waters better than others of us are. But hopefully the beauty in my opening up about my feelings despite my fear and trepidation to lay myself bare is that maybe we can all feel a little less alone and we can also learn from each other.
I look forward to reading your thoughts, and if you don’t want to post them here, you’re welcome to write to me privately via my Contact page. I promise that my next post won’t be as heavy as this one! I’m not exactly sure what it will be about, but I have a few ideas and am always open to suggestions. We’re rapidly approaching the end of the year, so I will definitely do some updates soon on my “enough” theme, my “20 for 2020” goals, and of course my wardrobe goals and challenges, including my continued adventure with selling my clothes online.
Until next time, I wish you health, safety, and sanity. I also wish you peace and happiness and some level of fulfillment amidst the chaos of the world. Love and light to you always and thank you for reading my words. It means a lot to me, especially those of you who have been with me since the beginning.
52 thoughts on “Seven Months – and No End in Sight”
I hear you! My small hermit life has gotten even smaller and I hate it. I loathe the masks, the distancing, all of it. About three weeks ago I stopped participating in my Zoom yoga classes because I am burned out on it. I want to sit next to people and hug them. This whole thing has spiraled into a never-ending horror show. I am taking anxiety meds to sleep. I’ve been binge buying perfume, shoes and books. Despite copious meditation and exercise, I still feel panicky and cry a lot. So you are definitely not alone. (Contact me if you want to meet up, I just got back to San Diego Thursday night. )
The lockdown in Montreal was so bad, I put my condo up for sale and we are planning to buy a house in rural British Columbia next year. That in itself was a severely stressful decision but I feel like it had to be done. I cannot accept that things will be like this forever. The psychosis has to end – germs and disease will always be a part of life, we can’t stop living because of them. The Spanish flu pandemic ended, this will too. Unfortunately the government in California seems to be on a power trip, unlike some other states where things are more relaxed. When we drove through Wyoming and Nevada, no masks were required for example. I’m hoping by next spring things will be improved, at the very least in BC if not in California. They have not had a lot of cases.
I’m sorry you ended up having to put your Montreal condo up for sale, Tara, but a house in rural B.C. sounds like a very nice place to be about now. You’re right that this pandemic will eventually end, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. I think a lot of people have Zoom fatigue and are longing to sit next to people and hug them. I miss being able to go to coffee with people. I think all of the coffee shops are takeout only at the moment. It’s little things like that that I miss the most… Meditation and exercise can certainly help, but it’s normal to feel panicky these days. It’s good that you’re letting yourself cry. I have trouble doing that, but I usually feel better when I am able to have a good cry. Welcome back to San Diego! I know things are rough here, but at least we can still do things outdoors year-round. Maybe I will end up becoming more “outdoorsy” after all. I look forward to hopefully seeing you soon. Take care!
Hi Debbie. Thanks for sharing your feelings. I have found that following national news was too depressing. On a daily basis I check local news regarding city, county and state updates (New York State). I only read national news a few times a week. I have found this to be helpful to lessen hopelessness. I try to support local activism in small but meaningful ways. Planning a few errands a week and working on some projects at home helps to give me some normalcy. I also like to go on walks for exercise. Always looking for new areas to explore on roads and trails. I also have exercises that I do at home for toning and stretching. I read an article on jewelry for masks which I thought might be fun. Take care.
Yes, the news can be very depressing, Nikki, and you’re wise to avoid it. Keeping news consumption to a minimum has been helpful to me, but sometimes I get out of hand with it again (I only read news, not watch it, but that can get to be too much as well). Good for you for doing what you can to support local activism. It feels good to be part of the solution for causes we believe in, especially when the world at large can feel so hopeless. It sounds like you’re doing well with your self-care, too, which is nice. I saw a woman in a store who had a chain on her mask and it looked nice (elegant, even, which is one of my style words). I can’t imagine ever LIKING masks, but adding some fun to them would definitely help. You take care, too!
Thanks for sharing your innermost feelings, you are not alone.
I was already suffering from depression and anxiety before Covid, and still am. I don’t like leaving the house, as home is where I feel safe. I order everything online now, food and clothes. If I do have to go to doctors appointments, I too hate having to wear a mask.
I no longer read or watch any news or live TV, as it’s all too depressing. I only watch programs I have recorded or are on Netflix, so I can choose what to watch to make me feel better.
I don’t have the mental capacity for reading books anymore and I no longer read fashion magazines or fashion blogs, as it is not good for my mental health to compare myself to others and feel like I am not good enough and not measuring up. I have got fed up with reading most of my self help blogs as I don’t like being told what I should do to feel better, as I have to find what works for me.
Key milestones like our birthdays and wedding anniversaries have passed. We used to go away on holiday to celebrate, but this time we have used the money that we would have spent to turn our house into our own holiday home, so it is a place where we can relax and enjoy spending time in.
