The Pandemic Loneliness Is Killing Me

Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels

I know everyone is feeling betrayed by 2020. We’re all disappointed by the plans we had that never came to fruition. Most of us are terrified of uncertainty. The uncertainty we could get sick, that we could lose our loved ones, our incomes, or our homes. Not to mention the countless number of people for whom those fears have already become a reality. The election, social change, wildfires, it never stops. I kept holding off on writing this piece because I know my problems are minimal compared to them. I thought, “no one wants to hear this right now.” I held off on posting ANYTHING because nothing impactful was going on in my life. I kept telling myself, “no one wants to read about your 30 days of yoga challenge. What kind of shallow person are you?” 

But after some time and some motivation from supportive people. I realized my problems are still valid and in no way diminish other people’s current extreme and traumatic experiences. 

My problem? 

This pandemic loneliness is killing me. 

Overall, I do pretty well when traumatic things first hit. My anxiety brain is wired for the worst-case scenario. So when things start falling apart, I’m immediately looking for problem-solving solutions. I’m excellent in a crisis. It usually isn’t until after the shock wears off that the reality of trauma sets in. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my share of genuinely terrifying and stressful moments this pandemic. I was panicked when things started falling apart. Because my job furloughed me, and one of the things my anxiety brain is non-stop worried about is financial security. And racing my little sister, a single mother of 3 kids, to the hospital while she’s 1000 miles away from her home for one. My point is, I’m not saying my experience of this pandemic has been easy. Just that compared to so many others, it seems insignificant. 

At the beginning of this year, I was already in a vulnerable place. Everything that happened to me in 2019 put me in place to start over with new connections. I did a lot of emotional work at the end of last year. Not only over my break up with my partner of 6 years, “Jack Daniels,” and the uncomfortable encounter I had with my long time friend “Puppy.” But the handful of men who came into my life and made me feel inferior. And my choice to walk away from unhealthy friendships. I had started to realize just how bad my anxiety had been my whole life. For years I would go to work and school groggy and dissociated. Assuming that it was normal and how everyone felt, but it wasn’t. Suddenly I learned what being grounded and present felt like. This year, most of my goals were to make new and more beneficial connections with friends and potential partners. Before the pandemic hit, I was doing a fantastic job of pushing myself to live for new experiences. I was going out more to group things. Things that used to make me have full panic attacks. I put myself out on dating apps and found that talking to strangers didn’t feel like pulling teeth for the first time. I spent my entire life thinking I was an introvert only to discover, the year that I’m not allowed to see anyone, that I’m really an extrovert. 

In The Beginning

When the pandemic first started, I tried to keep myself busy with sewing projects, but that lasted two months before it stopped being fulfilling. I’m the kind of creator that needs to create something with a purpose, or it bothers me that it’s wasteful. 

I listened to books and podcasts while working on not getting burnt out from too much screen time. I had found myself strengthening my relationship with a smaller group of the social circle I had previously stepped back from. We were doing zoom movie nights and eventually got up to walk at lunchtime while video chatting. To keep us not only connected but up and moving. After time went on, though, the walls of my tiny 500 square foot apartment got smaller and smaller.  

For a while, the months of alone time was a great way to self reflect. But let’s be honest, too much introspection starts to be degrading. Eventually, I ended up hating myself for so many things I thought I had put behind me. I started overanalyzing everything about myself and started hating myself.

Since I wait tables, I did my best to avoid going back to work immediately to stay safe. But eventually, I didn’t have a choice. I know many people want to judge those who had to go on unemployment for a while. But it didn’t take very long after the extra six hundred stopped for us to go through what we had been given. When you don’t have anything coming in, it goes fast between rent and bills and food. This is where my already thin resolve started utterly breaking. 

Being back at work did not help. After being closed for so long, patrons came back more entitled and angrier than ever. The number of adult temper tantrums and confrontations over changes that were way out of my control had me going home in tears regularly. And I can handle conflict, but this was different. 

The only thing worse than pure isolation is existing to only go to a non-fulfilling job and straight back home to isolation every day. I was still healing from last year’s heartbreaks and “Casper” from earlier this year. My heart hurt, and I couldn’t stretch my extrovert legs. My mental health started declining rapidly. I knew that if I continued that way, the loneliness would eventually lead to my death, which isn’t easy to write or talk about. 

