I fear when it’s time to “rejoin the world”, some of us may not be up for the reunion
“We’ve hit the pandemic wall”, rings out from TV news and magazine articles, from The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed, to thousands of Twitter posts that all declare that we’ve had it. We can’t take it anymore.
Daily, I hear that we’re failing to adjust to the lifestyle changes a pandemic has brought about. We’re lonely, bored, furiously angry, and ready to “rejoin the world.” I get it. It’s no fun to stay away from people we care about. It’s no fun to have gone over a year without a date, brunch with friends, a movie, or even a drink after work in a bar.
And yet for every handful of Americans who are barely holding onto their sanity in insolation, there’s someone like me who is doing just fine, thank you very much. I’m happier and twice as productive as I was before being “forced” into quarantine. Time alone is nothing new to me and never fails to recharge my energy. While we hear a lot-a LOT-from Americans who are suffering in the face of solitary confinement, there are plenty who are enjoying the peace and quiet.
I am. I’m what’s usually termed a “Thinking Introvert” with a side of social anxiety. A “Thinking Introvert” is someone who gets caught up in their own thoughts and imagination. In other words, a daydreamer, who finds her dreams more appealing than reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what’s real and what’s not, it’s just that the world going on inside my head that’s exciting, beautiful, and comforting, is infinitely more enjoyable than getting snickered at and having my left breast grabbed “accidentally” at some club that’s too loud to talk, where a drink is $15.
I prefer to buy my own food, arrange my own Zoom meetings, and put air in my own tires because I just don’t trust anyone else to accomplish things and not screw everything up, a character flaw I’ve developed through years of experience and receipt-keeping. And no, of course that night that I waited in 15-degree weather for a locksmith because we were going out, but you lost your car keys, isn’t what I’m talking about. 😑
As far as not socializing goes, I’m good. But I was good with it long before Covid-19. Too good.
I know my depression and ADD have been made worse by lack of human interaction. According to PTSD.com, lack of social interaction has some nasty side effects such as: low self-esteem, depression, loss of reality, drop in body temperature, decreased ability to learn, decreased empathy, inflammation, weight gain, and reduced resiliency to life’s curveballs. And that’s not even the bad stuff that includes a higher risk of cancer, tumor growth, increased risk of dementia, and a shorter life. The Scientist.com adds, “We are seeing a really growing body of evidence,” says Daisy Fancourt, an epidemiologist in the UK, “that’s showing how isolation and loneliness are linked in with incidence of different types of disease and with premature mortality.” I’m convinced that socializing is necessary for humans to be healthy, but I’m not going to pretend I was a social butterfly, pre-Covid.
For introverts with an unreasonable level of anxiety about the outside world, Covid has been validation that we were right along. For people like me, Covid has been the perfect excuse. There’s a type of smug satisfaction in the fact that Covid is stopping us from doing the things we never wanted to do in the first place.
I may need some tough love to get out of my own head (and a small army to get me out of my apartment) when Covid goes into hibernation. I may also be the only person still wearing a mask in 2024.
The thing is — I was making progress, you see. I was going out more, forcing myself to have conversations with strangers, and I even became a regular at a bar inside a bookstore where the bartender and I would gossip for hours while I nursed a homemade margarita. I was getting somewhere, and now I feel like all my progress has been lost.
At first, I was upset about losing my social life there, at the idea of having to stop going out to eat, and end trying on makeup at Sephora. But after a year of this, I have no real desire to go anywhere, and I don’t see myself developing any.
I’m scared of Covid. I’m scared of getting sick. I’m scared of my mother getting sick. I’m scared of going out and not taking precautions.
But I’m also scared that this pandemic may have pushed people who were dangerously isolated to begin with into complete solitude that won’t flex or bend once it’s safe to go outside and socialize. I’m afraid that when it comes to “rejoining the world”, many of us simply may not be up for the reunion.