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 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!

Editorial: Mourning The Potential Loss of a “Normal” Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic

Am I going to have to wash my hands for 20 seconds, and avoid touching my face,
for the rest of my life? (Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash)

There is a small subReddit community (4,600 members) called r/COCID19_support. The creator states in the welcome message:

It had come to my attention that a lot of news about the epidemic had been causing spikes in anxiety and problems with people’s mental health, which really exacerbates the problem.

And with more and more cities going into in lockdown and more people forcing quarantines it seems that mental health is CRITICAL at this point in time. So hence comes this sub.

We offer non-judgemental peer support, not necessarily professional advice. You can check out rules and guidelines for more.

People have written all kinds of posts, talking about all kinds of problems they are having in trying to cope with a coronavirus pandemic, but one writer in particular made me realize something profound about this coronavirus pandemic: that we have no idea what could happen, how our lives could change, or how long that change would last.

That person wrote:

I think I’m experiencing grief over what I see to be the surety of loss of “normal” life as we know it, at least for an unknown period of time in the future.

I saw an ad on my Facebook timeline – ‘Wicked’ is going to be playing in Des Moines this July. (Well, at least it’s scheduled for then).

I don’t think I’ll get to ever see ‘Wicked,’ or if I do, it might be years from now.

IF the cast continues to tour, IF the theaters are still even open then, would I even feel safe enough to go anywhere with a crowd?

Now multiply that by any future events – even seeing a movie at the local theater. Concerts. Shopping malls. Going out to dinner. Visiting with family or friends?

How long until we’re restricted from driving around the country?

When will travel be safe again? I really enjoyed cruising, I enjoyed going by airplane, train, or even bus sometimes. I enjoyed seeing other countries and tourist spots.

Judging just by what I see other places going through, this virus isn’t only affecting if people live, get sick, or die. It will change our entire way of life.

I’m sad because I already see what I’ll be missing, and I don’t know if that will be for the rest of my life or for how long.

At age 56, signifcantly overweight, and with three underlying health conditions (hypertension, asthma, and type II diabetes), I am at risk of a severe reaction to SARS-CoV-2 infection. I’ve prepared as best I can; I’ve stocked up on all my prescription medications for three months, and stocked up on non-perishable food and even some over-the-counter medications if I should get sick. (Yes, I even stocked up on toilet paper.)

But now I realize that, according to the latest advice put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, I am going to have to avoid going out—to restaurants, to movies, to pretty much anywhere where I could encounter crowds or be potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19. Basically, I’m going to be going to work, and every so often to the local grocery store and drug store…and that’s pretty much it.

Screencap from the CDC coronavirus website

I have made some bad choices in my life (notably, not taking my need to lose weight seriously, which has led to my problems with hypertension and diabetes) and I have had some bad luck with genetics (notably, my lifelong asthma and depression).

And it would appear that that particularly unlucky combination of circumstances might just lead me to stay stuck in my apartment during a coronavirus pandemic, terrified of getting severely ill, and possibly even dying, from a minuscule virus that started halfway around the world.

SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (Wikipedia)

It is a very discomforting and depressing thought.

I might not be as emotionally or mentally prepared for this as I like to pretend I am. God, I wish I had a crystal ball, just to see what is going to happen, tonight. To me. To my friends and family and coworkers. To all of us.

I wish I had a crystal ball…