Pandemic Diary: April 6th, 2020

Today marks the start of my fourth week in self-isolation in my apartment, hunkered down with three months’ worth of all my prescription medications and at least a couple of months of food and supplies. I have run out of bread but I have started to bake; I have almost run out of milk, but I have three large bags of powdered milk in my pandemic supplies, which I have started to use.

CBC guidance on face masks (source)

Around six o’clock this evening, I decided to venture outside for only the fourth time since I began working from home on March 16th, 2020. My exotic destination was the nearest garbage bin. I tossed in my trashbag, and then wandered slowly back to my apartment, savouring the fresh spring air, listening to the gurgle and drip of melting snow, seeing the squirrels scamper from tree to tree, and hearing a woodpecker work away at a tree in the small forest behind my apartment complex.

My hand hesitated slightly as I reached for the (external) doorknob to my apartment, to come back inside. Then I faced a dilemma: should I wash my hands before removing my jacket? I decide to wash my hands, take off my jacket and scarf, then wash my hands again, just in case. Relentless handwashing has played absolute havoc with my eczema. (I spared an idle thought to those people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, who must be struggling mightily in these unprecedented days of pandemic. I am beginning to understand their levels of anxiety.)

It is only after I am seated in front of my personal computer again that I see the tweet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (above) in my Twitter feed, and I mentally kick myself for not having the foresight to wrap my scarf around my mouth and nose when I went out. After all, it is a “public space”, right? Of course, I equate “public space” with ANYWHERE OUTSIDE. The fact is, the outdoor space was completely deserted of people except for myself. But what about particles hanging in the air?, I think.

I firmly tell myself to GET A GRIP, that I should be more worried about droplets than particles, that I do not live in downtown New York City or Hong Kong or India or some other area chockablock with coughing, sneezing, infecting people.

I can feel my depression becoming slightly worse over time. I know that I am at high risk of a depressive relapse. However, I still force myself to get up every morning at 7:00 a.m., shower, get dressed, brew a large vat of black coffee, and sit down in front of my PC, log into my work email and the virtual reference chat software my library system uses to chat with patrons, and face whatever the day brings.

This morning, I didn’t realize until well after I had gotten out of the shower, dried off, and dressed, that I had somehow forgotten to wash my hair. I shrug—who’s going to see me with greasy hair?—and continue with my morning routine.


Just a few minutes ago, I learned from Dr. Fran on the RyanSchultz.com Discord (now up to 400 members, with more people joining almost every day) that U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19. Shit.

And I read another article about how the added stress of a global pandemic lockdown has led to worrying increases in reports of domestic abuse around the world.

And I realize that I, stuck alone in my apartment, I can do nothing about either of these things. I resolve, even more firmly, to avoid the news—all news. (Of course, that is impossible, but I am getting better at it these past few days.)

I had thought briefly about registering with the Public Health Agency of Canada/Health Canada as a COVID-19 volunteer, but I realize that, with my underlying health conditions that confine me to my apartment and put me at risk of a severe case of COVID-19 (not to mention my history of chronic clinical depression), that I would be a rather poor fit to the task.

I’m sad, I’m tired, and I wish this day were over.

UPDATE 7:13 p.m.: My friend Carlos sends me a direct message via Discord, right after I posted this blogpost, and we chat for a few minutes. He gives me his cell phone number and tells me to call anytime, and I in turn give him mine. Being an extrovert, I find that even a brief text chat cheers me up. He sends me a hug emoji and we part company. Thanks, Carlos!

So, feel free to drop me a line if you are on one of the many Discord servers that we possibly share. I’m always up for a text chat!

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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.

VRChat’s Popular Endgame Talk Show Will Focus on Mental Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic

On this blog, I have often written about Endgame, the popular, long-running talk show based in VRChat (here, here, here, and here).

Well. this coming Saturday, March 21st, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, Endgame is hosting a special episode, titled Coping with COVID-19: Dealing with the Stress of a Pandemic:

In a tweet sent out yesterday to promote the event, the organizers said:

Join us for a special Endgame episode in VRChat on Saturday: we’ll facilitate a support group to discuss how we can cope with COVID-19. It’s stressful to be isolated, but we can come together in social VR to navigate this pandemic. Saturday 3/21 at 11:00 a.m. PST @PsychNoah

PsychNoah is, of course, Noah Robinson (a.k.a. Psych; TwitterLinkedIn), a clinical psychology doctoral student at Vanderbilt University and the founder and CEO of Very Real Help, and one of the three regular hosts of the Endgame talk show in VRChat, along with Nomono and Poplopo.

