It is March 25th.
This is being published on March 28th. I sent a copy to Cosmopolitan but they took too long. Here we go. Welcome to my life.
The world is at a stand still. Coronavirus has spread globally and the masses have been ordered to isolate and stay indoors. People are panicked. People are being defiant. Some work from home while others are forced to risk infection due to them working in an essential business. Like my boyfriend. So what does this mean for an extroverted population who gets their highs from shopping at malls, going to the movies or getting a bite to eat at a restaurant with their friends or family? It means everything. People are going stir crazy. I on the other hand have been preparing for this moment for years. I have had agoraphobia, social anxiety and OCDfor as long as I can remember. In my adult life, at least. When I was a child things were uncomplicated. Trauma wasn’t a word I was familiar with and life experiences were few and far between growing up white in the suburbs of a middle class town. I have had much life experience in my adult life that ranged from homelessness, living in shelters, halfway houses, crack houses and couch surfing. So to say i was always introverted wouldn’t be fair.
Seven years ago I was arrested for shoplifting and mandated to probation. This was the start of my agoraphobia. Before then I would go to concerts, parties, and be the life of the party at that. But after I was arrested everything changed. My paranoia of being arrested again got the best of me and I stopped leaving the house. Then, my car took a dump. So suffice to say me and isolation had to become friendly or I’d be clawing down the rubber walls at the local psych bin.
I was always the little girl that my father would suggest a chill pill to in an attempt to brush my signs and symptoms under the rug. Where is this chill pill you speak of? Do you have one for me at this exact moment of my unraveling? I would say in my mind. Too bad he’d never live to see the way of the world now. I wonder if he would have believed in global warming? He died a decade ago.
I believe this world is very codependent. We depend on each other for attention, admiration and to feed our own ego. Even the charitable are doing it because it makes them feel more whole. Not merely to help others but to inadvertently help themselves. So what do we do when our lives are tested? When normalcy is flipped on its ugly head and people, the planners, can’t plan. When the controllers can’t control? They go bat shit. Now’s the time for a bad pun. The bats’ shit made us batshit. Seems accurate. Not to mention families not used to being around each other twenty four-seven or on the opposite side of the spectrum people who live alone. I have never heard so many introverts say, “Man, when this is over I’m going to be going out ALOT more.” This is by no way surprising. The introverts are the ultimate control freaks. If we stay in our safe havens nothing can hurt us. Stranger danger and the bad guy aren’t knocking at our door asking us if we want candy or to join the Jehovah’s witnesses. No, they are all in isolation too. There is less crime, the earth is healing, bodies of water as clear as the skies. There is less pollution from cars and factories. Mother earth has taken her power back. This was never an accident. A virus is never an accident. Everything happens for a reason and we are cohabitating the earth with animals. What’s so great about bats anyway? How about we add that to the hunting regime and kill the disease stuffed bastards off one by one? Well, I’m sure they come in handy for something. Or maybe they’re vampires who have shapeshifted when they are bored with their human limitations.
We have been aware of this virus for a month. I am intuitive, it is a gift and a curse. Before it became a pandemic when it hit the states I went into panic mode. I decluttered my apartment and got rid of 90 percent of my clothes. I shut down my Facebook and felt a weight on my chest so great I could barely take in a breath. No, I do not have the virus. It was my old friend impending doom to forewarn me of things to come. When the first case was announced overseas I told my mom to buckle up, this would get ugly. People travel, nothing is (was) confined. It would come here and life as we knew it would do a somersault. But I am like the prophetess in the bible, Cassandra. She had the gift of sight and was cursed with the punishment of no one believing her, no matter what. She naturally went mad with frustration.
So how does one start a time frame on days isolated when one is an introvert you may ask? Or more appropriately why do you care what an introvert thinks about all this at all? Well, if I’ve held your attention for this long then you’re a better judge than I. Roughly a week ago we were told our kids would be homeschooled for the next month. I can deal with that. I’m a laid back mom. Then we found out that they weren’t doing flights anymore. It’s ok, I didn’t really want to go to Florida anyway. Then, the unfathomable. They said all movie theaters and restaurants and casinos were shutting down too. I finally broke. For me, the movie theater was my home away from home. My first re-introduction to crowds.
