Artwork by Cathy Charles @c.a.t.h.y.c ~Instagram
For the past week it’s been hard for me to get out of bed. I was better on Easter Sunday because I had to prepare dinner for me and my boyfriend who came over to spend the holiday. But it was a struggle. An intense fatigue has come over me and it’s been a fight to get moving. I’d lay in bed, not wanting to get up, lacking energy and motivation, watching bad TV. Then finally, I’d force myself up. I’d give myself an internal pep talk telling myself, “You can do it! You can do it!” And I really didn’t feel like I could. Then I realized I felt afraid to get out of bed and face the world, the unknowns. My bed is my safe place, something many people with depression can relate to.
I’ve been monitoring how I feel during this time that brings up so many difficult emotions, and emotions that are difficult to name. At first I was fine; then I wasn’t. It’s been tough. The shift has been gradual even though it seems as if one day I woke up and just didn’t have the strength for simple things. My transition into depression has been building for several weeks and finally surfaced in moments where I found myself fighting back tears. And nothing “happened”. Nothing significant changed for me personally, a rare circumstance I’m grateful for. And the self-isolation hasn’t been getting to me because I’m a loner anyway. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the weight of this situation.
We’re in a circumstance that carries an enormous amount of uncertainty that will be rolling out for a long time. And though I’m no stranger to uncertainty, the layers of this monumental disruption have been piling on. I’ve been slowly and consistently feeling pushed down. But like many black women, I’m used to fighting, and I’ve been fighting through mental and emotional difficulty and moving forward as best I can. Too much information, too much misinformation, too much loss, too much grief, and too much disappointment in “leadership”. It’s all been too much. So many thoughts bounce around in my head.
I think about the people who live alone, and are isolating and have no one to check on them or reach out to, especially senior citizens. I think of the people who’ve lost loved ones and couldn’t even say goodbye, and the people who have died alone. I try not to think about how much of this could have been prevented because that leads to anger and frustration which leads to feelings of helplessness. And helplessness is one of the most devastating emotions. When I think of the future, I know it’s there, in the shapeless distance. I also know not to expect it to be the same. I wonder what will be different.
What will be our new protocols? Is handshaking over? Will we have to have proof we’ve been tested in order to enter certain public spaces like movie theaters and sporting events? How will this change the way we work?
Because of the inequities in our workforce that have been highlighted recently, will employees be more demanding about having equity? Will others insist on still working from home because they enjoy it or are too traumatized to resume “business as usual”? Will mental health and resources be prioritized at companies? Will more industries become unionized? In addition to working, how will we interact socially?
Will people still avoid each other on the street? Will facing one’s mortality prompt people to be more open and honest about their true feelings? Will people mean more to each other? And, I wonder how I will be different. How will this impact the way I go forward, or my general perspective?
I don’t want to live in fear, but I will be cautious. I was already a germ conscious person, so aside from the masks, my habits haven’t changed much. But I will probably be riding the balance between trying to enjoy life while staving off anxiety about possible future waves of this pandemic. It will likely take me some time to feel safe again.
We can speculate on what post pandemic life will look like, but none of us really know. There are so many pieces that haven’t fallen into place. And though there is even more uncertainty in life right now, I think at least one thing remains true: who you are is who you are in any circumstance. Hard times reveal character, not create it.
If you are managing right now, you will likely continue to manage. You will access your reserve of resilience, even if it looks different from time to time. And if you are sinking under the weight of it all, believe that you can always resurface, buoyed with the belief, that among everything that is out of reach and put on hold right now, hope endures.