I was stuck with a dilemma. Risking covid or risking suicide from the isolation. So since I was already putting myself at risk at work, I decided to open my bubble a bit. I started spending time with the small group of friends I had stayed close to digitally over the last few months. I spent the most time at a couple friends of mine’s place. It started with occasional drinks and dinners at their home to be a little social and help break up the monotony that is this pandemic. Eventually, my friend (who online prefers to be referred to as Kilesandra) and I did a 30-day yoga challenge. This led to me being there every morning. As time went on, when I wasn’t working, I’d end up being there all day and routinely staying the night. I was there so often that on the days I wasn’t there, their dog would sadly look for me in their spare room. 

For most of the quarantine, these “slumber parties” were what was getting me through. I started doing it at other friends’ houses occasionally. At first, I worried I was in the way. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that having a new person in the house was a relief, especially for my friends in relationships.    

And because my income depends on people taking the chance to go out, I also occasionally started going out. I was just going out for craft beers at breweries and always picked places where I could sit outside on a patio. I felt like I needed to pass on income to people in a similar situation and support local businesses. I felt like I could use the Karma. As my state’s numbers rise drastically again, I have cut back to be responsible. Still, I needed an outlet for my extrovert self. If I wasn’t already at risk every day, I wouldn’t, but my job is so draining I needed to make that risk worth it. 

I acknowledge this isn’t currently the safest practice. Spending time with friends and going out. I am a big supporter of maks and why scientists tell us to stay in. If the nation banded together to follow those guidelines, we would almost be out of this mess. But because a few people just couldn’t handle the inconvenience or thought it was a hoax, we’re all trying to make do with this nightmare they created for us. Like a child who keeps pushing boundaries and not understanding, they will continue to be punished until they learn to behave. For myself, it came down to calculating the risk.

Humiliating Incident 

Photo by Aleksandr Burzinskij from Pexels

Back in September, two of the girls I’ve remained closest to this year shared a birthday. We spent a week planning a birthday celebration that still fit into the current covid world. They wanted brunch, so we chose to go to a location with an outdoor patio so we would be safer. Because they continue to prove ventilation helps. We all had a great time, and it was the first time out for a few of us. 

While at brunch, we talked about how I was surviving the pandemic through “slumber parties.” We decided to plan a group slumber party for the following weekend. Especially since friendships and connections help mental health. All of us had been struggling with that. Most of us were very isolated from friends, and we missed them. 

We spent the whole week planning it. Our inner 13-year-old selves were so excited. I mean, so were our current adult selves, but our inner children/past selves would have been so proud. That was until the NIGHT BEFORE the party. 

At the very last second, one of the girl’s partners expressed discomfort with her spending time with me now that I’m back waiting tables. She wasn’t going to be able to go anymore. 

I want to outright state before I go any further. That I have no problem making sure the people around me feel safe. In fact, as a rule, when spending time in person, you should always refer to your most cautious friend and don’t be offended if they are more cautious than you. 

So that being said, we decided to postpone so that we could figure out a plan where we could include her and make sure everyone felt safe. I definitely didn’t feel right about what was happening and immediately went to a testing location. Emotions were filling me as my mind went a mile a minute. 

As I sat there, I started realizing the overwhelming emotion I was feeling was humiliation. This wasn’t about anyone else being a risk, just me. Simply because I didn’t have a choice in needing to go back to work. And he isn’t wrong; restaurants are more likely to spread the virus. But if this really was about making sure he and his partner were safe, why did he let me see her the week before? Why wait till the last possible second? In total, he had two weeks to say something. 

I respect the need to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially right now. But to my core, because of how it was handled, I have a hard time believing it was about safety. I reached out and let my friend know that something about the whole thing felt personal. She insisted that it was about safety and told me she was also frustrated that he didn’t say something sooner. His reason for not saying anything the week before? “She left too quickly.” However, that also doesn’t make sense to me; since he had a week to say something and she was so excited, there is no way he didn’t know she was going. I left it alone because I could tell it started to turn into a situation where she was being used as a middle man in a conflict. I’ve seen that happen to her before, and I didn’t want to do that to her again. 

My first realization was that he was looking down on me for my current job. And to reiterate again, I didn’t have a choice. He had to leave his job in the middle of this pandemic for valid toxic work environment reasons. And has a situation comfortable enough that he didn’t immediately need to go get a new job. I don’t have that luxury, and it added to my humiliation that it felt like he was looking down on me. 

