Let’s all take a second to recognize the difficulty that is COVID-19. I don’t know who needs to hear this right now – but it’s okay to not be okay with the state of things – hell, the state of the world. It’s not something I thought I would really ever feel – but even being an introvert doesn’t protect you from COVID-19 wearing on you and making you crave society and human interaction. I am the first to admit that I am 1000% a homebody. My husband and I love naps almost as much as we love each other – maybe more? I kid – but seriously. I am all in on cozy nights at home. Big crowds are exhausting to me. I’m truly a token introvert (not to be confused with shy – introvert ≠ shy). But even I am feeling the strain of this, feeling the strain of day in and day out quarantine.
*HEAVY disclaimer is that I am so blessed and so grateful for what I have and for the situation I am in. I’m so very lucky to not have been impacted to a great extent like so many others.
So what has COVID-19 been like for me so far? I have been self-quarantined since March 11th. I haven’t left my house whatsoever except one time for a medical procedure at the hospital (non-COVID related). We also go on drives weekly but I don’t leave the car during those. It has been 10 weeks, friends. 10 very long, very exhausting weeks. It was pretty much determined right away that I needed to severely social distance and stay home due to all of my health issues. Actually, I wasn’t on medications still (I JUST started a new one! Finally! I’ll do a separate post about that soon) so my immune system was not as bad as normal – but still not good. So I stayed home – and then my job became 100% remote too so everyone stayed home – and then our state (Michigan) instituted a shelter-in-place which we are currently still under. 10 weeks later and I’m not a little over a week into starting my new medications which make me severely immunosuppressed, aka I am part of the high risk population.
The COVID-19 situation has really taken me aback on how I’ve reacted mentally to what is going on. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression since I was in high school – so it’s been just a regular part of me and something that has been (except for a time or two) extremely well managed and under control. So much so that I have a prescription bottle for as-needed anti-anxiety medication that hasn’t been touched in over 3 and a half years. COVID-19 brought up pieces of my anxiety that I had no clue whatsoever existed.
I’ve always prided myself on being an extremely rational person. I remember being in therapy after I got diagnosed with my autoimmune diseases and even having therapists tell me that I am extremely self-aware; that I can rationalize what I’m feeling in my lowest of lows. And it’s true! It’s actually a somewhat odd feeling – whether I’m sad, or depressed, or anxious, or whatever I’m feeling, it’s almost as if I can step outside of my body and look down at myself and rationalize not only the reason I am feeling a certain way, but the actual truth vs. what my self-consciousness is projecting as negative self-talk. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean I have perfect mental health, just that when I am in a bad head space, I’m usually able to at least recognize it and keep myself from drowning in it or from wallowing for too long.
With my compromised immune system, I have been self-quarantined for COVID-19 this entire time. Though it’s gotten better now, about half way through I started to develop this fear and anxiety about leaving the house and/or contracting the virus. I mean, we’re talking TERRIFIED, folks. J and I would go for a drive to the lakeshore to get me out of the house and I was frozen. No matter if there were no people around the pier or beach or not; I physically could not get out of the car. And my husband is the sweetest, most supportive man in the world. He would never push me, or belittle my worry. He might poke fun a little at my incessant hand-washing (“Babe, you haven’t touched anything but what’s in the house, how are you washing your hands this much, LOL), but he is the best and so understanding.
Another thing that would happen is as colleagues at work would talk about when they thought we’d go back to the office or when the shelter in place would be lifted or when remote work would end, I would find myself so terrified of it and so anxious I would be in tears. Or I would feel angry that others thought the lockdown would be lifted earlier. It was irrational, I knew that, but I couldn’t stop it.
I did finally do a tele-health visit with my doctor as a mental health check-in. It was so helpful to talk through all of it and have her not only validate what was going through my head, but also confirm the things that I should realistically worry about and the things that I didn’t need to fret about as much and were more of a byproduct of my anxiety talking. I also had my anti-anxiety medication changed and updated which is nice to have for those days where it feels harder to rationalize by myself.
Weeks and weeks after all of the above, I’m glad I didn’t push publish on this blog post a couple days ago because there’s a very fitting ending to this recap! After over 10 weeks quarantined at home, I ventured out for the first time to go to Trader Joe’s myself today for groceries. Mentally, I just really wanted to go for a drive with the windows down, peruse the shelves for new items, and stock up on my dairy free and gluten free items as I ease into these new eating habits. I know, #firstworldproblems. I am absolutely recognizing my privilege here. To be able to go to the store and feel anxiety and fear; for this to be the biggest “worry” I’ve had because I am lucky enough to get to protect myself by working from home and keeping my job and quarantining myself. Believe me, I recognize that. Nevertheless, this was a big deal in my world. And this was a very good thing for my mental space and I’m proud of myself for it. I may have had to take anti-anxiety medication when I got home, and washed my hands raw. But whatever. 🤷🏻♀️
One day at a time. It’s okay to feel like this. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be okay today and not tomorrow. It’s okay to be however you need to be. That was as much for you as it was for myself. 😊