I had been spending nearly all my time looking at clothes online, hoping to find that magical outfit that would make me feel and look better, but nearly everything I buy doesn’t fit or doesn’t suit me, so I return it and it has started to become too much effort for so little benefit.
I have put on lots of weight and my dietician said I needed to find something else to do with my time other than online shopping and snacking. She said to try playing a game to take my mind off things and to relax. I looked at lots of games and started a few, but they weren’t really me, however I persevered and found a game in the APP Store called Redecor. It is an interior design game, it is free and there are no annoying games or puzzles that you need to complete to earn money. I enjoy interior design, especially when I can do it on my IPad, from the comfort of my bed or sofa. It satisfies my creative side, it is relaxing and I feel I have achieved something.
With regards to going out and meeting people, it was always something I felt I should do, as it’s what is expected. I too joined Meet Ups groups however at the last minute I always made excuses not to go, similarly with work events and other social gatherings. Although I said I wanted to meet people and socialise more, when it actually game down to it, I am an introvert and it actually caused me more anxiety. I worried people would be judging me as I don’t have a job, I don’t look good anymore, most people don’t understand mental health issues and I wouldn’t have anything to talk about. I actually prefer to stay at home or go out with just my husband, where I can relax and be myself and no one is judging me. Covid has made it become the norm to stay at home and not socialise, which has taken the pressure off me.
I am trying to be true to myself, to make my life more fulfilling to me, to only do things that I enjoy, that don’t add to my stress and anxiety and try not to compare myself to others. My life may seem small and isolated to others, but if I am honest with myself, I actually prefer it that way.
Hi Debbie. As a fellow introvert I totally get where you are coming from with what is happening there. I have no real answers for now but just wish I could give you a big hug and give you the words my Dad gave me to use when I feel depressed (and I then overshop) “this too shall pass.” I find it makes me take a breath and then realise that one day soon things will be better. The only way is up from here. God bless. Jayne
Thank you so much, Jayne. I wish I could have that big hug! I appreciate your dad’s words of wisdom. He’s SO right! The hardest times DO pass and we often emerge stronger and wiser. Blessings to you, too!
I’m glad to hear that you’re taking positive steps to improve your depression and anxiety, Sally. Not watching news and focusing on doing things you enjoy at home are definitely steps in the right direction. I always feel worse when I consume more news, but I have to keep reminding myself to take a step back… That’s great that you channeled your vacation money into transforming your home into more a sanctuary for you. The interior design app sounds fun, too. I totally get what you’re saying about buying clothes online and having to return so much of it. It can get to be so frustrating, so it’s good to take a step back from that, at least for a while. I also relate to what you wrote about socializing. I’m not one who likes to socialize A LOT, but I’ve had a hard time with it going down to nothing. I want to find a happy medium somewhere, but that might have to wait for a while. Socializing causes me anxiety, too, but I think if I could find more of “my people,” I would feel less anxious. I wish I could meet in person with some of the wonderful women who comment on my blog! I know that we wouldn’t judge each other the way so many other people do. I’m glad you’re being true to yourself and are living your life in the way that you prefer. Sometimes it takes desperate and difficult times for us to realize what we really want and value. As always, I wish you all the best. You have been so kind to me over the years and I know we would be friends if we lived near to each other.
Thank you for your kind words Debbie, I think we would be friends too if we lived closer, if we could both overcome our social anxiety to actually meet in person!
I found this article helpful to becoming true to myself and living my life in a way I prefer and thought you may too:
Extreme Minimalism — Leaving Your Mind At The Door:
“Getting back to basics through cultivating a minimalist approach to life is one of the most helpful steps you can take to protect yourself from the toxic effects of modern living.
Simplifying, living at your own pace, getting rid of unnecessary ‘stuff’, minimising screen time and making more conscious and intentional lifestyle choices are some of the things you can do to reduce stress in your life.
But, even if you were to strip your life and possessions down to the bare minimum, you’d still encounter one significant barrier to your inner peace—your restless mind.
If you really want to make peace and wellbeing a priority, it’s essential to create a lifestyle that supports it— to live life on your own terms and at your own pace”
I hope this article helps you to find some peace in these stressful and uncertain times.
SO true that we would have to overcome our social anxiety to actually meet up, Sally! I often enjoy meeting up with people and doing social things once I can actually bring myself to do it, but the anxiety usually prevents me from even making plans! This has gotten worse lately, too… I think that when I stay at home, I can at least sometimes pretend that things haven’t changed as dramatically as they have. I still go on the walks in the evening, but since there are usually so few people around, it seems much the same as it used to.
Very interesting article… It’s SO true that minimalism is about so much more than just “the stuff.” I have pared down a lot of stuff (although I still have too many clothes), but my mind is still extremely restless. It’s kind of like the old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” The article was quite thought-provoking and something that bears reading more than once to truly get the benefit from it. It reminds me of an exercise a coach led me through years ago. At the time, I had a lot of things on my plate. She asked me to metaphorically take EVERYTHING off of my plate and ask myself what I would add back on. This exercise set a lot of changes into motion in my life. Those changes took a while to implement, but the exercise got it all started. I like the idea of “extreme minimalism.” I have longed for a slower pace of life for a long time, but now that I have it, I’m not content. Obviously, there is more to consider, namely my restless mind (which my late mother-in-law called “the coffee grinder”). Perhaps something to write about soon… Thank you so much for sharing.
