When I started watching Westworld last month, I hoped the show would serve as an escape from the world that is now our reality. But the despair and rage exhibited by the hosts – from the lack of their ability to control their own destinies – started to mirror my own.
The worst day of my life was the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was alone in the hospital room, isolated and cut off from connections. The thin hospital gown and sheet did little to protect me, and I was then too shy to ask for more blankets. With the IV placed in my dominant hand, I couldn’t write or work on homework like planned. I was stuck with my own thoughts and the mortality of my existence.
It’s what I imagine many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are grappling with, as well, but on a much larger scale. And being on that high-risk list with no idea what my body will do confronted with such a virus terrifies me to the point that I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I have to go outside.
The World Beyond My Window
I miss the outdoors. I grew up among the bluegrass of Kentucky. The best part of losing my job last summer was the amount of time I could relish in the warm temperatures, the greenery and rushing waters. But now I just admire the sun from my window. I’ve gone for walks and runs, but as the days pass, even that seems high risk.
I do not live in the country. I live in a city, and cases only continue to climb. I worry for my friends on the front lines. I worry for a family I don’t know when I will see again. And I worry for myself. It doesn’t seem fair that I should feel depressed right now, when people are struggling with so much more than I am.
And yet that depression continues to grow. Activities that once made me happy, like coloring, reading or drinking bourbon no longer yield the same satisfaction rate. I know the isolation doesn’t help, so I try to stay connected with loved ones over the phone or video. And I hug Norm when I really need a small touch of support.
Stuck in a Loop
Each day feels like a loop. I try to limit my exposure, so have only been going to the grocery store every few weeks. It’s weird to feel the need to stock up on so much at one time. I’m used to buying items only when I need them, but now I worry those items won’t be there when I actually need them. And I never ate much processed food before, but now I worry about what I will depend on if I do get sick, and so I have been adding to the pantry with each trip.
It’s hard to keep my blood sugar levels in line on a normal week. But I worry if I don’t keep them near to perfect, I am only making myself more susceptible to catching the virus. The stress and anxiety I feel coupled with the lack of physical activity only makes the diabetes harder to control.
I try to keep myself distracted by focusing on tasks that give me a sense of accomplishment, such as figuring out how to remove the bathtub stopper to unclog my drain (non-emergency maintenance requests are temporarily suspended) or finally hanging the picture frames that have been collecting dust in my closet for the last nine months.
My lease is up in a few months, and if rent rises too much, I cannot justify staying here (there is no rent control in Arlington County). I hope leasing offices won’t choose this time to price gauge us, but I have to be prepared for the possibility. And that is something I feel in control of – creating these contingency plans for all the possibilities. But it’s exhausting.
Letting Go of What Was
Tonight, I was supposed to be attending An Evening With Jane Goodall (courtesy of National Geographic) at the DAR Constitution Hall in DC. I don’t know when I’ll ever be in a crowd of people again. And maybe that’s a good thing?
I think of my grandparents who survived the Great Depression – how it completely changed a generation. Their need to stock up on a year’s worth of household goods suddenly makes sense to me.
After I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I grieved for the life I once knew – a life I would never know again. And I held onto those memories – the ones where I could just live without having to take into account the variables of living with an incurable disease.
There is no cure for COVID-19… yet. It’s possible we will get that life back. But this will change us. And as a good friend and former life coach reminded me recently, I think that is what I am grieving now – for the person I once was and for the possibility I once envisioned for myself. That person cannot exist in 2020. She is gone.
It’s times like these that I think of the ending of The Awakening – a book that spoke to me during a severe depressive episode in college. [Don’t worry. No suicide ideations here.] That final image of the novel has always stayed with me. Sometimes, it makes sense to tread water and try to survive in a world that’s no longer working for us. And other times, it makes more sense to let go, so that we can shed those layers and evolve.
I don’t necessarily like the person I am becoming during this pandemic. I don’t like the measures I am having to take to survive. But I know it makes no sense to keep living the way I used to. This is a new world. I had to make the same choice when I was diagnosed with diabetes. A few weeks from now marks my 11-year-anniversary of being in that hospital room, alone, cold and cut off from the world.
I do not like to dwell on that memory, but often times it grounds me. Because I did survive that night, and while my life has never been the same, I don’t know that I would be the person I am today without that experience.
So, maybe in a lot of ways, this is our awakening.