Pandemic Diary: April 1st, 2020

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Actually, here in Winnipeg, we aren’t going to see any lilacs until late May at the earliest. People living in more southerly regions often don’t realize that winter in Winnipeg runs six months of the year, pretty much from the beginning of November until the end of April. In fact, the weather forecasters are telling us to expect 10-20 centimetres (4 to 8 inches) of wet, heavy snow today.

Yesterday I took a sick day from work, even though I am already working from home: I was struggling with depression and needed a mental health day badly. In the morning, I had my biweekly phone call with my psychiatrist, a reassuring, stoic Russian woman who always dispenses good, sensible advice. (As someone who has struggled all his life with chronic clinical depression, I have been extremely lucky to have had good, empathetic psychiatrists throughout. It makes a big difference, as do the antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescription medications I take, although I try very hard not to rely on the latter to deal with my anxieties.)

I have been thinking a lot about the mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and I suspect that we are going to see a wave of psychological and psychiatric problems after all this is over (and frankly, even before it is finished). One of the ways I deal with the stress is, of course, writing this blog: to inform, to exhort, to editorialize, and sometimes just to vent. I am still maintaining and updating my list of mental health resources during the pandemic, adding good resources as I encounter them. (I think I am doing this for myself, for future reference, more than for anybody else. I just want to have this information handy when I really do need it.)

I have tried—Lord knows, I have tried—to limit my news consumption. As I wrote in the COVID-19_support subReddit:

I wake up every morning feeling depressed, and I know I should stay away from the newsfeeds and news media, but it is so hard. I plunge into the news and I get depressed, I get outraged at Trump’s latest antics, and it’s not helping me. At the same time, I want to know what is going on.

The COVID-19_support community is one of many that has sprung up online to provide a space for people to talk about their feelings and support each other. I honestly cannot imagine going through all this without the internet. I have an active coronavirus-chat channel on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where my blog readers from around the world (who normally discuss social VR, virtual worlds, and various aspects of the evolving metaverse) can talk to each other about the pandemic.

I have been struggling to focus on work while working from home, but I have made a commitment to set an alarm, get up every morning, have a shower, get dressed, brew a pot of coffee, and sit in front of my personal computer, to face the day as best I can. A coworker shared this video of how she was feeling about this unprecedented situation, getting up day after day, like in the 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day:

I feel fortunate that I work with such a wonderful group of people at my university library system. We are pulling together during this crisis, and I do feel that I am a valued part of the team. Among other assigned projects, I am serving as a sort of floating back-up to our library’s virtual reference service, Ask Us, helping faculty, staff, and students connect with and navigate the wealth of digital information resources in our libraries. In cases where people need information which is located in a physical, paper book (currently unavailable since our physical library collections were locked down with our university’s shutdown), we are making arrangements to purchase (or, more accurately, lease) access to electronic editions of those books when possible.

At home, I am slowly working my way through all the pandemic food supplies I had stocked up on: pasta, potatoes, rice, cheese, yogurt, bags of mandarin oranges, canned stews and soups. I have stepped outside my apartment exactly twice since I began working from home on March 16th, and I have run out of bread and almost out of milk. However, I have three large bags of instant skim milk powder, I have discovered that I like the taste of powdered milk, and can live with that as a backup. No need to go grocery shopping, yet! I plan to hold off as long as possible, and perhaps turn to online grocery delivery as an alternative to going outside.

And I have started baking. One of the 10-kilogram bags of flour I had stocked up on several years ago developed a rip in the bag, and went bad, but the other bag is just fine, and I have been teaching myself how to make basic biscuits. I am starting to get good at it! My ambitious plan is to eventually work my way up to baking my own bread.

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

And apparently, a lot of people are baking during the pandemic:

As more Canadians work from home and practice self-isolation due to COVID-19, there’s been an increasing interest in turning on the oven and baking.

Baking-related search terms are up on Google, grocery stores have experienced an increase in flour purchases and sugar and flour manufacturers are working overtime to keep up with a spike in demand.

If you are looking for my last-updated list of good, credible, information resources about the coronavirus pandemic, click here.

I leave you with an inspirational video, which was put out by the very talented people at Travel Manitoba (who, obviously, aren’t being called upon to promote much travel at the moment):

Stay home, stay healthy!

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3 thoughts on “Pandemic Diary: April 1st, 2020”

  1. The governor of my state does a press conference every day at 2PM and my days revolve around that. I have had good luck with food deliveries, both from stores and restaurants. Food and supplies that were bought out during the original panic have returned to the shelves. One store has so much toilet paper that they threw in a package in my order for free.

  2. Hi Ryan. I’m currently self-isolating at home as I’m in an at-risk group (I take immune-suppressant medication). For me, that’s not a huge shift, as I work from home anyway and only left the house for errands and exercise.

    I’m following updates from the NHS here in the UK (of which there have been a lot, mostly by text message), but I’m avoiding the news for the most part. I feel bad for my friends in the US – the UK government may not inspire confidence, but at least they’re doing something.

    For now, we’re OK for food and supplies. The supermarkets are still having trouble with some items going out of stock periodically, and we’re having to adjust meal plans and other stuff accordingly, but we’ll live. I’ve got medication, and will ask the doctors surgery to arrange for prescriptions to be delivered as I can’t go collect it. I’m still doing my shows for Gorean Whip Radio, and staying in touch with folks in Second Life.

    For mental health, I recommends listening to music radio or podcasts, doing physical exercises, and opening the windows to change the air and listen to the sounds of nature. 🙂

    1. Thanks Supermarine! I also have several underlying health conditions which put me a higher risk of a severe or fatal case of COVID-19, so I am also staying put at home. Take care!

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