It’s good to hear from you Debbie, you are right that this pandemic makes a terrible difference in our lives. I find it gets less depressing after lockdown, even with a curfew. Keep being real and authentic, I believe it is what this world lacks most. I’ve been watching a lot of Brianna Johnson’s Jungian ‘Existbetter’ channel on YouTube and, in case you don’t know it, I think you’ll relate, as her approach reminds me of yours – basically being yourself. Take care!
Thanks for the tip about “Existbetter,” Samantha. I will check it out. I love the idea to be ourselves. I’m very tired of trying to measure up to how other people think I should be. It’s so much better to be real and authentic, as there will always be those who relate with and connect to us when we’re true to ourselves. I’m glad you’re finding life less depressing after lockdown. It may take a while for us in the US to get there, but it will happen eventually!
I can relate to how you’re feeling, Debbie. As far as the coronavirus goes, I have my bad days and my better days. I over-shop mindlessly, then I don’t. I stop writing, then I start again.
In the past, I would complain about the number of social and family events on my calendar. (As an introvert, they SEEMED like so many.) I’d tell my husband that I wished I had a month with no outside plans. I thought I could get so much done! Ha! Those dinner plans with girlfriends, etc., meetings with my writing group, etc. added more value to the limited hours available before. Now there’s no urgency, no pressure to get things done (and of course, less interaction with others). I know that I am not alone in feeling this way, but with more time on my hands, I am achieving less, which does not help my issues with self-esteem.
I usually read a mix of self-help and fiction. These days, I’m only reading self-help. My elderly parents are a constant source of concern for me.
I agree with the others who have commented on NOT watching the news. Watching adds to my anxiety and depressing thoughts. I think if my husband wants to watch, I’ll go to another room or put my earphones on and watch a YouTube video or something. He’ll understand.
In the interest of ending up a better version of myself when this is over (fingers crossed), I’ve subscribed to ‘Existbetter.’
I will eagerly await any other suggestions you and your readers have to offer and continue to hope for better days ahead.
We’re definitely very much on the same page, Jenn. I also have a lot of ups and downs in terms of my moods and my level of productivity. I think a lot of people thought they would accomplish a lot with so much downtime, but most people I’ve connected with have struggled to get things done (so we’re not alone there!). I don’t like to have many events on my calendar, either, but I’ve also learned that having NO plans is also not what I really want. With two recommendations for “Existbetter” (Samantha mentioned it above), I’m definitely going to check it out! I wish you all the best and also for your family (hoping your sister is doing okay, as I know she was struggling a lot with health issues, too). Yes, stay away from the news, as it only serves to increase anxiety. There is rarely any GOOD news reported, although I’m sure there ARE good things happening out there! One day at a time and we’ll get through this. I DO believe that we will emerge from this crisis as better versions of ourselves.
Debbie, you are so kind. I would love it if some day we could meet! My sister finished chemo in early June, underwent a single mastectomy in July, and completed radiation last Friday. As of July, the PET scan and biopsies showed no cancer. She has a couple of reconstruction procedures ahead, but she’s feeling much more like herself these days and her immune system has recovered as well. Praying the cancer doesn’t return. Love her so much and am so grateful for all the good news we’ve received regarding her health. Ironically, she has the exact same form of breast cancer as Brenda Kinsel. How sad that Brenda’s life was so suddenly cut short.
Jenn, I’m so glad to read that your sister is doing okay now. I’m sure your entire family must be so relieved. I hope she continues to stay cancer-free and I also hope that her reconstruction procedures go well. I was very sad to learn of Brenda Kinsel’s passing and I thought of you and your sister, as I knew you had been part of her recent class. What a tragic loss to so many. She was such a bright light in the fashion and style world and she will be missed.
Debbie, l’ve been reading you posts for a long while, but it’s my first time posting. Your posts are always so heartfelt – I definitely relate to how you’re feeling. Not only are we dealing with a pandemic, but there is so much anger and hatred around. It’s an unsettling time for everyone. In the midst of everything else, a few months ago, my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Talk about a kick in the gut. But here is what I’ve learned. In the midst of all the darkness, there is light. It may be just a glimmer, but it’s there. Just try to take it one day at a time, and during that day look for one good thing. It’s really helped me. I wish you the very best.
Thank you so much for commenting, Jeannie, although I wish it was during better times. I’m so sorry to read about your husband’s diagnosis. I’m glad you’re able to see light among the darkness. If you’re able to do so with such a difficult challenge in your life, surely I and many others can. I like the idea of looking for one good thing. It’s a simple yet powerful concept. Best wishes to you and your husband and I wish you many good things during the days ahead.
