April 23, 2021

Everything we have Lost & Gained This Year: A Look at How the Pandemic has Changed our Lives.

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Lately, I’ve been struggling.

Well, actually, this whole year we’ve all been struggling, which is a huge understatement.

I’m Canadian but live in Dublin, Ireland and we’ve been in our third full lockdown since January. I’ve been able to bubble with another Canadian, and luckily, we’re now able to see other households outside. Things are beginning to look up.

But it’s been tough, and still is—being away from home, from my closest friends, and my family. Not being able to really progress with our lives in any way because everything is in a standstill.

Like many, my mental health has been at a low. There is no release from anything that’s going on internally, and when those dark thoughts come, it can be all-consuming. The last few months especially, I’ve had this pervasive, looming anxiety that won’t go away. And I know I’m not the only one.

In the grand scheme of things, I know I’ve had it pretty okay this pandemic. I didn’t lose my job; in fact, I have a job that pays me to read stories about other people’s experiences and to write an article like this.

No one close to me died from COVID-19.

I’m able-bodied; I can go for runs outside. I don’t have kids who are running around the house while I’m trying to work. And I do have people I can call and talk to when I feel lonely.

Many don’t.

We’re absolutely allowed to be struggling, in whatever our struggle is. We’re allowed to admit we’re having a hard time. But often, hearing other people’s struggles, putting your own situation into perspective, and giving back to the community in some way can help us out of our own darkness.

I asked friends and Elephant readers to share what has been hard this year and what they are grateful for. Here’s what they said:

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I always said I am an introvert and isolating will be great, but over the past months it’s been hard (mentally just having more time to be in my head), but also craving normal human connections. But I’m grateful to be working from home safely, and being able to interact with people who are open and honest about how they feel too—albeit it through Zoom or virtually. ~ Rasha A. 

 

Definitely grateful for my family, health, and honestly a lot of the little things (brief interactions, day-to-day tasks). I feel sadness for the lives lost in the past year, and for the people who are forever changed. This year has taken its toll on everyone. Whether it be through the isolation, financial hardships, burnout in healthcare workers, or anything else life has thrown at us in the past year. ~ Sara S.

 

 

I’m grateful for the fact the world slowed down for a while. Suddenly there wasn’t all this pressure to accomplish loads of things and move your life forward. It was more important to be happy in the moment. What I’ve found hard—definitely the fact I put on weight if I’m just looking at myself, and we were more isolated and couldn’t hug our loved ones, and it was difficult to meet new people. Bigger picture stuff, I found it really hard knowing that people were really isolated while suffering with their mental health, and there were so many women and children trapped in their homes with people who perpetrate domestic violence. ~ Aine B.

 

My life choices led to some regrettable realities—one being that the thought of ever leaving the US and seeing Europe (or really anything) was one of those things I was scared would never happen. I would lay dying someday feeling sad that it just never happened. Yesterday—because of crazy pandemic airfare and stimulus money—I bought a round trip ticket to Athens Greece. I feel like I’m dreaming. ~ Billy M.

 

Grateful for the pandemic kind of forcing me nearly to set up my business out of the whole “productivity pressure” of the start of lockdown! ~ Emily, B.

 

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The pandemic made me feel like my relationship with my partner was crumbling. I was feeling trapped and suffocated and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I thought it was from being in lockdown with my partner, when in reality, it was a reflection of how the whole pandemic and lockdown and seclusion from other friends and family was subconsciously impacting my mental health. Recognizing our feelings and not using our loved ones as a scapegoat for our anxieties was a big eye-opener for me. I was unaware I was upset from the pandemic and associated my anger and frustration with the only other change—my partner living with me. Even when we say “were OK, things are fine, I’m getting by” it can still subconsciously and unknowingly have a big impact. ~ anonymous

 

I just had to move my entire life to another state! It was really interesting to see the difference in how states in the US dealt with it. Life is practically normal in for people where I am, but back in NYC crime has risen, businesses have closed down, lots of people are out of work. Although I am sad to be away from my home and friends, I am grateful for this opportunity and it really has put perspective on the life I was living before. ~ Alicia M.

 

Two things I’ve definitely learned during this pandemic: 1. Get a flu shot every year, it’s not just about my health. 2. Donate blood. As a universal donor (0 negative), it’s easy and life-saving. ~ Lindsey B. 

