Returning to Life After Quarantine: An Anxiety Story

Before COVID-19 I already had a tough time getting out of my house. I had been trying to be more social and do things with other humans that weren’t family or my boyfriend. But then COVID changed everything.

I was so excited that I got to stay home for 95% percent of my week. I have been working from home since late March so the anxiety of interacting with my coworkers has been tossed out the window. I haven’t had to put together a real outfit or do a full face of makeup in months.

Now that things are sort of going back to normal, I’m terrified. I have had multiple anxiety attacks thinking about returning to the office. Over the past week I’ve had trouble eating which is a big signal to me that I’m really, really anxious. I usually don’t lose my appetite or have trouble eating if I’m feeling ok or am slightly anxious.

Depression is setting in with anxiety at the reigns. For me, depression makes me exhausted and I have no energy or motivation to do anything besides lay in bed or zone out on the couch watching people decorate ice cream cakes on TikTok. I have been struggling to find joy in the things that usually make me happy.

I sit back and wonder why it feels like I’m the only one dreading for life to go back to the way it once was. I feel like all of the progress I had made earlier this year (ok it wasn’t that much progress but progress is progress especially in mental health) has disappeared. I may have taken two steps forward but now I’m gone back two miles.

I have no specific reason to be anxious other than that I hate change. My brain can’t handle big changes, it takes me a while to re-center and get back on course.

I knew all of this was temporary going in to it but now that that time is nearly here, I’m scared.

I was supposed to begin next week going into the office full-time but I asked if I could stay home for longer which my boss agreed to. I feel a sense of relief but also guilt for not doing what I was told initially.

They are letting me transition back which I think will help me cope better than I would have with diving head first into it. But on the other hand, sometimes I need to be pushed into the deep end. More often than not if I dip my toes in, it can make things worse.

The weight of my anxiety and the return to “business as usual” feels so heavy on my shoulders. Some days I just want to let it collapse on top of me so I can rest.

During this time I want to really prepare myself so that I can get through the transition to my former life. I want to have an anxiety first aid kit that will include things that make me happy or can calm me down in a panic. I’m not sure what this will all entail but I’ll figure something out.

Please leave what you have in your mental health first aid kit in the comments! I would love to know!

How have you been dealing with returning back to normal life post-quarantine? Has your mental health improved or gotten worse? For those who have returned, what has been the most helpful?

Please stay safe everyone! Please wear a mask for the safety of yourself and others.

A Small but Certain Happiness

The other day I scrolling the internet (ok, I’ll be honest it was Weverse) when I came across a sentence that has stuck with me.

I’ll give some context. The author was talking about how lately he has been drinking plum juice, something his mother used to make him as a child.

He said, “I think plum juice is my small but certain happiness nowadays. If you feel bored just staying inside, maybe it’s a good idea to have a small but certain happiness.”

These words have been rolling around in my head and I really wanted to share them with you all.

During quarantine, I think my small but certain happiness has been practicing yoga nearly every morning. It has truly made a difference in the way I feel physically and gets me energized for the day. Instead of dreading leaving my bed, I am alright with it now.

Also taking the time to read a good book and write letters to my grandmother have been sources of small happiness.

My gram lives in a nursing home which has been on lock down for well over a month. She can’t leave the home or can’t have any visitors unless it’s an emergency. She is hard of hearing, like most people at 90 years old, but it’s 100 times worse when she’s on the phone. So I don’t have to shout into a phone, her and I have become penpals. I send her a letter plus an envelope and stamp so she has everything she needs to reply.

What is your small but certain happiness? If not, what is something that could be?

I hope everyone is staying healthy and is well! Please stay home when you can and when you go out please wear a mask. They are quite fashionable and you can feel like a k-pop idol so there’s a positive twist on it.

Learn to Love Yourself in the Alone Time

I have spent the last several months going to work and going home. Not much socializing. Sometimes once a month I would go out if invited to something. I was trying to save money. And I was trying to work on myself. I went to counseling and did other activities to pull myself out of depression. I don’t have insurance so that was the best I could do. I remember feeling alone often. I looked for ways to stay busy and distract myself from how I felt. I wished I could afford to go out and spend time with even one person.

As I was getting to a better place with my finances, the pandemic happened. Everything shut down. I lost a lot of work. Other than concerns for my income, my daily routine didn’t change much. I couldn’t read a book at a coffee shop, but I could live without that. I had grown more comfortable with myself and didn’t mind the alone time. I still feel alone but it doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve grown to a place where I enjoy cooking again. I read more. I write fiction more. My creative ideas are never ending.

During the pandemic, there were videos of celebrities feeling upset during social distancing. This reminded me of how I felt. I realized there wasn’t anything wrong with me or how I felt. We were all reacting in a normal way to isolation. I hope people are discovering new things about themselves. If you’re bored during isolation, you need new hobbies. If you’re alone and uncomfortable, you need to love yourself and enjoy your own company. We all should set time aside to be alone. It’s important to our wellbeing. Find your happiness in the alone time.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.