Debbie, thank you so much for your heartfelt sharing! I have many of the same feelings, although I’m lucky that I still have a job. I’m working at home most of the week, but I do go down to my workplace 2 or 3 times a week for a few hours each time. That said, it’s far from normal. Everyone is masked, we can’t have in-person meetings, we can’t all be there at the same time, etc.
For me, I have come to realize that I need to grieve for the things I have lost from my normal life, and I’m trying to be kind to myself. I’m spending more time walking outdoors, and I’m doing some meditation. My current favorite is a variation of a self-compassion meditation from Kristin Neff’s website. I agree with others that it’s important to put a limit on watching the news because too much of that makes me panic.
Hang in there – you are special to lots of people. ❤️
Yes Debbie. Murphy is right. You are special to a lot of people. All over the world.
Thank you so much, Jayne. I feel very blessed to have connected to so many wonderful women around the world and I’m grateful to have been able to add some value to your lives.
You definitely need to give yourself a pat on the back Debbie. (hope that translates well from NZ to USA but means you need to give yourself a lot of recognition for the difference you make to everyone). You make an enormous amount of difference. I only wish I could write half as well as you do. And I do wish I could meet you too.
Thank you so much for all of this, Jayne. Your words actually made me tear up a bit. Yes, the saying “give yourself a pat on the back” translates in the US. I’m not too good at giving myself credit, but I’m trying to be better about it. I often feel bad because I don’t post all that often anymore, but I also don’t want to post just because. I used to feel more inspired and hopefully I will again. I’m always happy when my words are meaningful to others. I’ve gotten to meet quite a few readers over the years and hopefully will be able to meet more when the pandemic is over…
Good to hear from you, Murphy, and I’m glad that your job remains intact despite the changes. You’re right that we need to grieve for what we lost from the way we lived before. I hope that at least some of those things will come back, but for now it IS a loss. I will check out the self-compassion meditation, as I could definitely use more of that in my life. I bought Kristin Neff’s self-compassion workbook earlier in the year, but I put it aside in favor of some other practices that I took on. I will come back to it eventually, but for now I will try the meditation. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate them – and you.
Hi Debbie, I suspect that your email will get many responses because everyone is going through some kind of transition or challenge with this pandemic. I don’t think anything you’re describing is unusual…in fact, I think that it is a natural and common reaction. Whether we are introverted or extroverted, human beings thrive on connection. Many of us are mourning the ‘loss’ of that connection and connectedness that we had prior to all these shutdowns. The weather changing is certainly not the best in terms of many areas of the country moving into shorter daylight hours. Where I live in PA can be really grey (in fact, we are known for the large percentage of grey days here..) so I am trying to be gentle with my own mental health in the midst of the seasonal changes. I am going to start using my little wake up sun light/lamp again which helps with regulating that cycle of sleep/wake. I do find that I just want to sleep more and stay in bed but I still go to bed late, now sometimes it is 4am before I am nodding off to sleep. I teach/work mostly evening hours so it works for me but it certainly doesn’t seem normal. One of the techniques I have been trying to implement in my own life is to look for the ‘helpers’ (can’t remember who coined that phrase). For example, I read yesterday about a restaurant owner in Pittsburgh (Scratch and Co is the name of his place) and how he completely reimagined and restructured in order to try and keep his employees working and provide value to the community. He started this subscription lunch plan, did crockpot meal kits for families to pick up…all kinds of neat stuff. I love reading that because I do worry about so many people who have lost jobs. I have noticed that some speakers are now offering free content through brief webinars online and have found some interesting ones to listen in on when I can. I am definitely reading more books which I love but not everyone embraces books like others do. I try to get out and walk although some days I really have to force myself to do something physical. I do feel better when I am out in nature but the weather changes are sometimes an obstacle to that. We have tried to maintain FaceTime meet ups with our kids and friends. I have even written some personal letters (talk about outdated, haha…). We have personally struggled with the changes in our elderly relative’s health. My mother in law had to move to assisted living due to dementia and this has been really difficult to deal with. She was such a vibrant, feisty Irish woman who was loving her independent living in her senior facility until all of this craziness. The worst part is not being able to see her. Her community has begun visits (with masks and barriers) but since we live five hours away, we had to plan and schedule this visit. There are limits on how many visits and the number of people so with a family, this can be challenging to try and make sure everyone can get in to see her. I think the effect that this has had on our seniors has been devastating. I consider these caregivers to be heroes in my book – the ones helping in her unit appear to be keeping the residents safe and happy (as much as they are able). For me, I have had to really watch the amount of news and social media that I allow into my life. It has gotten bad at times and I know when I start feeling that despair, it is time to pull back and switch in more positive things. I have borrowed movies from our library (comedies and love stories). I have blocked certain content and certain people on social media because I can’t deal with their nonsense. With respect to medical stuff, I do feel hopeful that over time, more and more will be known and better interventions will come about (whether that is care in the hospital, preemptive care, treatments, recovery). Just the other day, our regional entity, UPMC – Univ of Pgh Medical Center; announced advancements in some type of antigen work ??? ….wish I could remember exactly but after I read the article, I thought – that is amazing and remarkable work. But, I think each of us has those moments, those days, or even those weeks where things just seem stagnant and distressing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – you are not alone! Sending my support from a distance. We collectively are going to see a way through all of this even if it may not seem that way at times. Peace! Susan
I appreciate your weighing in and sharing your thoughts here, Susan. I thought that what I was feeling must be shared by others and although I don’t wish depression and anxiety on anyone, I do feel less alone after receiving so many wonderful responses here and through email. You’re so right that human beings thrive on connection. Even for us introverts, we still need connection, just maybe not as much of it as our extroverted friends. I’m sure the weather change is having an impact on many, especially when we’re being encouraged to only interact with others outdoors. I worry about my mother with this, as she lives alone in a very cold place (Lake Tahoe) and is in the high-risk group. Of course, she will remain connected to people by phone and text, but it’s not the same.
