Thanks Trauma; I'm prospering in a pandemic

Updated: May 16

I ran across this article the other day, “Quarantine doesn’t suck for everyone, apparently,” published April 19th on Mic. And I was a little relieved. I’m not the only one? Thank god.


Before going on furlough during this quarantine, sure, I’ve had afternoons of anxiety. I’ve struggled to keep my mind moving forward when it’s stuck on a pandemic detail or unanswered message. I’ve had a day or three where I didn’t feel like getting up and existing. I’ve stared at my craft supplies and felt no inspiration or ambition. I’ve alternated between binge eating and starving. I’ve drank or smoked a bit too much when my brain just wanted a break. I’ve spun my wheels with indecision over how to occupy myself next, hour after hour.


But has any of this been worse than usual?


Eh. Not really.


At this point, 30 years in, I think I can safely say that these are “normal” behaviors for me. Not great behaviors, mind you, but they aren’t out of the ordinary. Most of them go back to childhood, so they’re either firmly rooted in my early trauma responses or simply a part of my biology – sometimes hard to say.


I am experiencing these sensations, too, but my mental illness entered the picture long before we had shelter-in-place orders...

I’ve written a lot about the anxiety, depression, and isolation of quarantine lately… because it seemed to be a world-wide response. People need to hear that they aren’t alone and there are ways to manage it. I am experiencing these sensations, too, but my mental illness entered the picture long before we had shelter-in-place orders, and it is at least fairly well-managed. (My therapist says I’m doing the best out of her clients – gold star!)


Operational problems are still there, but instead of driving with the dashboard lighting up, I'm just consistently aware that I have a variable leak in my tire.


Time alone? Yes please


The fact of the matter is, I have a lot less pressure on me than usual.


As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been uniquely prepared for living in quarantine thanks to my past bouts with abuse, agoraphobia, and isolation. I grew up entertaining myself locked in a bedroom and I still live that way on my own accord. Being a part-time introvert doesn’t hurt, either.


When I’m not escaping from my anxiety with social obligations, I’m pretty happy spending time alone, hanging alone in my room and quietly working on my personal projects. Please, give me a rainy day with no work worries to suck the well dry, and let me go wild. I've hoarded activities for years waiting for this moment. Dreams come true.


So, this whole staying-at-home deal is not a huge problem for me. I have a lot of hobbies and a low threshold for social interactions.




Social Pressures No More

So, anyone feeling #blessed to have this viral vacation from life… here to tell you that you aren’t the only one who likes alone time and lots of it.


But for me, this relief is just as much about the freedom to work on things I don’t usually have time to do… as it is having freedom from going out.


Staying at home, itself, doesn’t bother me. In fact, it’s often my ideal situation. Further, I’m finding even more relief from my normal rounds of anxiety thanks to our shelter-in-place order. For some of us, going out isn’t a necessity or a pleasure. It’s a stressor.


On a regular day with no obligations in the "old world," I would still regularly find some hard, anxious edge inside my stomach from toying with the idea that I needed to go out and find something to do.

Let me try to explain, without painting myself as a relapsed agoraphobe.


On a regular day, with no obligations in the "old world," I would still regularly find some hard, anxious edge inside my stomach from toying with the idea that I needed to go out and find something to do. Feeling relaxed with your paints? Not for long – just remember that you have errands to run at some point and other people are out on the town having fun. Immediate guilt, stress, and self-shame? Feel like there are frogs in your stomach? Unable to concentrate and suddenly exhausted? Yep.


The thing is, I don’t often feel personally driven to go for my sake. This restless impulse I felt on “chill” days wasn’t about me or what was going on in my life. It was about everyone else, and how they led theirs.


The thing is, I don’t often feel personally driven to go for my sake. This restless impulse I felt on “chill” days wasn’t about me or what was going on in my life. It was about everyone else, and how they led theirs.

Somewhere in my twenties, my learned socialization imparted this unwanted expectation that having a free day meant I should be out on the town, wasting my time socializing, sipping, and shopping. I don’t know where the idea of lone loafing in public being the pinnacle of a “good” day came from. I didn’t grow up this way, nor do I personally feel like it’s a constructive or endlessly fun set of activities… but the judgement still follows me.


Days when the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I just want to stay in my fucking room, I hear kids laughing outdoors and feel immense shame for wasting glorious time that should be spent away from the house. Especially in Illinois, as winter is closing in and 6 months of darkness are on the horizon, these days are incredibly guilt-ridden.


I've ruined a lot of my own days.


