“I just give myself permission to suck…I find this hugely liberating.”
—author John Green
I’d like to formally apologize to everyone I know, or interact with these days. Why? Because I feel like I’ve been operating at about 50-60% capacity for the past two years, and I know I’m not at my best. In fact, some days I feel like I’m not even at my averagest. But, I try to remind myself that I’m pretty sure we’re all there right now, so maybe it’s okay and even understandable? I’m a highly sensitive person (an HSP) and as such, everything hits me like a constant onslaught of bricks. Hurts hurt more, bad news feels… badder, stress is even more stressful and any perceived slight from another human being (or even my cat) can feel devastating. On the upside, joys in life are incredible and the beautiful things in life like art, music, stories, nature and kindness touch me in a deeply uplifting and transformative way. It’s a curse and a blessing.
But, after two years of living with the threat of COVID over my head, and the ups and downs this has brought into my work life, my home life, my health and my relationships—well, I’m honestly amazed that I even get out of bed most days. I’ve tried so many things to cope. I went through my three hour daily walk phase, my baking phase, my Stardew Valley phase, my Among Us phase (thanks cousins and friends for this one!), my “schedule a video chat with someone every single day” phase, my “schedule no video chats with anyone at all” phase, my re-learning German phase, my paint-by-numbers phase, my read as many books as humanly possible phase, my re-watch all my favourite shows phase (okay I might be still doing that one, thank you Gilmore Girls), my post as much as I can to social media to record the experience of life right now phase, my post nothing to social because I haven’t left my neighbourhood let alone my apartment in two weeks phase, my get out of the house every day phase, my stay in the house all week phase.
I’ve regularly gone to counselling throughout the pandemic (first online and now back in person), I’ve done 30-day yoga challenges, climbed regularly, gotten a pandemic pet, been easy on myself, been hard on myself (oh hello there tears of all of my perceived failures), reached out to friends, been too tired to reach out to anyone, slept too little, slept too much, had panic attacks, laughed until I cried with my husband, cried because I only had two migraine-free days in one month, celebrated when I had two migraine free days, ate Nutella straight out of the jar, ate a bowl full of carrots and felt like the healthiest person in the world and…well, I think you get the picture.
We’re at a stage where our governments have basically said, “well, not much more we can do. Now you get sick or you don’t and life goes on.” Except it feels like every single day I hear about another 2-3 people I know who’ve gotten COVID. But honestly, I don’t think my brain even processes this as a fear anymore. Or maybe it’s shoved down deep into my pysche and is like a little floating bubble of fear that never fully leaves my system but has been pushed away from the fear centre of my brain by the other concerns of daily life. Whatever this psychological phenomenon is, I’ve moved on—well, sort of—and I’m living with the pandemic now. But where does this leave us? We’re all depleted. We’re all worn out. We’re all socially awkward now—some more than others. And yes, I’m talking about myself.
Growing up I was always super extroverted and I thrived on having people around me all the time, but in the last 5-10 years I’ve realized that I’m actually more of an ambivert. I can be energized by being around people and I love people, but I need my down time and decompression time just as much. Then the pandemic hit and was like, “alrighty, anyone who isn’t an introvert, you better learn quick” and so I hunkered down and tried to embrace that side of myself and I feel like at the same time I lost so many of my social skills and even the energy to socialize like I used to.
One of the joys of society slowly opening up again (or not so slowly in some cases) is being able to see friends and family I haven’t seen in 2+ years, but even in these interactions I feel like a kid going to kindergarten for the first time. I find myself blabbing on and on and over sharing which then makes me want to stop talking and then I under share and I can’t remember what the right balance is and I just find myself hoping that everyone loves me enough to take it all in stride.
I find myself noticing our “general societal emotional depletion” (GSED, the 2022 condition) even in places like the grocery store, or when I’m driving, or when I have to make a phone call to a customer service agent (is there anything more depleting than that?) I have gone out of my way during the pandemic to make sure that I am extra nice to any kind of front line worker, and I think back with fondness on the 7 pm pots and pan cheering parties for health care workers, but somewhere along the way so much of this kindness and desire for connection seems to have dissipated. I miss it. But I also get why we’re at this point.
If you can relate to any of this, I am sending you a hug today and telling you, “it’s okay. Be kind to yourself. You’ve been in survival mode. It will get better.” In all my interactions now I’m trying to see each person through “post”-pandemic eyes and realize that we’re all not alright, but with any luck, we’re not always going to feel this way. We’ll get through it, one Nutella-eating phase at a time.