Oh, what a mess we’re all in! For so many people life has been completely turned upside down in the last month. There are lots of words and phrases being overused out there: ‘unprecedented’, ‘unique circumstances’, ‘uncertain future’, ‘iso’. You could write a bingo card with them all and win every single day!
I’ve always been an introvert, so it wasn’t a big surprise that isolation life came fairly easily to me. At first it was a little bit of a shock — I live alone, so not seeing … anyone … was a bit strange, but now there’s a steady rhythm of Zoom calls, House Party chats and Netflix Parties, so I don’t feel quite so much like chatting away to my sourdough starter (her name is Flora though, and she’s thriving). Don’t get me wrong, video calls and phone calls come with their own set of problems for me, but they’re much more manageable.
It’s no real secret that I have social anxiety. ‘Severe’ according to some health professionals I’ve spoken to and ‘wow, I would never have guessed it, you’re so bubbly’ to some others — cue a big eye roll from me. Up until recently I would have placed myself somewhere in the middle but like so many others who suffer from mental health issues, I don’t really know how to place myself on the scale because I have no idea of what life is like without the social pressures that life throws at us.
That is … until now.
My diary — like diaries across the world — has been wiped clean. No more trivia nights, no more games nights, no more Saturday brunches, no more church. It’s not that those things aren’t happening anymore but they’re online now and, while it’s understandably a big adjustment for many, for me it has been an absolute dream.
There’s no more fretting about what I’m going to wear (and the consequential meltdowns) or getting frustrated that the outfit I have chosen is too tight and constricting — chuck on a reasonable looking shirt and a bit of makeup for a Zoom call and you’re ready to go and, best of all, it’s pyjama bottoms all day, every day. No more claustrophobic clothing choices.
No more worrying if I’m going to be the first (or last) one to arrive — no one needs to commute anymore, so everyone is punctual.
No more hours spent worrying about if everyone is hanging out without me — they’re not, because they can’t.
No more deciding whether I should go to the thing I’ve just been invited to that I don’t really want to go to but I really should because if I don’t they’ll stop inviting me altogether but if I go I’ll be miserable and they’ll think I’m no fun anyway, oh now I’ve worked myself up so much. No one’s inviting anyone anywhere.
No more stress cleaning the house because I’ve invited everyone over so that I can have a social gathering on my terms, rather than entering an unknown environment.
No more worrying about saying the wrong thing — everything I’m about to say is typed out and if I think it’s stupid, there’s a backspace button and oh boy, is it utilised. Sometimes, even after a message is sent, you can take it back! No more sleepless nights thinking over every single thing you said wrong.
I love my friends and I love hanging out with them. While I’m physically with them my anxiety is usually fairly low. The same with going to church and doing really almost anything else that I enjoy and that involves other people. It’s the build up and the aftermath that can destroy me. There aren’t many social gatherings, big or small, that I don’t have a meltdown over in the lead up or afterwards.
Man, I wish that wasn’t my life, but it is and, over the many, many years that I’ve suffered with anxiety, I’ve become so used to it that I factor it in, allowing a ridiculous amount of time for my anxiety to have its moment, to leave me in tears — often to do my makeup, destroy it in a panic attack and RE-DO it afterwards — and to recover so I can try to appear like I function as a normal human. It’s an insane way to live every single day of your life, but here we are, living it anyway.
Life hasn’t been easy throughout this time of social-distancing and isolation — I’ve had unexpected curve balls thrown my way too, much like everyone else. Loss and grief have been a part of this last month for me, just as much as anyone else. I’ve found, though, that all of it’s a lot easier to deal with now that I don’t have the noise from everyday life busying my brain. Sure, it’s a lot to deal with but I finally have the time and space to deal with it in a calm and rational way, instead of everything building up and up and up until I break and find myself crying over tiny tiny things.
There are plenty of people who will find this time stressful and many who will find the physical distancing excruciating. I see, every day, people on Facebook complaining of sleepless nights, random mood swings and their skin breaking out in stress. Our bodies are usually a good sign of what’s going on and I really do understand the frustration and sadness so many people are going through and I know there are plenty of ways I’m extraordinarily privileged throughout this time. But this post is just to say ‘hey’ to those whose skin is clearer than it’s ever been, whose emotions feel under control, for now, and whose nights are finally filled with restful sleep, even while other parts of their lives fall apart. I see you, my socially anxious pals, and I’m so with you.
You’re allowed to feel grateful for this quieter time — you’re allowed to enjoy time without social pressures. It doesn’t make you a bad friend or a bad person. It makes you human, just like everyone else.