The world has been going a bit barkers with enforced isolation for over a year. There have been scholarly articles. The CDC came out with guidelines for coping with stress during COVID. I’d wager tens of thousands of articles ranging from institutions to personal experiences have been published or posted. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were more.
When COVID social distancing and isolation began I often quipped that I saw no change in my life. This is true. I quipped that I live in solitary confinement. I’ve stopped quipping. I was socially isolated before COVID, due to a perfect storm of idiotic happenings.
I am an introvert. I like my alone time. Even now, when someone like a maintenance man breaks my solitude by having the nerve to fix something in the apartment, I get impatient to be left alone. There is being alone, enjoying your me-time, and then there is the horrific reality of loneliness. The two couldn’t be more different.
I’ve lived in this town for several years. I know exactly zero people here. I have no living family anywhere. I have no one to call. I have no one to Zoom. If I have to have anesthesia for a medical procedure I have no one to drive me home, and this has been problematic many times, since I’m also too poor to use a taxi. When it comes up, often for medical appointments, the office worker makes me feel like a freak as they grill me about how one cannot possibly be that alone.
How the… heck… did this happen? I’ve been told I’m a good communicator, that I’m good around people, and many don’t think I’m a deep introvert. When I do go out I chat with the checker in the grocery line, I’ll make small talk at the doctor’s. I often make strangers laugh.
I moved to New England four, five? years ago. It was a desperation move to chase work. I knew no one here except a casual Facebook acquaintance who let me live in his basement while I looked for work here. (That didn’t end well, and I blogged about that horror as it was happening.)
I did get work, but kept getting laid off, outsourced, etc. I was days away from homelessness many times. I never connected with anyone I worked with—the work environments weren’t conducive to that. I had planned on doing the “find some groups for doing things I like” thing to see if I could connect with people. But the job situation kept being awful. Get a job. Lose a job.
I could have joined some groups, like a book group, but my thinking was that I didn’t want to go to the effort to be outgoing and people-y if I was just going to leave to move to a new location in a few weeks. That was a very real possibility. I didn’t want to find a friend only to lose a friend! Also I knew I was getting very depressed, and not only does one have very little energy for people-ing when depressed, but I knew that depressed me isn’t the most fabulous presentation for friend material. Me trying to be friendly when depressed would probably isolate me further, or so my reasoning went.
It was just a fluster cluck of things. I was was once again near homeless when I finally got notice that I was getting subsidized housing! In my mind that was going to change everything. I knew where I was going to live, and so I could invest time in groups without wondering if I was just going to move in a month. My life was stabilizing. Things were looking up. My physical issues were a problem, but not insurmountable. My friend from Canada came down and helped me move.
That was mid-March 2020.
He literally had to drop everything and scurry back home before the border closed.
And here I am. My physical issues are worse. There are no groups to join. There’s nothing. I have no living family. I have a few, very few long distance friends—and I just lost one very important one.
This kind of absolute isolation is the type that ruins one’s physical health. It is the kind that ruins one’s mental health. It scares the dickens out of me.