By Anne T. Donahue
For the record, I am wildly aware that our pandemics are all very different. I don’t believe we’re existing in our new, shitty reality in the same way, nor do I consider the playing field even remotely even. Are we all experiencing the pandemic? Yes. Are we all suffering through the same mental, emotional, financial, and social hurdles? Absolutely not. If anything, the pandemic has confirmed what’s been common knowledge for all eternity: if you’ve got any semblance of privilege, your life is easier than the folks who do not.
But there is something most of us really do all have in common: our own personal hells. And while that may seem dramatic to read, it’s far less dramatic to experience. Especially as the shock of what’s happening has evolved into tediousness, acceptance, heartbreak, sorrow, anger, and frustration. And the thing about those feelings are that they’re perfect breeding grounds for anxiety, catastrophizing (sometimes appropriate, sometimes – if you’re me, assuming the worst about having the sniffles – not), exhaustion, desperation, and hopelessness. And they just sit there, breeding, disappearing, returning with a vengeance, and revelling in their cursed cycles. Ultimately, this is what we’re all in this together in: being trapped in our own minds, feelings, and thoughts, stuck watching press conferences in hope that they’ll offer any type of reprieve. We’re together in feeling all by ourselves. Even if we live with other people.
This morning, after I spent about an hour last night convincing myself that I was losing my mind for one of a million reasons, I thought about all of this. First, I thought I was the only person on the planet to be feeling exactly as unhinged as I feel I’ve become. But also, that I was obviously a ridiculous person because I’m just not that special. I’m not the only person to be navigating a global disaster. I’m not the only person who’s consumed with what-ifs and the fear of losing myself or losing people I love and, and, and. In fact, I’m just some broad at her parents’ house, anxious as fuck. And who isn’t? (Don’t answer that: anyone who isn’t is, I’m pretty sure, an absolute sociopath.) All of us are hitting levels of stress that will make indelible marks on our personalities and ways of thinking. We are being wrung out by a reality that is impossible to manipulate until we’re all given vaccines against an enemy that lacks reason and fairness. We are all waking up, trying to master our new at-home schedules, and hoping at some point we can inject some semblance of normalcy into an existence devoid of it. We’re all reminding ourselves to breathe through tightness in our chests; all telling ourselves to drink water while polishing off 12-packs of Dr. Pepper in a single evening because why the hell not. We’re all messes. Absolute messes. Panicked, concerned, “I fucking hate this” messes. And we’re in it together.
Which can be a source of comfort amidst a climate with next to none. It’s a comfort never to be completely alone in anything, but it’s even more comforting to remember that should any of us choose to reach out in our worst moments, we won’t be responded to with shock or horror. In fact, it’d be shocking or horrific to express the way we’re feeling and be met with anything outside of understanding. It’d be shocking or horrific and completely unrealistic for someone to claim that they feel fine about all of this. Really, this is the only “all in this together” sentiment I can get behind or understand. And by “all” I mean “anyone who’s acknowledging the full scope of this pandemic” and “together” I mean “anybody with a human heart or brain.” I want to be there for anyone who’s currently battling. And I want to be reminded that while we’re seeing news about BBQ morons and anti-maskers, there are so many more people who lead with empathy. The only thing that’s keeping me buoyant is the knowledge that deep down, most people just want to be seen and understood. Which means that even when I’m feeling my lowest, there will be more numbers than not of persons willing to listen to and share the type of feelings and thought processes that try to dismantle us when we believe we’re alone.
Will this fix us? Put us back together? Make our day-to-day lives easier? Make giving up holidays and friend time seem like a walk in the park? Not even a little bit. But it will remind us that regardless of how physically isolated we may be, we’re not completely by ourselves. And that in the moments you need to reach out, there will be somebody who reaches back.
Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!