Pandemic Diary: April 18th, 2020

So I snapped a selfie on my way to the nearest garbage bin at my apartment complex this morning:

I am wearing one of the cloth masks that my Mom made for me (she also knitted the scarf I am wearing in this picture). I really miss going to my Mom’s for Sunday dinner.

It has now been a full month since I started self-isolation in my apartment, having received permission from my employer, the University of Manitoba Libraries, to work from home since Monday, March 16th.

How am I doing? Well, not well. But not badly, either. I’m still slipping back and forth between a few uncomfortable emotional states: anxiety, depression, anger. I am taking Lorzepam for the anxiety, but I know that I can’t keep relying on it when my nerves are bad, because I could become dependent upon it, and my psychiatrist tells me that I could suffer rebound anxiety as a result of using it too often. So I reserve the Lorazepam for when I feel especially anxious, which has happened a few times this week.

As for my depression, I can usually judge how bad things are by how many unwashed dishes I leave on my kitchen counter. At the moment, I have a week’s worth of dirty dishes piled up on the counter. It’s a sign that I am not doing so well, when I start to put off chores like that. So I need to pull my socks up.

I know that I am not the only person who is struggling. This week I read an article from SELF magazine, titled 17 Totally Normal Things to Feel Right Now, According to Therapists, and I could relate to a whole lot of them. Here’s the list, along with some quotes from that article:

  • I feel burned out. “Think about it: Every aspect of adjusting to a “new normal” demands energy from you, whether that’s the bandwidth you’re expending keeping up on the news or the weird learning curve of doing your job remotely. Meanwhile, so many of the ways we typically recharge are off the table right now: seeing friends, hitting up happy hour, going to the gym, or whatever self-care activity of yours that the pandemic has derailed. ‘There are so many more things draining us than things fortifying us right now…That’s a recipe for burnout right there.’”
  • I feel angry. “You probably don’t need me to tell you that there are a lot of things to be angry about right now, whether you’re frustrated at people who aren’t taking this seriously enough or have a lot of feelings about how the pandemic is being handled on a structural level.”
  • I am spiraling about what might happen: “The uncertainty of the pandemic—and the long-term impact it will have on both a personal level and a larger scale—is one of the most common themes the therapists I talked to have come across in their work. That should come as no surprise to anyone going through a ton of anxiety right now; there is just so much we can’t predict…’Anxiety rises due to the fear of the unknown, and right now, many things are not known…I have been hearing people worrying about running out of food or supplies. People are afraid that they will lose their homes or cars due to being out of work.’ The list goes on. The important part to remember is that most people are grappling with uncertainty right now, and it’s normal to feel terrified.”
  • I am struggling with working from home. “Transitioning from a typical work setup to working from home has caused a lot of stress, angst, and frustration for a ton of people.”
  • I am mourning canceled events. I miss my monthly arts and entertainment group meeting (although we are scheduling a Zoom meetup on Sunday). I miss the older gay men’s dining out group. I miss being at work and being around my coworkers and the students and faculty at my university.
  • I want a hug. As someone who is self-isolating alone in my apartment, I can’t even remember the last time someone touched me.
  • I feel guilty about my relative safety, security, and privilege. I was much more physically and logistically prepared for this pandemic than most people I know. I have a couple of months of food on hand, and 3 months’ worth of all my prescription medications. I don’t need to leave my home for anything except absolutely essential trips or emergencies. But I do feel guilty that other people, who wouldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t prepare, are struggling, perhaps even suffering. Hell, there are people on this planet who are facing this pandemic without access to clean, running water.
  • I am grieving. “While it’s true some people undoubtedly are dealing with the loss of loved ones to COVID-19, therapists are noticing grief in other ways too. Most people are grappling with some kind of loss…whether that’s the loss of a job, your freedom, your feeling of safety, or your vision of how your life should be going. All of that can trigger a deep sense of grief, though many people don’t recognize it for what it is.”
  • I am feeling inadequate about my productivity. “‘One issue that I’m seeing is people feeling guilt about not being productive enough while at home in isolation..From day one after lockdown orders, many clients felt that they were wasting time and failing miserably at the transition to working from home. There is also pressure to learn languages, take courses, master finances, and do all the things. Productivity porn is very loud right now.’ That noise can be difficult to drown out, so don’t feel bad if this is something you’re struggling with. ‘We live in a nation in which many of us are accustomed to engaging in activities centered around thriving…Unfortunately, much of that focus must be shifted to surviving right now. Be kind to yourself as we shift and refuse to be guilty for not being productive.’
  • And sometimes, I just feel numb. “With everything going on, it might alarm you to wake up one day and realize you feel…nothing at all. That’s to be expected too. Even in the most chaotic of times, it’s impossible to be on emotional high alert 24/7. ‘I think of it in terms of adrenaline…You can only have adrenaline coursing through your veins for so long until the body has to reset and simmer down.’ Same goes for emotions, especially the longer this goes on.”

On top of everything else, I feel exhausted, and I have been struggling with insomnia. Once again, a night of restless sleep detached and inactivated one of my expensive LibreLink blood sugar sensors, so I have had to replace it before it was due to expire in 14 days. This is the second time this has happened since I started using this system, and it is frustrating.

Even just writing this blogpost seems to have brought me down, by making me realize just how much I am trying to cope with. Small wonder I am struggling. It would be overwhelming to anybody.