I like what you wrote about remembering the “helpers.” I always like to read stories like the one you shared, of those who are being creative in reimagining their businesses to stay open and to provide value to others. I agree with you that getting outside and being active helps. In fact, after I respond to all of these comments, I’m going to take a short walk while it’s light outside (my longer walks are almost always in the evenings with my husband).
I’m sorry to read about the health challenges with your mother-in-law. I know it must be very hard with living so far away from her. I worry a lot about the seniors, too, including my parents and elderly aunts. Yes, the caregivers for the elderly are definitely heroes! Like you, I remain hopeful for new treatments for the virus that will help to reduce the rate of mortality, as well as the overall suffering.
Thanks so much for your support. I send you wishes for peace, too.
Hi Debbie! You have really pinpointed so many feelings that people are having. I’m sorry that you are having ALLof the feelings though! It’s courageous of you to just come out here and talk about it, and I think a lot of people appreciated it.
The thing I’m hearing most often from people is “I was just about to…” or “I had just started…” like your many activities that you had just barely embarked upon before the world shut down. I think this postponement of things is really difficult, especially when even starting those activites may have required getting over some emotional or other hurdles. All that work to get started and now we can’t finish (or even continue). It’s very hard to maintain the initiative to go back to school, or the willpower to go to the gym every day, if you actually can’t do those things for an indefinite period. It seems so much easier to go back to the couch, the TV, and the bag of chips.
I think “The New Normal” is just something people are saying because we’re not used to uncertainty. The newspeople ask the experts “is this the new normal?”, the politicians predict the next normal after this one, and we all suddenly remember the old normal with great fondness. Personally, I don’t think that old normal was that great. We humans were a self-obsessed bunch, obliviously harming each other and destroying our planet. I would prefer that we not return to that. But this need to know what our new lives will look like, and when we will get there, is understandable – it is fear of uncertainty, and everyone has it. Gurus tell us to embrace it, to “harness the power of possibility,” but it is a rare few who will voluntarily subject themselves to it. Definitely not me!
Also, this idea of Normal is really a fallacy. Even when we think things are stable, our lives are not static. Small things change as the months and years go by. If I compare my current daily existence to that of last year, it’s pretty similar. Whereas if I compare last year to five years ago, there are massive differences in every aspect of my life.
Other than the lazy feelings caused by staying the house all day every day, I am actually doing really well. Like many others here, I find any kind of socializing highly stressful, so having an excuse to keep people away is very convenient. I don’t feel I can complain about deprivation because the only thing I miss is my weekly trips to the library. My main gripe is the occasional necessary outings because I can’t stand the masks, and wow do I respect and admire those who always wear masks as part of their lifelong work. During this weird and amazing time, I am excited by the medical advances being made at unprecedented speed, the change in the American workplace, and the evidence of people adjusting to strange circumstances and helping each other. Also I take a very effective antidepressant and I attribute much of my equaninimity to that. I’m a strong proponent of getting help, including medication, when people are feeling anxiety and depression.
I am so sorry that I don’t have any answers, either. Everyone is so different, with different reactions and different needs, that it’s hard to advise what someone else should do in any situation. I very much like your idea of acceptance. The current situation is truly one of “the things we cannot change,” and although it might be hard to reach a state of contentment right now, I think you can definitely reach a state of peaceful acceptance.
I send you all my love and wishes for some happy moments amid the difficulties.
I’m glad that my sharing my feelings about this challenging time was helpful for you and others, Katrina. Yes, it will be hard to get back the momentum to start new things once this is over, but maybe many of us will want to do other things that will be even more beneficial for us. I appreciate your perspective on the “new normal.” I agree that many aspects of the “old normal” weren’t that great and hope that positive changes will come out of this. Most of what I miss were the simple things, like meeting a friend for coffee or lunch, going to the movies, and being able to hug people and be near them without fear. You’re very right that our lives are not static and if I look back five years ago, I see more differences that are less apparent only a year or so later.