For years if I’ve had spare time, my brain has wandered into “should you make yourself somewhere” territory. Not “would you like to go?” – but "should you force yourself to go, because that’s what normal people do?"


Every random Saturday that I haven’t been socially engaged for the past twelve or fifteen (?) years, I’ve felt like a loser for wanting to spend my time alone in my house. Every wide-open weekday when I’ve basked in the idea of 18 uninterrupted hours for pure creativity in the privacy of my own room, I’ve later managed to self-inflict tension and distraction by considering how other people enjoy spending their days. Suddenly my day was direct evidence that I’m wrong, broken, and boring.



Every wide-open weekday when I’ve basked in the idea of 18 uninterrupted hours for pure creativity in the privacy of my own room, I’ve later managed to self-inflict tension and distraction by considering how other people enjoy spending their days. Suddenly my day was direct evidence that I’m wrong, broken, and boring.

I ramble to say… expectations suck, and for a homebody, self-shamer, quarantine rules.




Freedom from expectations


You know what I can’t do anymore? I can’t expect myself to go out into public. It’s literally not an option. Every day when I wake up and consider how to spend my time, I can avoid the battle of “what would a 'normal' Jess do?” and just act like this Jess.


You know what I can’t do anymore? I can’t expect myself to go out into public. It’s literally not an option. Every day when I wake up and consider how to spend my time, I can avoid the battle of “what would a normal Jess do?” and just act like this Jess.

The expectations of society have disappeared during our COVID nightmare.


There is no FOMO. There are no "weekday rules" that cause me self-shame if I'm not working all the time. There is no such thing as a failed birthday party or a boring weekend. There is nothing to go do, nowhere to eat, and nothing to spend money on.


Everyone is at home, trying their hand at living a lifestyle they don’t personally feel prepared for. The tables have turned, my friends. I’m reluctantly proud (I don’t want to downplay how terrible the circumstances are) to say that I’m killing it at quarantining.


Everyone just leave me alone and let the hours flow. I’ll be right here when you need me. Don't expect that I'll check my phone, because I don't expect that there's a reason.




If you're bored, you're boring


I had a grumpy economics teacher in high school who was always giving us difficult advice we didn't understand. One of the things that's currently running through my head on repeat is from that time, sophomore year. "If you're bored, you're boring."


Do you have hobbies and interests that your anxiety and depression normally prevent? Yeah, motherfucker. Story of my life.


Do you have hobbies and interests that your anxiety and depression normally prevent? Yeah, motherfucker. Story of my life.

In "regular society," I get sad and I get stagnant very often. I get overwhelmed by work stress and personal bullshit, and choose to drink instead of create. I rely on Netflix and empty social interactions to pass the days. I feel like I'm constantly rushed. I live by the demands of traffic patterns. I avoid dealing with things that I know I should and I put off making big decisions. I never start the art pieces I dream of. I never clear my head enough to write quality pieces. I never figure out ways to solve small problems.


I don't thrive in the old ways of living.


But hey - do you suddenly have nothing but time and attention to devote to your long lost interests and to-do lists? I sure fucking do.


I just have to stay mentally flexible, and keep my mental health at the forefront of my mind and I can be occupied and ecstatic all day long. Now that we're off-duty from the things that secretly kill me on the inside, everything is so alive and vibrant in my life.


I am definitely not bored.


My art is back in full force. My writing is regular. This website is improving every day. There's suddenly an active instagram account for Traumatized Motherfuckers. My plants are doing amazing. I have gardens inside and out. I've tailored half the shit in my closet. I've sewn for the first time in like 7 years. I've been meditating and taking care of myself. I'm eating like I want this body to last. I'm exercising like a motherfucker. My hair, skin, and physique are looking great.


Without the triggering and anxiety-inducing bullshit necessitated by regular living, my life is amazing. I'm loving this shit, continually improving myself, and lord knows who I'll be when this whole thing is over.

Without the triggering and anxiety-inducing bullshit necessitated by regular living, my life is amazing. I'm loving this shit, continually improving myself, and lord knows who I'll be when this whole thing is over.




Final thoughts


Even though so much of my Old World Angst has been self-imparted thanks to mental health, expectations, and outside influence, it has still plagued all my adulthood. So, although everything is different now… my life actually feels more driven, dreamy, and genuine to myself.


Maybe I’m the minority here, but I’m TMFR-proud to say that in my regularly self-contained world where I have to bend to meet the lifestyles of others... this quarantine is a massive relief from extroverted expectations that stall out my actual living.




What about you? Anyone else finding new relief in the “new world order?”


Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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