So I am just going to keep on keeping on, using this blog as my pandemic diary. I know that I have supports in place (anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, talk therapy, my social network) to keep me safe, grounded, and sane. We don’t know how long this public health emergency will take to pass. We don’t know when the restrictions that have been placed on all our lives will start to be lifted.

But we do know that this will not be forever. I have to hold on tight to that belief, putting my faith in all the doctors and scientists who are working to create a vaccine to end this nightmare.

Stay safe, and stay healthy!

Pandemic Diary: April 2nd, 2020

Quarantine is the cultural appropriation of depressed people.

—Comment from a recent Reddit post on r/Coronavirus

Today has been one of those days where, as the day wore on, the more anxious, depressed, and angry at turns that I got. It didn’t help that I swore I would stay off Twitter and Reddit today (I was up till 1:00 a.m. last night reading through my Twitter feed, which at this point is 80% coronavirus-related experts.) You can imagine how well that resolution went.

It didn’t help that this morning I posted a musing to the r/Winnipeg subReddit community, about how the coronavirus pandemic was like a 6-to-18-month blizzard that we all had to get through, all isolated in our homes at the same time, venturing out from time to time in the storm to clear the spaces around our doors, but basically hunkered down at home. Everybody stuck at home, but going through the blizzard together, pulling together and helping each other get through this.

I got a bunch of ignorant comments and I finally yanked my post this evening, angry at the world, and angry at myself for letting some social media trolls get to me. I should know better by now at my age.

And fucking Jared Kushner dispensing pandemic advice at today’s White House press conference shit-show (which of course I heard about through my Twitter feed) just about finished me off. I’m not sure my blood pressure can take any more of this. And we are only at the first million cases of COVID-19; what is the rest of April gonna look like? May? June? July?!??

I am so completely and utterly done with this day. I am popping a couple of Lorazepam with my chamomile tea this evening.

Please, stay home. As I have already said, with my underlying health conditions, if I get COVID-19 I am a sitting duck. Flatten the curve.

Editorial: “Behold the Field…”

Note: This is a personal blogpost, one that I have written and rewritten a couple of times, and to which I have added and removed several paragraphs, trying to find the right words to express how I feel. I may still have missed the mark, and for that I will apologize up front.

I am still feeling upset and angry about certain situations, and I take this as a sign that I should take some time off over the Christmas holidays, recharge my batteries, and come back with a refreshed perspective. So don’t be too surprised if I do announce a break from this blog soon.


I will be the first to admit that sometimes, I do not have the best overall temperament, the best combination of personality characteristics, to be a social VR/virtual worlds blogger. I lead with my head instead of my heart, and while this passion ignites what I write about and how I write it, it can also get me into trouble, time and again.

Longtime readers of my blog can see this happen in certain blogposts where, indeed, “the field in which I grow my f*cks is barren”. At times my anger about a situation which I see as unfair has led to almost a scorched-earth response, where a less emotional writer would have backed down. Yes, I do get triggered. Yes, I do get upset. Yes, I do lash out.

I am mindful of at least two situations in the past couple of months were I became emotional over something, and responded by blogging about it. The first was reporting on the layoffs among the Sansar team at Linden Lab, something which brought me into conflict with a number of people who felt that I should have kept that news secret, and frankly which has probably put strain on some formerly good working relationships.

Would I have done anything differently then, knowing what I know now? No. I am hard-wired to respond with outrage to outrageous circumstances. It is what makes me human. It is what makes me, me. If you were looking for a dispassionate, clinical response to the pain and turmoil of a mass layoff, I’m sorry, but you won’t find it on this blog. Heart first, head second.

And the second situation led to this particular sarcastic, angry blogpost.

I am old enough to recognize that the things that irritate me most about other people are the very things that irritate me about myself. I am too quick to take offense at perceived slights, and I sometimes strike back in harsh criticism, sarcasm, or anger. I realize that this is a personal failing, one which I will continue to work on. And I am sorry.

I grew up in a family where I quickly learned that to become angry was to put yourself in danger of physical punishment. So as a result, I spent most of my younger adulthood repressing my legitimate anger, often having it turn into crippling depression as a result, which hindered my life and career more than if I had simply expressed the anger appropriately, at the right targets, at the right time. It is only through years of hard work and therapy that I have been able to acknowledge and express my own anger, and in some cases, the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the other direction.

Being a blogger means finding your authentic voice, and I think I have found mine here. But it also puts you into situations where you realize that you are not always as prepared, as cool and calm and collected, as you would like to think you are. So every so often you need to pause and reflect, and make adjustments as necessary. Now is one of those times.

My first, learned-in-childhood response to incidents such as I have described here is to suppress my anger, which is wrong. My second, more recently-learned response, is to lash out in anger as my father did, which is also wrong. What I need to learn how to do is ride out my first and second gut responses, and opt for a third one: a measured response which is still passionate but not overemotional, taking into account that there can be multiple perspectives to any situation, some of which might not be obvious to me at first (or even second) glance.

Life is a process, where you are usually presented the same lesson to learn, over and over again in different guises, until you finally learn it, and then the next lesson presents itself. So I can look at my responses to recent events which made me angry, and see them as learning opportunities.

Once again, please accept my apologies.