I’m going to start off by apologizing to everybody reading this column, because we all – each and every one of us – are dealing with the same situation, and what you’re going to read here is nothing that we all haven’t heard hundreds of times over.
It is not my intent to gripe or complain about what’s going on in the world right now, because I don’t have any more right or reason to do that than anyone else.
But I’ve been asked to give my feelings on this COVID-19 situation, and as much as I don’t want to do this, maybe – just maybe – it’ll be a little therapeutic for me. So here goes.
I’m tired. That’s the best and simplest way I know how to put it.
I’m tired of the divisiveness this virus has brought, no matter what side of the fence you come down on. I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, I’m not one of the people toting around AR-15s and demanding the country to open, and I’m also not the one that’s going to stick a flower in the barrel of that AR-15. But I’m tired of all the fighting, all the anger, all the hate brought on by people that fall into those groups – and some that don’t.
I’m tired of people looking at me like I’ve got Captain Trips if I happen to not have a mask on when I’m outside in the neighborhood – by myself – for my nightly run, and I’m tired of people looking at me like a freak when I do have my mask on in public places. I’m tired of being scared to go to Walmart for cat food, or to the convenience store to get gas or toilet paper because people have decimated the paper aisles at every other store.
Speaking of being scared: I’m scared I won’t have a job in three months, I’m scared for the safety of my 70-something-year-old parents, I’m scared of what will happen to those who have already lost their jobs, and I’m scared for those people who have or will lose loved ones. I’m so, so very tired of being scared.
I’m tired of the people who say things like, “it’ll be okay if you lose your job; people are making more on unemployment than they were when they were actually working.” That’s all fine and good, but what happens when that unemployment runs out? Where are you going to find another job? Somehow, I don’t think the few essential places that have been allowed to stay open are going to have room for the 200,000 Mississippians who have applied for unemployment over the last seven weeks.
And for the people who say all the shutdown measures are simply an inconvenience: you and I must have a very different definition of that word. A flat tire, being 10 minutes late to work because you can’t find your keys, your electricity going out for two hours, your Internet going out until the Comcast guy can come fix it: those things are inconveniences. Not being able to see friends and family, being in isolation, mental illness during this time, not knowing how to cope with things because you have no one to confide to about those things: those are not inconveniences; they are much more.
This is something I’ve never written about before, and something that some of my family doesn’t even know, but I struggle daily with anxiety and depression – as do millions of other people around the world. For someone with those issues like myself, coming home to an empty house day after day after day after day is more than an inconvenience – it’s a killer.
Normally, I’m the biggest introvert you’d ever meet – if you had told me six months ago I’d be stuck at home, I’d have said, “bring it on.” Well, a lot of things have changed since then, in particular the end of a 14-year relationship with someone who, up until the end of last year, was the best friend I’d ever had in my life.
So, for someone like me – who was battling depression and anxiety with medications even in the best of times – this whole social distancing and isolation concept is more than just an “inconvenience,” and to suggest otherwise is, quite honestly, disrespectful. Unless you know what it’s like to come home to an empty house every single day, staring at the walls and knowing you’ve already burnt through every book at the library and every movie on Redbox and Netflix – and I know many of you do know – I can’t explain it to you.
When I’m at home, all I want to do is go to work just to get out of the house. When I’m at work, because most everyone else is out of the office, I’m equally as lonely, so all I want to do is go home. See the vicious cycle? Anxiety is being scared to stay where you’re at and scared to leave, and depression is knowing that either one you choose doesn’t matter.
My good friends, the friends I’ve had for years, all live far away. I’m too scared to go see my parents because of the risk of passing the virus to them. And it’s easy to say, “well, you’ve always got someone to go talk to,” because quite simply, that isn’t the truth. I’m not going to go infringe on an acquaintance or co-worker and disrupt their lives or plans every time I need someone to talk to, because if that was the case, I’d be over there every night.
Because of the virus, my therapist is only able to do sessions virtually, and I’m eternally thankful for that, but – and she would tell you this as well – it’s just not the same thing as in-person meetings.
The point is, when you’re someone like me, being left alone with nothing but your thoughts is pure torture. For me – someone so introverted that I practically lived as a hermit before this – to go into Walmart and feel a sense of loneliness is simply unfathomable to grasp for myself. That’s when I know something is wrong.
Keep the country closed down or open it up? I don’t know. Nobody knows, but I’m tired of hearing about it, I’m tired of talking about it, I’m tired of arguing about it and I’m tired of worrying about it.
When Gov. Tate Reeves relaxed some of the restrictions on Friday, allowing salons and barber shops to open, he said, “There are people that seem to want us to … shut everything down for months on end and ignore the consequences until there is no more risk. I have to live in the real world, and I do not have that option.”
Is that right or wrong? I don’t know. I’m just scared that if we keep going like we’re going, there’s not going to be a damn thing left to come back to.
I’m just scared and tired, and I’m tired of being scared.
Photo: Street Talk II, Abreeza Thomas of Hattiesburg