That’s great that you are doing well overall. I always like to read positive stories here! I agree with you that socializing can be quite stressful. I think that if we didn’t have to wear the masks, I would be feeling a lot better than I do because I have been avoiding even doing a lot of things alone because I loathe the masks so much. I’m a big believer in getting help, too. In fact, I have been working with a therapist recently and hopefully that will make a difference in my mood and outlook for the future. You’re right that everyone is different in terms of how we react to challenging times, but I think acceptance can be powerful for all of us. Sending you love and wishes, too! Even if you’re doing better than most, we all can use positive wishes for happy moments.
So I’m coming from a different angle than many with this. My life has been closer to ‘normal’ this last month than since the lockdown happened. I was temporarily living in NOLA when the whole city shut down mid March, sirens wailing and the whole bit. Slightly terrifying not knowing if I could even cross state lines to get back home to CA. Then, the no jobs, and not knowing if I’d qualify for unemployment since I took a leave for winter. Lots of stress.
Fast forward to October, I was back at both my jobs (the golf bar job shut down as all of CA did in mid July, but I came back in a different capacity in the snack bar) and we even started Crossfitting again with my unofficial group in a local park, distanced from each other, bringing our own weights to the party. I continued distance socializing safely with 2 girlfriends who also have been working through all this with the public. We have our own ‘bubble’ as they call it. I don’t do nearly as much as before, but I do enough to feel ‘normal’. I live in a county that is more rural and our infection rate is low, and we are at 50% capacity indoor dining on the state’s tier system. I wear a mask at both jobs, all day, every day. Don’t like it, but you get somewhat used to it. You have to.
I’ve had my hair done (one of my bubble friends is my hairstylist) and I’ve gone out to dinner twice (with same bubble friends). I have done drinks on the patio over the summer at a couple of establishments. I do eat indoors at work on break (Mexican food) but it’s distanced and our doors are wide open. I’m of the mind that if we mask, and wash our hands (like I always have, being in food service) and keep our distance, we can do a lot of ‘normal’ things, with these changes to keep us safer. I understand that not everyone is fairly healthy and some need to take a lot more precautions, but I would rather take calculated risk. After all, just going to work is risk in itself. So if I’m risking myself for complete strangers, I feel worth it to celebrate a friend’s birthday with dinner out. A loved one’s time vs 30 strangers at my counter. No contest, to me.
I am willing to take a calculated risk as well, however none of my friends are, so that leaves me with none of those options. I actually believe I had a mild case of Covid in April, so I’m not afraid of the virus any more, I’m just desperate to get closer than six feet to people I used to hug.
Yeah, a lot of people are super scared, Tara, perhaps because they watch a lot of news. Not that it isn’t scary, but I refuse to be a complete hermit for a year or more. So many of us miss hugs. I’m not even THAT much of a hugger, but I miss having that option. I don’t miss handshakes and will be fine if those don’t return, but I would like to be able to hug people again and just be around others without fear.
For me it’s not the news that scares me, it’s the people I know who have had it and had a rough recovery with some lasting medical problems.
Yes, that is certainly very scary, Terra. I don’t know anyone who has had Covid, but of course I have read and heard stories. I do think that the news plays a role in people being afraid to even leave their homes at all, but I certainly didn’t mean to sound callous or like I’m not taking the virus seriously! I know that it can be very, very bad and lead to lasting problems. My main point is that for those who aren’t in the higher-risk categories, we can still find a way to socialize while being careful (like staying outside, for example). I’m sorry if I implied otherwise. I hope your friends will be okay and their symptoms will eventually fade away.
That’s a bummer that those close to you aren’t accessible. Even my BF stops at his mom’s (she’s 86) but keeps his mask on, stays across the room, etc.
I’m pretty sure I caught it in the middle of Mardi Gras myself. Hopefully we’ll be hugging again soon!
Agree. If my husband and I were younger and if we did not already have some of the medical conditions that are considered very dangerous with Covid, then I too would want to take risks more often.
Yes, Terra, we all have to decide what we’re willing to risk based upon our personal situation and that of those close to us. It’s not an easy situation and it gets harder the longer it goes on, as people have “Covid fatigue.” The risk doesn’t go down because we’re tired of isolating, but many people get less tolerant of the isolation, which may be why cases are going up in some areas. I advise my mom (who is high-risk) to stay away from people, but she’s having a hard time now that the weather is getting colder (she’s in Tahoe) and outdoor get-togethers are becoming less possible. I definitely think that those who are high-risk need to be more careful, but it’s everyone’s decision to choose for themselves. My dad still sees the grandkids indoors and hugs them briefly. He’s moderate risk due to his age and so far he’s okay. I hope it will stay that way…
Great to hear from you, Mo. I’m glad you’re back home and have been able to get back to work and to exercising and socializing with friends. I know things are more “normal” where you are given less incidence of the virus. Having a “bubble” with friends is a good thing, but many people I know are basically holing up at home and not wanting to venture out and take any risks. I think of people like you who have to wear masks all day long and feel like I’m maybe making too big of a deal of it. I only have to wear masks for short periods of time, but I know that one can get used to them, even if it will never be something we love. Thank you so much for sharing your very healthy and balanced perspective. I hope you continue to be safe and able to share happy times with friends.
