Life in the Time of COVID-19

I started this blog site as a place to put thoughts about things I wanted to write about but did not fit in with the theme of my regular blog, which is things that are making me happy. I guess it’s a good thing that until this point I’ve only written one post here and that was way back in November of 2017, so it’s been awhile. But here we finally are again with something that is for sure not making me happy but that I have thoughts and feelings that I want write about.

I’ve been composing this post in my head in various ways for weeks, but I just haven’t had the mental energy to sit down and write it. The times when I really want to write it are when I’m feeling super down, but at those points I only have enough capacity to do what I have to and not add writing depressing blog posts on top of it. At times where I’m not feeling as beat down I don’t feel as compelled to write about how I’m feeling or to conjure up feelings I’ve momentarily escaped from. Happily after a couple of rough days I’m feeling not terrible so far today, though that can change on a dime, but I’m off work for Good Friday so I decided to finally go ahead and write something up about this. If nothing else I feel like I will appreciate having a record one day when this is all over.

I don’t think I have anything original to say about my experiences with COVID-19. I know everyone is experiencing the same or similar things to some degree and many people have it much worse than I do. I am mostly hugely privileged in this. I am able to work from home. I am not likely at least in the short term to lose my job, although we’ll see how things play out over the long term as this virus decimates higher education. I don’t have to deal with the struggles of being a parent right now. I am shut in with someone who I enjoy spending time with. To some degree I’m a home body anyway, so it doesn’t bother as much as all the extroverted people to be stuck at home all the time. I have shelter. I don’t have to go out and put myself in harm’s way nor am I living with anyone who is an essential employee. We are mostly able to hunker down and only go out for groceries once every two weeks. I do however have multiple underlying medical conditions that leave me immunocompromised and thus someone who is at high risk of complications or death from COVID-19.

To some degree on top of all my other feelings this all adds a sense of guilt. I feel incredibly lucky that although I am a high risk patient that I can mostly reduce the risk for myself. We are still doing our own grocery shopping, but I’ve ordered a ton of stuff online to avoid other stores or to supplement things that are still sold out at the grocery store. Then I feel guilty about asking other people to place themselves and by extension their families in harm’s way.

I feel bad that I don’t feel like I can do more to support people who this virus has already created huge challenges for. My neighborhood is mostly made up of small businesses and I’m afraid that by the time all this is over many of them will be gone. I am being very cautious so we don’t do any take out, so I can’t support restaurants that way. I’ve tried to buy gift cards to the places where I can do that online in hopes that they will be there for me to spend them when this over. I’ve donated back the ticket costs I’m being refunded to concert venues and theaters for all the concert and theater shows that have been canceled. I’ve tried to give to organizations that are supporting people through this. We’re still paying the woman who cleans our house despite disinviting her from actually cleaning for the foreseeable future. It still doesn’t seem like enough.

Mostly though like everyone else I feel like I’m having all of the emotions all of the time. The mood swings are crazy. One minute I can feel completely fine and the next I am a complete mess. I can guarantee that any story about people dying alone or loved ones not being able to be with their family in the hospital is going to make me sob. There was a story the other night on the news about a woman in a nursing home begging her Alexa for help because she was in such pain. I can’t even type that without bursting into tears. But other times it’s weird things that set me off for seemingly no reason. I have no idea why hearing the song “These Are Days” by the 10,000 Maniacs on the radio the other day made me start crying, but it did.

There is obviously also tons of anxiety and stress. I worry every time my husband has to go out into the world to go to the grocery store or fetch me a prescription. What used to be mundane chores have now become a harrowing, death defying experience that fills me with dread. And just when the 14 days is over and we know he didn’t get sick, he has to go out and do it all over again turning it into a never ending cycle of worry. Is he going to get sick? If he does, will I get sick? Will we be okay? Will one of us be hospitalized or even die? The thought of having to just drop him off or be dropped off at a hospital door with no guarantee we’ll ever see each other again terrifies me. Sleep is an elusive thing that comes with fitful stress dreams of being trapped in crowded spaces. Even going outside for a walk to try and not go completely crazy and to get some exercise is rarely the mental health boost that I’m hoping it will be because it winds up being a lot of stress about trying to avoid people with lots of street crossing and turning around to go different ways or just giving up all together because there are too many people out and about.

I am angry. I’m angry at the way the government is handling this crisis. I’m angry at states that aren’t taking this seriously and thus endangering the entire country as if this virus can’t cross imaginary borders. I’m mad at people everywhere who aren’t taking this seriously enough and still gathering in groups or socializing with people who are not part of their immediate households. I’m furious at the terrible excuses for human beings who are trying to profit off this by selling hoarded items or selling fake testing or whatever other garbage they’re doing to try and take advantage of people.

Mostly though there’s just an overwhelming sense of loss. The loss of just losing one’s normal life. The fact that almost every single thing we used to do is now gone to us from going places to gathering with people to just being able to touch someone. Watching TV and movies has become a surreal experience of wanting to shout at people to stop doing all the things that were all innocuous just a few short weeks ago. All the concerts and theater productions I was looking forward to that are now canceled. The vacations I was going to take that are also now canceled. The inability to see friends and family outside of a computer screen. The knowledge that it’s going to be a long time before life is going to have any semblance of normal and that even when the things I love start to come back I’m probably going to have to forego them for longer than that due to my compromised health status. It’s more than likely going to be another two years for me before I can start doing things with large crowds again because that’s when I expect there will realistically be a vaccine available. I weep for a world that will never be the same again. I have a hard time imagining what it’s going to look like when this is all over. What will be left? I know life will continue and we’ll begin living again in whatever world we’re left with, but there is no denying that we will all be living in grief for a very long time.