UPDATED! Pandemic Diary: March 1st, 2021

Today is officially Day 351 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system. And, as many of you who follow me on Twitter or on this blog know, I had a massive emotional meltdown last week as the inadvertent result of a blogpost I had written, landing up in bed for 48 hours, struggling with my chronic clinical depression, and thinking that I would once again have to go on extended sick leave from my paying job (I did land up taking two sick days).

This is what the second half of last week felt like to me:

However, by Sunday evening, I was feeling myself start to bounce back from the destructive, depressive spiral, and start to climb out of the black pit of despair. I have decided—for the time being—to take a step back from Twitter, Reddit, and all the Discord servers I belong to. I have also decided to stop cross-posting new blogposts automatically to my Twitter feed. I figure that by this point, with over 1,000 views per day of my blog according to my WordPress stats, most people already know where to find my content. (And it was somebody’s reaction to one of those cross-posted blogposts which was the spark that ignited the controversy that felled me.)

Reading back, I could see how I had stretched myself to the breaking point, with a number of contributing factors: work, depression, isolation, a bitterly cold stretch of Winnipeg winter, a province-wide pandemic lockdown since early November, etc. And, being stretched so thin, all it would take would be one single straw to break the camel’s back. And break it did, badly and publicly, for all to see. I’m sorry.

Talking to other people helps, and I have spent this weekend chatting with real-life friends and family: a FaceTime call with my best friend John, a cellphone chat with my mom, a Zoom meeting with my family in Alberta, etc. And I was also inundated with messages of love, support, and wisdom from my friends and acquaintances online, for which I am grateful! I consider myself a very lucky man. Thank you.

While the daily surge of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths has slowly tapered down, it is still a difficult time here in Manitoba. Canada is lagging woefully behind dozens of other countries (such as the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom) in vaccinating its citizens, largely because we have no domestic facilities to produce the needed vaccines. The federal opposition Conservative party has been using the situation to take cheap pot shots at the ruling Liberal party, which to my mind is doing the best job they can under very trying circumstances. (Frankly, having the past year’s Trump shitshow south of the border to compare it to would make anybody’s response look good. At least there’s now a responsible adult installed in the White House who actually listens to the scientists.)

So far in Manitoba, only healthcare workers and seniors in long term care homes have received vaccinations. Production and delivery delays have meant that the initial schedule was bolloxed up almost immediately. Even worse, scientists are worried that mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which are more transmissible could lead to a third or fourth wave of cases, even with the current restrictions in place.

I had originally hoped that I might get a shot in my arm by April; now it is looking more like September, or perhaps even December in a worst-case scenario. The situation is profoundly distressing and dispiriting; I am not sure how much longer I can put up with all the face masking, hand disinfecting, and social distancing that I have been doing for almost a whole year now. I am just physically exhausted, and I feel emotionally and mentally battered. But I—we—will prevail.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash
Image created by Laura Makaltses. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of COVID-19 (via Unpslash)

I have been on the new drop-in audio chat app Clubhouse for a full week now, and I hop from room to room until I find one that fits my needs or interest. For example, last Monday night I participated in a truly wonderful three-hour conversation about social VR, moderated by Shawn Whiting (Rec Room), Noah Robinson (Very Real Help), and Kent Bye (of the Voices of VR podcast). I got to meet and interact with a number of people that I had not met before, and talked about our shared passion and vision of social virtual reality. Even better, we made plans to start up a club within Clubhouse, which would meet regularly!

Afterward, I expressed my enthusiasm with the following (pre-meltdown!) tweet:

In fact, I was so excited about the possibilities that our new Chatroom club could generate, that I lay in bed, my neurons afire! (Which, ironically, was another contributing factor that led to my emotional meltdown later on in the week: insomnia.) The last time I had felt so energized and mentally stimulated by the possibilities of a new social medium was during the early, heady days immediately after Google+ was launched, back in the summer of 2011. (Of course, in the case of Google+, that initial promise failed to materialize.)

And at the moment, I am listening to a regular Mental Health on Monday check-in with 70 people, hosted by Al Tepper from the U.K., with speakers from around the world sharing their wisdom, tips and tactics, strategies, and successes in the area of mental health. The one-hour program is heartwarming and inspiring, and I know that I will become a regular weekly listener (and perhaps, one day, be brave enough to step on stage and share my own story with the audience).

It will be interesting to see how Clubhouse develops over time, whether they will struggle when they move past the initial, exclusive, invite-only phase with all its giddy excitement, and whether they can keep that buzz going. We’ll see, but based on my experience alone, they seem to be off to a rousing start.

By the way, if you are intrigued by Clubhouse, and want to try it out for yourself, I still have two invitations to join! Clubhouse is invite-only, and currently only for iPhone mobile devices. If you are interested, please ping me using the Contact Me page on my blog, or via one of the Discord servers we may share (including the 500-member plus RyanSchultz.com Discord). Thanks!

UPDATE 4:15 p.m.: Here is the announcement of the second meeting of the Virtual Worlds Club, posted by Shawn Whiting to Twitter:

If you are already on Clubhouse, here is the link to join the room tonight.

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