At this point we’ve been quarantined and social distancing for over a month, and it’s working to slow the spread of the coronavirus a little bit, maybe even more than a little bit. In regard to access to our daily necessities and mental health, though, how are we holding up?
Me personally, the first week or two of my quarantine went smoothly. I’m told I have to spend the days at home with my dog, a book, and my To Do list? I can do that. What’s more, my cooperation will help my family, my community, and my country from disseminating a traumatic and deadly virus? Of course, I’ll stay inside.
For a while, it was fun. And by “a while,” I only mean one week. I work from home in normal circumstances, but the quarantine meant that my boyfriend was working from my house; my days freed up and I was able to get some things done; and my dog had her mom and Father Figure around at all times. I was happy for her.
Then, the coronavirus fire spread across the nation, things got more serious, and I got more nervous. Not only am I asked to stay at home during the days, but I can’t see any of my friends; my church and library closed their doors; and I have to wear a mask over my mouth when I go to the grocery store. Anyone who says it’s easy to breathe when there’s a piece of thick fabric smashed against all their face holes is a liar. These are the struggles of the year, apparently. Really, it could be worse.
My mother made me that mask to wear in public and, seeing as it is covered in cartoon zebras and held together with safety pins, I was ready for the looks and silent laughs. I went to the grocery store and I shouldn’t have been surprised, but everybody in the building was wearing a mask. Literally, every person. We all looked silly but, if safe means silly, I don’t mind if people laugh at me. At least I won’t be able to see their mouths.
Fortunately, I’m not in a dire situation in terms of food or medical necessities, because I have my boyfriend with me, and I’ve stocked up on supplies. More than once per day, I think “what would I do if I was alone during this quarantine?” The first answer that comes to mind is “go nutty from boredom,” but people all around the world are doing it, and I wanted to know how.
When asked my community which of them is experiencing this quarantine alone, I was surprised by how many people raised their hands. When I asked how they’re spending their days, no surprise this time, almost all had a variation of gaming, social media, and television. There were a few outliers of art, reading, and getting out of their wheelchair to relieve ischium pressure, but most of us are in the same “Digital Entertainment Boat.” In the same vein, apps like Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime are unanimously employed as ways to stay connected with family, friends, and organizations. In most of their responses, live streams and video chats were credited as stress and anxiety-relievers.
Since we’re being inundated with talk of the pandemic in the media, in seemingly every conversation, and in what feels like everywhere we look, mental health and peace of mind is a concern for many; a lot of the people I talked to have let stress and anxiety take a front seat. They describe themselves as stressing out about not only their health, but their financial position during and after quarantine, their vocational stability and, more heartbreaking, wondering who will realize and care for them if they get sick.
On an easier note, because we all need that, there is a light in this COVID-19 tunnel. Although no one I talked to was or is infected with the virus, its worldwide proximity is such that it feels like we’ve all only narrowly missed it. I know from my own life that near-death experiences do an excellent job of putting things in perspective. There’s a list of things we’ve taken for granted, that this virus has forced into a light of appreciation. Some of those things include going out to eat, seeing friends at sports practice, interactions with colleagues at work, and hugs. We’re reportedly thankful for food delivery services, television streaming, online church services, and cat videos. Thank God for those cat videos.
If you’re quarantined alone during this crisis, know that you’re not actually alone. I don’t have any advice outside of the normal reading, writing, and watching tv, but now I have the evidence to support that there are people who are home alone with you, and they’re doing OK. In all the people I talked to, a consistency was reaching out to friends and family to stay connected and, truthfully, to keep their sanity. You might be alone, but we’re alone, together.
Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of a book, Greater Things, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.