So, I want to say up front, I am so sorry to anyone who has been sick, has known someone who has been sick, those having to continue working through this time, or those whose mental health has been affected by this terrible situation. By no means do I want to make light of anything that's been going on. And if you feel like you need to stay away from posts discussing the topic, please take care of yourself in the best way you can.
Here's a short (maybe) story about my life. Fifteen years ago, at the beginning of 2005, I started having panic attacks. I'd probably had smaller panic attacks in the past and not realized what they were. I'd always, always had severe anxiety about being around my peers. These fears dominated my life as far back as I could remember. (Even before the bullying started in first grade.) But suddenly, I was having hysterical crying fits even when "nothing was wrong". Even in the middle of class. These severe panic attacks became so prevalent that I ended up dropping out of high school by the end of March. I never went back.
I went into weekly therapy. Eventually found some medication that helped, though not enough to "cure" me. But life since then has not changed much. I stay at home. Never learned to drive. Don't leave the house by myself. (And rarely, aside from appointments, even then.) I've never had a normal job or relationship. Have very few friends, mostly old friends who live far away. I live a life dominated by fear and loneliness. And well, when I can manage it, I write.
These last two months have been bizarre for me. And not in the way they have been for most people. Suddenly, almost everyone in the world knows what it's like to live my life. Almost everyone is battling anxiety and depression. Almost everyone is feeling isolated and lonely. In some ways, it's comforting. Finally, people can understand me. We're all going through something together. In some ways, I feel like I'm better equiped to handle a situation like this. And in other ways, it makes my life feel more pathetic than ever.
Because life will probably go back to normal eventually. Maybe some things will take more time to heal. Maybe there will be some lasting changes. But life will likely go on. And people will work and socialize again. And that's good. That how it should be. But life won't change for me. I'll get to see my therapist in person again. Maybe see local friends a few times a year. Do my yearly author event that terrifies me. But that's about all the "normal" I can handle. And sometimes, not even that.
I don't know that I ever truly wanted a normal life. Maybe parts of one. Maybe I would've been an English teacher. Maybe I would've signed a book deal. But I remember being ten years old and looking ahead at the oblivion I felt was coming. The day my semblance of a life would end. Some part of me knew I could never be "normal".
Honestly, I don't mind certain parts of my life. My limitations have also brought me freedom in other areas. I can focus on my writing because my anxiety keeps me from living a normal life. (Even if it often keeps me from writing, too.) I don't feel any sadness for not being able to travel the world or go out to bars. I never wanted kids or college or fame. Okay, maybe I imagined being a famous author when I was twelve. But the rest was true.
I always wanted a quiet life. A small life. Not so, so far from the one I have. Just one that had meaning. One I could share with someone else. A little house with lots of books, a few pets, and someone to love. The ability to write the stories I feel passionate about, with a small readership to enjoy them.
I don't know that I'll ever get there.
I'm lucky in a lot of ways. I have my Mom and my therapist. I have Cinnamon. I have my writing. I have old friends who still love me - in spite of, or perhaps because of, our complicated histories. I have shelter and vegetarian food and toilet paper (for now).
But I'm sad and lonely in ways that won't be fixed by opening the country/world back up. That won't be fixed by a return to "normal". I still wish that for all of you. I just don't know how to continue living the tiny anxious life I have without always remembering how painful it was for you when you were living it, too.