You see, I suffered from a traumatic brain injury that left me unable to walk, talk, eat or wipe my ass on my own, an experience so traumatic it took me five years to teach myself how to be a human again/ My introduction back into the outside world as i was trying after six years to put myself out there again, was at Disney. I was kind of guilted into going. Come on, it’s for your kid. Fair enough. I went on the plane still heavily relying on a cane at that point with a bad ear infection I was not aware of until POP and the worst singular pain of my 39 years on this earth. Ah, this is great I thought. Disney is going to be a blast. The first night we went to the park I walked with my eyes glued to the ground. My fear was indescribable. Will I fall? Will I hurt myself? Will people laugh? Will people feel sorry for me? Or will they even offer a hand to help me up if I tumble to my humiliating doom? It was a battle. Then I have my aunt’s lovely boyfriend saying, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”, when all i wanted to do was crawl into a hole or shove my cane down his throat. The world seemed to terrify me. Every person is a possible threat. Every bump or nudge a possible collapse. By the second day it got easier. I guess it was my exposure therapy. By the end of the week-long stay I was walking circles around my aunts swimming pool. No cane needed.
Now we are here. And here, in isolation is where we will remain for the foreseeable future. How do we get by? Here are some tips. Read books, and many. Read every dusty book on your bookshelf you said you’d read one day. Or Kindle it, I don’t care. Educate yourself and find far away imaginary lands to escape in. Clean, clean, clean. A tidy home is a happy home. Once you have decluttered your space zen is realistic. I like the Danish word Hygee. It means to find comfort in the little things, family, coziness, cups of hot chocolate or a hot bubble bath. Candles, candles and more candles. Unscented beeswax preferably. Aromatherapy is great especially in difficult times. Lavender and rose soothe while citrus uplifts. Chromotherapy is the therapeutic use of colors. Wear blue for tranquility or paint your walls yellow for increased happiness. Meditation is huge. We don’t always have the time or privacy to do as we’d like especially in a packed house. So learn how to set appropriate boundaries and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and request some alone time for self reflection and care. Next, summon your inner artist. You don’t have to be a good artist to create, and art mediums can take many forms. Pastry chefs, floral arrangers, fashionistas and karaoke enthusiasts are all artists in my book. Take your passion and let it ignite the fire within. Journaling, gardening, cooking, drawing, or talking to an old friend on the phone can all be extremely useful to keep your sanity intact. How do we deal with toxic family members or partners if we are stuck with them? Noise cancelling headphones are a gift from the gods. And telling yourself their negativity does not define you helps too. Don’t let mean people bring you down to their level. Find a reprieve. Get away from them by leaving the room. Times are hard enough as it is with the strain of finances and freedom let alone having a miserable person trying to dim your light. Relationship troubles? Me too. And even healthy relationships are being tested. For example, my boyfriend who I have been seeing for two years refuses to see me because he is around forty plus people a day at work and doesn’t want the possibility of being infected and giving it to me. So what can we do to keep our relationships going when social distancing and quarantining has become the most hashtagged words of the year? Sexting, love letters and photo swapping. Also empathy, compassion, and the superpower of not needing to know how your partner is feeling and being ok with that. As a woman it is very easy for me to insist that my partner needs to know every emotion I am experiencing at any given and all moments throughout the day. But men were raised to bottle it in, man up and not to appear weak or be vulnerable. How does one deal with being in close quarters with people they don’t particularly enjoy being around? Well, I for one had a massive panic attack, told my family they were being selfish by arguing and not respecting my request for a few hours of silence so I can work, then walked up two flights of stairs with my laptop in my hand, set it down and threw up on my carpet. Anxiety takes many forms. I remembered my breathing techniques and gotta get through it without resorting to a “chill pill” and falling asleep four hours earlier than i’d like. If you have pets play with them, if you have stuffed animals hold them tight and cry it out. Build doll houses, or cabinets, or learn a new language. Because one day we will be able to look back on this and say I survived 2020. Will you be intact? Will you have survived? If it was a zombie apocalypse the zombies are invisible and they will go for your lungs instead of your brains. It’s a serious times. The memes are replicating and the skeptics are being forced into subservient submission. Listen to your favorite music. Netflix and chill. Get to know yourself again. Your fears, your dreams, your goals. Don’t look back because our past is the ghost that will always haunt us if we let it. Be present but not afraid. I believe if we all listen, and trust me, I am an anarchist at heart, that we will get through this. Nothing in life lasts forever. This too shall pass.