 

Last July, three months into lockdown in New York State, I left my dream job for a work-from-home job as I was feeling extreme burnout trying to turn my community-based job into a desk job with covid restrictions. I joined New York states Covid 19 emotional support helpline as a crisis counselor and heard the stories daily of those struggling more than me. Helping them feel less alone helped me feel less bitter and helpless. Still working there today, finding daily gratitude in the stories of those I speak with. ~ Meagon N.

 

After 8 years of nomadic life, I was forced to be at one place. It was a comfortable place, one I’d known my entire life, the house I grew up in, family, dog…home. Initially, I accepted that it was time to have a base/be grounded. I had been looking for “home” in the year before that. But I had this profound realization that I am not. I am not looking for home. I am rootless. And I like that. It feels most true. 

I am most comfortable in my aloneness. I don’t thrive with too much human interaction. I always knew that. But it became so much clearer in this past lockdown year. And any residual fear that I could feel lonely in years ahead are gone. Again, a social construct that says that finally we are social beings and though we all enjoy some solitude, it isn’t sustainable as a long-term thing. I relate as a hermit. I have not experienced lockdown the way so many have—reduced interactions. For me, it increased, multifold. So much chatter. So much communication. I got a job where I have to work with a lot of people (two is a lot for me, 15 is crazymaking for me). I had molded my profession that I needed minimal interaction and if at all, one or two people at a time. I am at the end of my tether with communication, to the point where I just took an appointment with a therapist after 10 years of not needing any. ~ Sukriti C. 

 

I’ve always been a mix of an introvert and an extrovert with difficulties saying no and then feeling overwhelmed. Luckily I haven’t been impacted work-wise or financially during the pandemic, but I do feel it is shifting me more to the introvert side, and even when I have the options to do things I would “rather stay home” even though when I am out I am sooo happy. It’s going to be a hard transition back to normal. I am grateful for a slower pace and hopefully the newfound ability to set boundaries! ~ Cassie G.

 


 

The pandemic was one of the reasons I had to quit my job. It was also one of the reasons why I had to leave the city and my apartment behind. Overnight I had to pack up a few years of my success, or rather luck, into boxed burdens. It cut me off of an income and I thought I had lost everything. Heartbroken and broke, I left! However now when I look back a year later, there is a sense of gratitude. If not for the pandemic I would have not challenged myself to move from an unhappy life. My unhappiness lay within, but I thought alcoholism and dangerous liaisons would help me escape the pain. ~ Ann Z.

 

Isolated, my life on hold, wasting away my twenties, gaining weight, miss the feeling of “excitement,” lack of motivation…but grateful to have my job, a roof over my head, and a partner who loves me. And keep telling myself it’ll be over eventually! ~ Vanessa R.

 

Definitely struggling. Feels like solitary confinement on some days. I am still not ok with blurry boundaries between workspaces. Grateful for my daily, holistic practices, writing, and my tribe. ~ Sweta V.

 

The pandemic has made me really appreciate and be grateful and become more present in/of the natural world. Spending time outside with my dog (and husband! Lol), is the one place in public we don’t have to wear masks which is SO nice! It is so freeing and makes it seem like everything is almost how it was before. How it’s impacted me: I haven’t been able to teach yoga at work for over a year now (I taught at my workplace, part-time, alongside my full-time job), and also that being in public settings (like grocery stores, around lots of people) makes me anxious and stressed! I didn’t like grocery shopping before, and now even less! (In fact my husband has been doing most of the grocery shopping since the pandemic started, which is nice.) ~ Caitlin M.

 

 

I don’t know where to start…2020 has been a year of contradictions. I’ve lost many things. Plans, trips, financial stability. But I also received the most precious gift of all…time. Time to slow down, to check myself, to go back to myself and my truest dream. Time to write. And I wrote, mostly poems. But I also feel like I didn’t use all that free time in my benefit. I’ve wasted a good part of it…and I’m kinda in the same situation since the beginning of this year. I want to do so much stuff, to write more but I don’t always find my motivation. And there are days when I’m overwhelmed and all I do is sleep more than usual, watch series on Netflix or HBO, and maybe to read a bit. And yet, at the same time, I try to convince myself that is ok to have these days and I’m telling that I should be more gentle. ~ Simona T.

