Time to scratch the old game plan. Here’s why.
Okay, so going to a party — even just a six-person one, even at someone’s house and even with other people who are working from home, all but one of whom live alone — was a bad idea. That’s obvious in hindsight. And a little in foresight. In that I knew it wasn’t the best idea, but I figured the risk was pretty contained because it was a bunch of other severely isolated people.
But as it turns out, one person who was at the party the whole time and one person who showed up later (though he was never closer than six feet to anyone I saw other than his live-in girlfriend) are still working around other people.
And the night I saw them is of course the night my lungs started bothering me. Thus it was time to panic.
The problem with that stupidity
I isolated and proceeded to spend a good chunk of that week doing the math on just how many people could have been infected if I’d had COVID-19. (Which for the record, I’m 99% sure I didn’t. I had zero other symptoms, just a tightness in my chest steadily for two days, intermittently for one day and then nothing.) But yeah, if I had been infected, the two non-telecommuters meant I would’ve been a walking, talking example/instigator of the exponential curve we keep seeing.
Same problem with the guy who I’d had over on Thursday. I found out — once he was already only a couple of feet from me (and had been for about an hour) — that he no longer just works from home. Turns out he picked up a part-time job at a grocery store stocking shelves. Lovely.
In other words, with a smidge of carelessness, I risked counteracting everyone else’s efforts to flatten the curve. Because I hadn’t done my homework on who I was seeing. Even if it was in contained settings.
Again, it doesn’t look like I infected anyone. But I could have.
And there’s always a chance that I’m an asymptomatic carrier. But if I dwell on that possibility — since I can’t go back in time and stop myself from having the visitor or going to the party — I will lose what little of my mind I have left.
So as I said, I spent the week in isolation doing the math, trying to distract myself to stop myself obsessively doing the math, and realizing that there’s no true distraction from being all alone. Well, except maybe envisioning the exponential curve (and my place in it) over and over. But I’m a multitasker, so I was doing that in the background most of the time anyway.
Here’s the problem: Turns out I had no recourse to undo the isolation.
The original plan was to have a couple select people over. But of the few guys I’ve already had dates with, only one of them is working from home exclusively. And I can’t be sure he isn’t out socializing with friends the way I stupidly had. Which means no one is safe to have over.
And yes, yes, I should use FaceTime and make phone calls.
It’s true that phone calls can help, and I should definitely try FaceTime. But they cannot substitute human interaction. Of course, as one reader pointed out, this is a time where we all have to make sacrifices. I understand that discomfort is required all around.
But if you read my isolation post… Well, you’ll see that by day four I was quite literally starting to sacrifice my sanity. Random crying jags, feelings of hopelessness. Starting only about 80 hours after I’d last been around people.
This is going to last months — if we’re lucky enough for folks to do something crazy like listen to experts.
The other problem with calls/FaceTime: When my depression gets bad, the last thing I want to do is try to hold a continuous conversation. The prospect sounds exhausting. And with the intermittent crying spells… I don’t really want anyone listening to/watching me bawl. I know they probably wouldn’t care. But I do.
A mom’s (and my) worry
Since even before the isolation was necessary, Mom has been concerned and offering to fly down. Probably because I posted a rant on Facebook about the dangers of solitude for single people (especially those prone to depression) and how sick I was of the condescending “Just shut up and watch Netflix” attitudes I kept seeing from people — pretty much always ones with partners/families.
Anyway, Mom offered to come down. But I demurred, promising to think about it and get back to her.
I was reluctant because, while she isn’t over 65, she does have asthma, which puts her in the high-risk group. She offered to use plenty of hand sanitizer and a mask, but I pointed out that sanitizer does nothing for breathing the same air as a bunch of potentially infected people in a confined space (like, say, a plane) for six hours.
So I was pretty against the idea of her coming down.
But then I had that bad day in solation. During which I very ill-advisedly put up a Facebook post about just how much I was struggling.
Ill-advisedly for two reasons.
First of all
Many people rushed to give the exact same suggestions I’d already heard a million times (FaceTime! Phone Calls! Watch parties!) and/or offer to chat with me and, if crying came to pass, listen without comment.
All very sweet and obviously well-meant. People hear about someone venting about having a rough time, their instinct is to fix it rather than simply say, “Yep, that sucks. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.” Which is usually all the venter really needs.
But I can think of very few things I’d rather avoid (dental surgery, torture or showing up naked in public) than have someone listen to/see me cry. It’s a thing. One I should perhaps get over but… An understandable thing I would think.
Also, one person suggested we bake bread together in our respective homes. Um…. what?
I guess to socialize while we did it? I had to break it to her that, by all accounts, yeast is hard to come by these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I was touched by the concern — much of which was coming from people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in at least two decades. But that’s also part of the problem: They’re strangers now.
Yes, we can catch up but… Other than sporadic social media posts, we’ve missed 1/2 of one another’s lives. That’s a lot of time to fill someone in on. More importantly, that’s a lot of time apart from someone that I’m supposed to feel comfortable pouring my innermost thoughts/turmoil out to.
So there’s that.
Mom saw the post and was even more worried about me. She offered again to fly down. A little more urgently this time.
I promised her I was still considering it. I certainly hadn’t ruled it out. But that I wasn’t prepared to give her the go-ahead to buy a ticket just yet.
The evening of day four saw me calm down a bit. I was even able to chat back and forth relatively continuously with a friend. By text, of course, but the conversation still flowed pretty well.
I woke up on day five feeling clear-headed, without the previous day’s depression weighing me down. And weirdly that’s when I finally accepted that I needed Mom to come down. I guess because I could actually use logic rather than struggle through an emotional haze? I dunno. But I called and told her to please start looking at flights.
A problematic solution
This is arguably still a very dangerous move. She could get infected on the plane. Someone at the party — which will only have been about 10 days prior when she gets here — could have given it to me and symptoms just haven’t emerged yet. Or I might be an asymptomatic carrier.
There’s real risk here.
But I honestly don’t know how many more days like day four I can handle before I literally want everything to be over. And if I did get suicidal, I can’t exactly go to the ER. Also, it’s not exactly the best idea to do in-patient psychiatric treatment these days. Hospitals being what they are right now/will soon be.
And besides… I get treatment and then what? I’m back to being alone in my house for weeks on end. Sure, they’d increase/add to my meds but I don’t think a cocktail exists that could make 6+ weeks alone bearable for me.
So yeah. The new plan is to isolate with Mom.
Good enough for now
We get along very well, so I don’t think cohabitating will be an issue. And she’ll probably take daily walks (away from people) so I’ll have some alone time. And can go in my room and close the door if I need more. So I think this will definitely help for the time being.
Granted, I have no idea how long she’ll stay or how I’ll cope with any remaining isolation thereafter. Maybe by the time she leaves we’ll have a better idea of when we can safely see other people again. Having a finish line in sight might help me cope with the time I’ll have to spend alone.
Right now, I’m just worried about getting me through, well, right now. I desperately wish it didn’t involve potentially endangering my mom’s health. But on the other hand, I think she’s pretty unhappy worrying about me from afar and is also prone to depression. So I guess in a way this is helping both of us?
I keep saying this, but I just don’t think there’s a right answer inre: single depressives and long-term COVID-19 isolation. I mean, in the end the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, so in that sense, there’s a definite answer.
But it’s hard to feel that it’s the “right” answer when your own sanity (and, therefore, life) is on the line.
So this is my admittedly stop-gap solution. It’s better for the community than my last plan, certainly. Just don’t ask me what’ll happen after the visit. Lest another one of those crying jags starts up.
How are you guys holding up?