Given how I have been struggling with both anxiety and depression during the coronavirus pandemic, I do intend to be in the studio audience for what promises to be a fascinating, wide-ranging, and educational discussion. Although users are urged to ask questions, you can also just sit back, watch, and listen, and enjoy something that is becoming ever rarer in the real world—being part of a crowd!

Endgame now has its own website, with and you are welcome to join their “Deep Thoughts” Discord server. You can also find all their previous weekly episodes on YouTube. See you on Saturday!

Editorial: Three Different Community Responses to a Coronavirus Pandemic

Panic Shopping: Australian shoppers fighting over rolls of toilet paper (source)

My distress, anxiety, depression, and anger over the coronavirus pandemic have not subsided since I received permission from my employer to work from home. My initial sense of relief proved to be very short-lived. I now worry that I might be tipping over into full-blown agoraphobia—afraid to leave the house for anything.

Even though we only have 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19 here in Winnipeg, I have postponed, then cancelled, my regular Friday night supper with my long-suffering, unflappable best friend John, and I have also cancelled my Sunday evening dinner with my mother and stepfather. In all cases, they understand and are sympathetic. As John said on the phone to me today, “You’re just Ryan.”—almost exactly what my supervisor at work told me earlier this week. (To steal a line from Games of Thrones: It is known.)

I do have a rather lamentable tendency to panic, overreact, and infect other people with my anxiety and depression. (I apologized to two coworkers yesterday for stepping out of bounds in my eagerness to warn people about the risks.) The problem is, of course, that we as a society have never faced such an unprecedented global public health situation like this before, so everybody is guessing at what the normal response should be. We are going to see a lot of people stressing out (and acting out) over this, I am afraid. Here is my constantly-updated list of mental health resources during a coronavirus pandemic.

Microbiologist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles (whom I am following on Twitter) has released a series of helpful animated GIFs which illustrate important concepts that the public need to grasp about this COVID-19 pandemic. I shared one of her GIFs in this March 10th blogpost, and below is a second, new one:

Basically, this picture shows three different community responses to a pandemic:

  • No collective response, which leads to a spike of cases that quickly overwhelms healthcare systems (as we saw in Hubei province in China, and now in Italy, where they are making life-and-death triage decisions for intensive care beds and ventilators);
  • A strong collective response, which “flattens the curve” to keep the total number of cases at any one time to within hospital capacities (this is the ideal response);
  • A strong, but only short-term, collective response, which only postpones the deadly spike of cases over time.

The situation in Italy is currently grim, and it should as a stern warning for other countries; we are not immune to a sharp spike in cases happening here, especially if there is community resistance to quarantines and the imposition of social distancing policies.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced the border restrictions that among the toughest in the world, in a country that so far only has seen only six confirmed cases of COVID-19:

Countries around the world continued Saturday to enact strict measures such as border closures and flight cancellations to combat the spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus.

That includes New Zealand, whose Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Saturday the government will implement a policy under which all travelers, even New Zealanders, must self-isolate upon their arrival in the country for 14 days starting Sunday at midnight.

Ardern said New Zealand, along with Israel and several Pacific Island nations, “will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world,” adding that she’s not making any apologies in this “unprecedented time.” All cruise ships will be banned from coming to New Zealand until June 30, as well. There are only six confirmed cases and no deaths attributed to COVID-19 in New Zealand so far.

Contrast this timely, science-based approach with the actions of the Donald Trump administration, which apparently tried to overrule Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations that seniors avoid airline flights and that they should remain at home as much as possible.

Donald Trump’s rambling, pompous, error-filled, and shambolic public pronouncements about the coronavirus crisis have done no favours to the U.S. populace. It’s very clear that Trump cares more about protecting industries such as cruiselines, airlines, and hotels, than he does about the U.S. citizens he was elected to protect.

The longer that the U.S. practices such poor risk communication to the public, the worse the overall reaction will be. Notice the levels of panic shopping now taking place all across the world? That’s a direct result of people being lulled into a false sense of security, suddenly triggered into panic mode. The “it’s just the flu” bros are waking up en masse, and ransacking grocery stores and pharmacies.

Like I said, welcome to the new normal.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

P.S. Please don’t worry about me; I am still seeing my psychiatrist regularly, and I am practicing good self-care at home, including taking breaks from the relentless news media coverage. To quote Gloria Gaynor: I will survive!