All of us have been impacted by the pandemic and everyone is adjusting to it in different ways. It can be difficult to even understand how the virus and all the changes including the need for social distancing is affecting us. One of the most difficult challenges can be when everyone else seems like they are dealing with it and doing fine, but we are anxious or depressed or struggling.
When we look for social connection and support for how we’re feeling, we often turn to social media but end up feeling worse when it looks like everyone is baking cookies and learning new skills. No one seems to really be feeling the way we feel. This leads us to internalize our struggles and feel we can’t open up about our reality.
While it is true that some people are less impacted than others, we are all in a state of crisis. Daily news including death and lockdowns are a current reality. Everyone carries at least a low level of anxiety and tension in this situation but everyone deals with these emotions differently.
Some people react by getting angry. Anger is a powerful emotion and it can feel good to get mad at something or someone when we have little or no control over our current situation. Others may be operating in a survival mode that looks like denial. Everything is fine. Everything will be fine. I don’t even notice that everyone at the grocery store is wearing masks. That does not mean that others are not feeling the trauma of the pandemic or that they are dealing with it better than you are.
We each have our own coping strategies and ways of expressing our emotions and feelings. Even more noteworthy, is that even when people are feeling desperate, depressed, or anxious, they rarely will post about their feelings directly on social media. Instead, they often respond savagely to comments on social media and loudly voice their opinions and views. They may politely complain about changing circumstances or post funny memes that hint at their underlying feelings and emotions. Nothing to hint at the moments of desperation, loneliness, and monotony that has become their life post lockdown.
We only see a carefully crafted version of their reality that is fit for posting to all their friends, family, and acquaintances. It is normal to feel anxious and depressed when going through a crisis. It is natural to grieve the loss of our safe, protected life that we took for granted. To miss brunch, happy hour, play dates, weekend travel and leisurely strolls through the bookstore.
We are grieving the careless way we hugged and held hands, and ran our hands over the textures and surfaces of walls and doorways. We would linger in a café or restaurant. We would crowd into music or sports venues and secretly revel at the close contact of sweaty strangers, breathing in the odors or perfume and sweat. We would Uber because we were socially conscious and we had 2 glasses of wine with dinner. It is normal to feel grief for our lost life.
We may be displaced from our job, either by unemployment or by now working from home. Our home may not be a productive environment for work. What once seemed fun to work entirely from the privacy of our home may have become monotonous, lonely, isolating, or family or partners may intrude upon every moment, taking away any privacy or independence we formerly had. It is normal to feel distressed at being displaced from our routine.
We are all dealing with it in different and mostly internal ways. Social connection is the cost, but it is also the solution. We have to be physically distant for now, but we don’t have to be isolated. Zoom happy hour, phone calls with friends, social distancing walks, and seeing your therapist–even through zoom can all help.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to be open about your experience. It’s not a failure if you are struggling. It’s brave to open up and admit that you’re feeling lonely, sad, anxious, or overwhelmed. It can open the door for someone else to share in your feelings and to know they aren’t alone. Your feelings, emotions and thoughts are valid. You are not alone.