On August 12, 2020, I took a tentative step back to reality. I made some appointments, looked up the transit schedule and ventured into the big city as a commuter for the first time since March.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Luckily, the need to see one of my medical doctors meant I could not postpone it any longer. Luckily? Since when is seeing a doctor lucky?
Back in May, I wrote about quarantine fatigue and the trials we were all experiencing with lockdown. I’m now admitting that the difficulties for me were more than I was willing to acknowledge before today. Through May, June and July, my personal anxiety levels climbed dramatically, to the point of frequent panic attacks. More than once, I had to stop an activity and find something calming to look at. Sometimes that took an hour. On many nights, I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced I could not breathe, convinced that lying down meant I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. So I stayed up all night.
All of this was complicated by the terminal illness of a pet who ultimately lost her battle with cancer in early July. And there was other horrible news as well about a family member of a friend, who is also now battling cancer.
My blood pressure skyrocketed, my interest in life in general plummeted. I didn’t talk to anyone verbally for weeks, except for the grocery store clerks. Family did check in regularly but I didn’t show much of anything on the surface. I was really good at hiding what I was going through. “How are you?” was met with “Fine, under the circumstances” and a verbal laugh or electronic emoji. Nobody knew what those circumstances were.
The few commitments I did have were not handled well. I would be more abrupt than usual and far less patient. I would want to just get on with it. I’m a pretty low key person, so going off the deep end was still a pretty subtle event. But I knew I was there.
Then I started hearing that other people were experiencing similar issues. Mild depression, inability to sit still, inability to focus, no enjoyment in things previously enjoyed. It wasn’t just me. I looked into it further. It was a real thing. That broke the gates open.
Suffice it to say, I got some help. The details are not important, only that I did get help. Some jurisdictions are funding access to professional help for free and are encouraging people to call. I did. It has made a world of difference.
By the way, I read today that one calming influence for many people has been watching reruns of classic shows on TV. Playback counts of shows from the 50’s-70’s have skyrocketed. In my case, watching reruns of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson has helped give me my sanity back. I like to laugh again.
So the trip into the city this week was an interesting one. Had to make sure I packed extra masks and sanitizer. Commuter parking lots normally packed to the brim were almost empty. I got a nice parking spot in the shade right near the entrance. I was immediately aware of anyone and everyone around me, which was thankfully not many. The ride into the city was uneventful, and I waited for everyone else to leave before I left the train.
Navigating the streets was more challenging, although almost everyone was as cautious as me. A few, dare I say it, young people and mostly young males, skipped the requirement for masks and paid no attention to who was around them. I don’t understand why they didn’t care, except to say I was young and foolish once too.
I visited a family member who lives in the city and it felt so good talking to them in person. It was hard to leave.
On to my other appointments. All required screening before entering and more hand sanitizer. All required masks. Even my doctor came fully outfitted and unrecognizable, except for her characteristic multi-coloured shoes. We laughed about that and had a relaxed, much more fun visit than usual. I guess we both needed it.
Coming home was more crowded, but everyone behaving. I’ve decided to get tested just to make sure I’m ok. Luckily (that word again), I live in a country where we get that for free. Health is a human right, people. We also have an app to alert us if we have had contact with anyone who tests positive. Some have complained about privacy, but for the peace of mind it brings, the government can know from me whatever it wants.
I’m so glad I am where I am now, so glad that life is opening up again, so glad that we did the right things in our province and country to allow that to happen. While I still worry about the Fall, about kids in school, about the flu season, about being indoors all winter, I can now do it with the appropriate level of worry.
If you are struggling, talk to someone, call your local health agency, call your doctor. Talk to family. There’s no better feeling than finding out it’s ok, and it’s going to be ok.