 

I found my writing again. Probably the only thing that motivated me to put myself out there was this—if I’m going to die anyway, it’s high time to live your dreams. And my hope are my kids—getting up each day even when you feel down and out and sharing life (all good and bad) with them. Hoping they will be good human beings. ~ Vinita M.  

 

I work in a school in close contact with many staff and students daily. This last week I was quarantined due to being in proximity to a student that tested positive. This is my second quarantine. Both times I have tested negative thankfully, but it is quite nerve-wracking mentally, thinking I may have it or be getting it and re-thinking who I have been in contact with and if I’ve passed it to them. I am also leery of so many people getting the vaccine and thinking it’s a cure-all. We just got an email from school about new variant strains that are more contagious. It is indeed anxiety-provoking. I am already an anxious person, but am wearing an extra layer of anxiousness around this pandemic. ~ Melissa S.

 

It’s changed me in some ways, yet I’m now realizing how much. And not sure it is for the better. I’m struggling to find the balance between life as I knew it to be, life now and life as it may become. Elephant Journal has become a life raft and one that I will stay connected to. The people that it’s brought into my virtual life have been my saving Grace. ~ Erin. M.

 

 

Our income was cut in half between yoga studio closures, less classes to teach once we reopened, my husband’s furlough then early retirement. Surprisingly, our life feels richer. More time to just be. Less opportunities to check out with mindless shopping. We play board games, take walks. We often say we can’t imagine the last year without our dogs. They bring such comfort and joy. Sadly, in the midst of the pandemic, my best friend of 40 years unexpectedly died. So I then experienced grief within grief. It’s been so hard. Writing is what has gotten be through it. When I feel completely untethered, each word I write feels like I am creating ground beneath me. I am learning to be oh so tender with myself especially when my mind jumps on the hamster wheel of how I should be doing better or more. I hope that tenderness is then extending to the world around me. The world definitely needs that. ~ Kim H. 

 

By removing so many external things from my life—ability to travel, to go out to restaurants, etc—the pandemic has dramatically reduced the possibilities for distraction and radically simplified my life. I can now be the bookworm I am at heart without any guilt, which has allowed me to deepen my understanding and vision in my work and personal growth. I have also understood how little we actually need for fulfillment and that we don’t really need all this choice of everything I thought I needed. It has forced me to rely less on external and find appreciation for what I already have; also find creative ways to connect with people. ~ Galina S.

 

I’ve been co-parenting with my kids’ dad since they were born pretty much, 50/50. He splits his time between a home in the UK and one in Spain, when the lockdown was announced last year, he bolted to Spain and I became a lone parent overnight as he literally refused to help physically or financially. I work full time, so it’s been an adjustment! Me two tween boys, one small cottage. Felt like a pressure pot 99% of the time with home school, work etc. However, my three saviours in this have been Nature. I’m now an avid walker, I literally recharge from it.

Books—I’ve read so many books on my wish list and learnt so much! They’ve also shaped many of my Elephant Journal posts. Writing—like so many others, this has been my escape. Also I reckon, got me through the worst times. ~ Rachael N.

 

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I’m not sadder than last summer, but I know I’m smiling less than I used to. Some days I cry. It’s overwhelming, the grief and the trauma and the pain. Others I’m just so damn angry about all the ways it didn’t have to be this bad that I cannot stay still—except, of course, I have to stay still because we’re in lockdown again and there’s nowhere to go. Others, when the stillness and the sameness dampen my brain, I go looking for reasons to be angry, doomscrolling through Twitter just to feel something vivid. A lot has just slipped away, too. Weeks, then months of trying to be grateful that I haven’t lost anyone yet, that I still have a job, that I’m still here. At least a year now of telling myself I can ignore the burnout because of all those things I have to be grateful for.

And lately, it’s all just, scary. Not only because of how fragile that luckiness is. But because there are real, grounded reasons to believe the storm could end. That hope scares me. And if it does come true, then what? What takes this weight’s place? I’m supposed to pick up the threads from before and just keep on going? First dates at coffee shops, drinking on park benches, sharing sweat with strangers at concerts. It all sounds f*cking great. And I don’t know if who I’ll be in that after is someone who can enjoy any of it still. That’s a bit sad and a bit dramatic, and when you distill it a bit further, there’s what I’m most grateful for, too: I’ve learned how to be alone—and I’m really good at it. Nothing scares me more, or brings me more peace, than that. ~ Thomas K.

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