I think time makes the masks more bearable. The first 10 to 20 minutes are the hardest. If anything, my ears getting sore is the worst of it. And maskne (aka mask acne). It’s real. And annoying!
I think having my 2 ‘bubble friends’ has made it so much better to deal with. Also being in the service industries, they can relate to the issues of having the public rail against the rules and all the other fun stuff that’s come along with our ‘new normal’ 😉
I’ve had a bit of maskne from wearing a mask when it was hot out, so I can imagine it’s much worse for those who have to wear masks all day long, Mo. I can see how ear soreness would also be a problem. There are masks that hook behind the head instead of over the ears, but I’ve only worn one for short time periods. I have trouble with ALL of them staying in place, which is definitely annoying. I’m really glad you have your two “bubble friends” for companionship and support. I’m sure that dealing with the public during this time is more challenging than usual, especially with the “anti-maskers.”
Debbie, I’m holding space for you, and also for everyone gathered and commenting here. Last October (one year ago) I was in San Diego, having coffee with Debbie, at a street-side cafe, carefree or at least as carefree as we were able to be back in those days when we had different hurtles to jump, and now so much has changed it feels like that was years and years ago. We are all so weary, battle-weary really, from the virus raging, the hate-filled social climate continuing to build. Like everyone else, I miss my previous life and yet even if I had the opportunity I would not return to it. As terrible as this all is, I’ve learned a great deal, have grown in leaps and my great wish now is for this virus to be controlled. To be able to stop worrying about loved ones and myself from becoming ill or die. For many months I desperately wished for a return to my regular life, I’ve been depressed. Now I’ve reached the bargaining stage within the 7 stages of grief. I just want this virus to be controlled so that it can lift and so we can be free of worry. Going forward I am beginning to gain new visions of what I want my new life to be like. Surprisingly I’ve discovered I want my life in the future to be similar to how my hermit life is now, but with the freedom to stay home or go without a deadly virus in the air.
I remember that day with you and Sarah very fondly, Terra, and I long to be able to do it again. I definitely miss such carefree get-togethers and it DOES feel like SO much longer than a year ago! I agree with you that this is a great opportunity for growth and I think I HAVE grown through it and I hope to grow still more. I don’t think I’ve reached the bargaining stage yet, but maybe I will get there soon. There’s only so much I can take of being depressed about it, so I’ll have to learn how to live with what is and work on new visions for myself. I just feel so confused at the moment… I appreciate your holding space for me and the others who are reading and commenting here. We can all benefit from your wisdom and grace. I think that what I want for my future life is similar to what you describe. A little goes a long way for me in terms of social interaction, but it will be great to be able to be out and about without fear. I also wish for more creativity in the future. I think that if I can pull myself even somewhat out of the fog, that will happen.
Dear Debbie, I am so happy to see a new post from you at long last because it means you are well. And because it means I can enjoy another post. You are a gifted writer. You can really connect with others.
My tip is for you to write a novel! And the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. Next month is the 21st anniversary of NaNoWriMo (https://nanowrimo.org/). The perfect opportunity to help you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And you have just enough time to read about it and get ready😊, but not enough time for second thoughts and backing out 😉.
I even have a story suggestion. Protagonist grabs bull by horns and changes her life through a series of makeovers … inside and out.
I would love to read a novel by you … the humour, the fragility, the insight. And the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that you just dive in and commit to producing enough words each day (about 1,666) … Do say yes! 😍
Thank you for your kind words about my writing, Sue. I have heard of NaMoWriMo and a friend of mine has participated in it. I’ve never written fiction, though, and I’m not sure I’m interested in doing so (I’ve done pretty much every other type of writing, but I always feel like fiction writing is the most challenging). I do like the idea of doing a writing challenge, though, and getting a lot of writing done in a short time frame. I will look into it and see what I think… I appreciate the suggestion.
Always great to see another post from you!
This may sound strange, but I think a major factor in maintaining my sanity over the past several months has been Nancy Drew computer games. I played them as a kid, and recently got back into them and have been enjoying them just as much as an adult! The premise of the games is that you play as Nancy Drew and try to solve a mystery by searching for clues, talking to suspects, and solving puzzles. I think these games have provided a really nice sense of escapism for me. A lot of them take place in nice locations (interesting cities or beautiful natural environments), and it’s really nice to be able to “travel” and experience that. Plus, the mystery-solving aspect is really fun and adds an interesting diversion and sense of excitement to my life (which is very boring at the moment!).
