When life doesn’t change much when the world shuts down

Jamie wearing a cloth mask
This guy is all about cuddling and he’s a good listener. Doesn’t tell me how I should be feeling or what I should be doing.

Most who know me are well aware that I’m an external processor. I need to talk things out. Not necessarily get advice (that’s usually not helpful). I just need to talk things out and hear the issues I’m battling outside of my own head.

So why haven’t I been processing this COVID-19/Coronavirus thing? In a way, I have been, just not in this space. Or, publicly at all. A lot of what I’m feeling and experiencing isn’t “OK” to say. When I’ve shared a little bit of my feelings, I’ve gotten strange reactions.

I’ve battled between wanting to be understood and realizing that people can’t understand. I’ve waned between wanting to continue to be largely private about life and wanting people to understand how frustrating my life already is. In many ways, I’ve never felt more alone. In others, I’ve realized how much support I have.

In some ways, in fact, in most ways, I feel like nothing has changed for me since all this craziness began. I’ve always had to take more precautions than most to protect my immune system. I’m already more isolated than most because I’m either protecting my health or treating it. I already work from home so when the rest of the world got laid off or put on remote work, I experienced no change.

The first two weeks, I truly barely noticed except for people freaking out in my social media feeds. I average 6-10 medical visits a month that I needed to keep plus the month of March and part of April were so fraught with problems that I barely had time to notice the rest of the drama.

Besides many medical visits to manage in the last month, there’s also been a broken washing machine (flooded twice), a broken ceiling fan, a sick dog, damaged wheelchair, broken molar that still isn’t fixed, back and arm injury that is still plaguing me six weeks later, a UTI, eye infection, and other chronic health issues that just aren’t letting up. John was also sick (not COVID) and trying to get through much of the same situations as me. We were busy.

In the moments when I allowed myself to think about the pandemic and the effects on the world around me, I have to admit that I’ve been mostly frustrated. Frustrated because people were complaining about having to live the life I’ve known for five years. And once all this was done, they would go back to their lives. Mine would continue to be the same. ‘

I’ve also been frustrated in how many people feel the need to instruct me on how to live this isolated lifestyle or school me on how health trauma works. It reeks of privilege.

But I’m also not without empathy. I think it’s natural to not start to grasp or understand a situation until it starts affecting you or someone you love. Friends have lost jobs or have either lost their business or are surely going to if things don’t improve. We have been spending more money than normal buying food from some of our favorite local restaurants trying to support them through the crisis. Some of my friends have either had the virus, think they have it, or a loved one has it (or has died from it).

Stories of true trauma, upheaval and agony are starting to fill my feed. It’s not just people who are cranky because they have to stay home with their kids or they are inconvenienced for a bit. It’s odd because in my state in this process, I’m the one whose life will not change once this is over. Somehow, I feel kinship with those whose lives are going to be forever changed or at least redirected from this.

After all, it was a mystery immune complex that forced me to cut my career in half and that has forever changed how I view the world and how I navigate the world. Being born with a major birth defect seems minor compared to what the last five years have been. Just acknowledging that feels exhausting and scary.

So where does that leave me in all this? I think it’s going to be an ever-changing situation. A mix of apathy, empathy, frustration, fear, and, yes, camaraderie.

For many, they’ve been forcing themselves to stay in the moment so they don’t focus on all the things they are missing. For me, I’m finding myself more emotionally and mentally balanced when I let myself acknowledge what I’m missing right now. Because if I’m missing it now, it will likely re-emerge once the world finds its post-COVID new normal.

So here’s the list I’ve come up with:

  • I miss being able to have work sessions at local coffee shops on my own or with friends.
  • I miss getting my nails done. I’m sure soon I will feel the same about my hair. Ponytails are only good for so long.
  • I miss sitting in restaurants. Something about the atmosphere of our favorite Tex-Mex places or Asian food places makes the food taste better.
  • I miss seeing my teammates on the two projects I work on. We’re still functioning, but faces are important.
  • I miss seeing my Bible study friends in real life and attending Celebrate Recovery. I admit, the first two weeks I was glad to have an excuse to take a break. Now, I just miss it.
  • I miss having readily available cleaning and medical supplies and available pick-up times for groceries. Both are drastically less available because of the crisis and both are how I protect my health. (I know I can have groceries delivered, but I’m not just not comfortable with that solution. It is a last resort for me.

There’s more that I could list but they would take more to explain that I’m willing to share. As we all go through this, I am increasingly weary of being told “we’re all in this together.” Because we’re just not. Everyone is experiencing this differently based on their individual situation. One thing we do have in common is that none of us chose this. But all of us have the choice in how we deal with it.

I finally broke down and bought a mask. I ordered one more and have one that is medical grade. To be honest, I should have been wearing them during flu and cold season when I was forced to go into the store. I will likely do that in the future and just ignore the comments I will most assuredly get.

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