It’s hard for me not to wonder if he was just trying to keep my friend from going. My test came back two days later that it was negative. I could tell there was tension other than me just feeling humiliated. It was apparent he was using her to speak through to the whole group. As she kept sharing scientific research, he found and knew all of these facts and how he was a nurse. For me, it was even more frustrating because no one, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON, doubted his knowledge or the science that I was more at risk at the restaurant. Which made it feel overall just felt…. fishy… 

The more I was funneled information through my friend, the more frustrated I got. I had studied being an EMT Basic while in colorado before I was 20. Certified and everything. I had gone from doing that into my performing arts degree in college. I decided to focus on my entertainment career rather than to work more in the medical field. Because it was too hard on my heart. The more information I was fed from him, the more I felt man-splained to. Again, no one involved doubted his knowledge, especially not me. 

The entire situation had red flags all over it. Especially since he made me feel so small and doesn’t seem to care. 

We did eventually have our slumber party, and it was everything we could have hoped for. But this incident has made me feel even more isolated than usual. I never told him how humiliated he made me feel. Because it took me till this encounter to realize I love my friend, and I don’t care what her partner thinks of me. What’s important to me is that she is happy. 

I Realized Just How Lonely I Was

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Having a whole ordeal were I wasn’t allowed to see someone I loved, even though she wanted to see me. Opened my eyes to how lonely I had become. After “Casper,” I wasn’t in a place where I was comfortable putting myself out there for dating again. But I craved having a person, craved touch and connection. Spending time with friends just wasn’t enough. They all had their own partners, and it’s just different. I know that I am not “alone,” but it’s a different kind of loneliness. I found myself continuing to throw myself at “Code Name Motor Boat,” even though I knew he wasn’t interested. 

It didn’t help that he would say things and do things that got my hopes up. But deep down, I knew, and I kept trying anyway. We ran into each other a few weeks ago. He invited me over to his house and then into his bed. We didn’t do anything but sleep, and I woke up halfway through the night, and he was gone. I felt so bad like I had pushed him into a situation he was uncomfortable with. So I left in the middle of the night. He later told me he wished I would have stayed. 

For a few days, I felt like we were both just nervous around each other. Maybe there was more there than I thought. But I soon realized he was actively avoiding me. Which after “Jack Daniels” did that to me for so long as a controlling maneuver, I get really frustrated at. The truth is I wasn’t looking for anything serious, just someone it was safe to be close to. Cuddle with. Sleep with. Enjoy company with. Eventually, I snapped and asked why he was avoiding me. I thought we had already talked about being ok with a friends with benefits situation and that it was ok. But he finally revealed that it wasn’t something he was looking for. 

I kept thinking I would be crushed or embarrassed. Because I have chased him so hard! But I wasn’t. He was worth making an idiot over myself for. I really truly liked him, and I would have rather tried and learned it was never going to work than have never tried at all. 

That was sort of this cherry on top of this deep loneliness that I feel. I have to be careful about spending time with people. However, I live alone, and it’s not an exaggeration to say the walls start to close in on you. It’s almost painful to live alone. And I crave a romantic partner but don’t have the energy to put myself out there again. And I definitely don’t think dating is worth the risk of spreading the virus to people I care about right now. Being unlucky in love seems extra frustrating, and I’m not in a place to want marriage or move in with anyone. I just want affection, the kind of connection you get excited to see someone at the end of a long week. Someone to sleep next to. Someone to be excited about getting to know and go on adventures with when going on adventures is safe again. 

Here’s what I know, I’m doing the best I can in uncertain times. I hate that I’ve pressured myself into going back into almost complete isolation because someone who clearly doesn’t have respect for me made me feel small. I know nothing lasts forever, but we are still in this for the long haul. And until then, spending time with a little bubble of people will do me better good than harm. The time I was spending alone with my own thoughts was going to be the death of me. I have little ways of helping myself. My mom gave me a weighted blanket. And I’ve gotten really good at reaching out when I need it. 

I want to leave this post with my biggest two things because I’ve continued to sleepover at my friend’s houses. After all, it does help. And I’ve been working on rewiring my brain every time it attacks itself to think something beneficial about myself. 

What have you been doing to beat the loneliness that comes with this pandemic? Let me know. Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with anything I talked about here today? 

Thank you so much for reading. Please follow me and share it with your friends!!

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