I would definitely recommend trying one of these games if you haven’t played them before. Most of the games cost only $7-10 for a digital download. You can get them from Steam (idk if you have used it before, but it is a popular online store for videogames. You can download and install it for free, and then use it to purchase games). My top 2 favorite games are The Secret of Shadow Ranch (which takes place in Arizona) and Shadow at the Water’s Edge (which takes place in Japan). Either one of those would be a great one to try first 🙂 (note: Shadow at the Water’s Edge has some slightly scary ghost scenes, which weren’t too scary for me (even though I would describe myself as a wimp, lol), but just thought I should mention it.)
I hope this recommendation can help your mental health a bit. I have also struggled with depression for years, but I’m feeling surprisingly okay right now, and I thought I should mention this nice activity I have been doing in case it could also help you!
Thanks for sharing what games have worked for you.
I too have been playing games as a means of escapism and to relax. I am very interested in design, style and fashion and using my creativity and I am currently playing 2 free games on my IPad that I have downloaded from the APP Store.
One is called Redecor, which is an interior design game where there are different types of rooms and the client gives you a brief of the style that they want.
The other is called Covert Fashion, which is a fashion stylist game. There are different types of events that you need to style your client for. The clothes and accessories you use are real items from actual designers collections.
Once you have completed the challenge and styled the room or your client, the other users playing the game vote on which is the best one. The higher your score, the more cash you win to buy better items for your next challenge. You also receive free items for competing your challenges. You are anonymous, so if you don’t score very highly, know one will know.
These games help you to improve your design and style skills and they are good for shopaholics, as you get the pleasure of shopping and styling without it costing you anything.
Sally, the games that you and Maureen mentioned sound like a lot of fun! I can see how Redecor and Covert Fashion would help to engage your creativity. I can also see how such games would help to stem the desire to shop because they allow for the same type of visual stimulation that shopping provides. Good for you for finding new outlets to help you relax and have fun!
Maureen, Thank you so much for sharing about the Nancy Drew computer games. I never knew that something like this even existed! It sounds very interesting and fun. I’ve never been one to play computer games because I always worried that it would be too much of a “time sink,” but it seems like a much better way to spend one’s time than watching or reading news, especially in this day and age! I’m so glad to read that you’re no longer struggling with depression. It’s such a difficult thing to deal with and a problem that I’ve dealt with on and off since I was a child. Whatever tools we can find to help us cope with life and brighten our days, I’m all for! I’ve never heard of Steam, but that’s because I’ve never really played videogames. Maybe I should start…
I should probably clarify that I’m still struggling with depression. It’s just not as bad anymore, so it’s mostly manageable.
Yeah, I definitely agree that the news is very stressful lately! I’ve been trying to make time for intentional relaxation, so i don’t spend all of my time thinking “I should be working…” or wasting time online.
As you know I have covid right now. The first day I found out I was feeling pretty bitter because even though where we live is a bit like the wild west with very few restrictions we tried to follow the guidelines and be very careful. Even though I’m still sick 14 days later I feel fortunate that I was able to recover at home because our hospital is almost at capacity. I’m healthy with no underlying conditions and this kicked my ass. I don’t love the masks either, but I’m very grateful that because we wore them to our knowledge no one else got sick because of us. Thankfully I was able to let go of the bitterness and realized what’s done is done. My mindset going forward is going to be the same as it’s been the last several months. What makes me feel good or brings me joy? Do more of that. What stresses me out or causes anxiety? Do less of it. This isn’t a normal year and it doesn’t feel right to have normal expectations of myself. If I’m not enjoying someone’s company or an activity that I used to like it’s okay to do less of it. I’m just giving myself a lot of grace and trying not to have expectations of what “should” looks like. Maybe you should take up photography again? That would be fun to see a blog post of your pictures.
Tonya, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I wrote in a comment above that I didn’t know anyone personally who had Covid, but then I connected with you last week and found out about you and your husband. I’m so glad that you’re on the mend now, but I can totally understand your feeling bitter about getting Covid after being careful when so many others weren’t. It’s definitely scary that even those without pre-existing conditions have severe symptoms that last for weeks or months. I hope that soon you’ll be back to feeling like your normal self.
You have a very healthy attitude and a great focus for moving forward. I think you’re right that we shouldn’t have normal expectations for ourselves in this strange year. Early on, I thought I would be super productive, but that didn’t really happen and I’m trying to let that go and just live in the moment and try to make the best of my days. I have considered getting back to photography and may do so. Part of why I stopped was that I became overwhelmed with the sheer number of photos I had and wasn’t sure what to do with them all. If I can come up with a plan for that, I could see getting back to it again. In any event, I love the idea of only doing what makes us feel good or brings us joy. On the front, I did some “stress baking” this morning amidst my worries about the election. It helped a lot and I may bake something else tonight. I wish I could share my goodies with you and my other friends across the miles (pumpkin stuff is making an appearance!). Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery very soon!
Thank you Debbie! I’m feeling quite a bit better now. I wish I lived close enough for pumpkin baked goods too lol. 🙂
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