It was 12:45 p.m. when I decided to take a walk.
I was going nuts being cooped up in my house. The walls seemed to be moving in on me. Air seemed to disappear as I struggled to breathe and I needed to get out.
I rushed to the door, burst through it, and sneezed immediately. I could see the pollen blowing by in yellow puffs. I was determined, so I put one foot in front of the other until I walked around the block. I noticed a few neighbors doing yard work. They were out pruning dead trees’ branches, raking up the brown grass, and others were picking up trash blown into their yards. They all seemed content being outside, and I had to wonder if their walls were crushing them as well.
As I walked by each of my neighbor’s yards, they waved to me, and I waved back. As I turned the corner the road started downward. I picked up my pace with the downward hill pushing me faster. My arms were now pumping at my side. I could hear my blood pulsing in my ears. Sneeze! Stupid pollen. A dogwood in full bloom. So beautiful sunning itself in the golden afternoon sunlight. The petals appeared as if they were on fire. It was magical to witness.
I looked around to see if anyone else noticed the magic show spring was putting on for us. Sadly, they were all still doing their yard work. Sneeze. My sinuses now feeling like a thousand bees stinging. My feet now hurting from not wearing my sneakers. Sigh! Almost home. A few more houses and there she is my one-story brick home. I own her. Sneeze. Time to go back inside, full on sinus pain now, back to the four walls that contain me.
Managing this feeling of my walls closing in on me has been a ginormous issue for me. The constant suffocation, the loss of connections, the community I once had, all gone.
My anxiety has grown exponentially through this confinement. I feel like I have been thrown into a jail cell and the door slammed and locked behind me. I manage to shower and still go to work, but the damage of my confinement is done to my psyche, and my mental health is fragmented. I feel like I am no longer mentally whole. I have been broken down and now I lay in pieces scattered on the ground. I feel like we are all in this confinement together until I see someone not being safe.
My mental health has turned to crap. I trust no one now. My mind is stuck in its own confinement. I miss being a trusted person. By nature, I am a happy, friendly person who loves smiling at strangers, now I keep people far away physically and emotionally.
Now, who knows who is smiling behind these masks.
We are all behind a wall that blocks our facial expressions. We are struggling to read people’s eyes. Our connection to society has been fragmented into a before and during, and we still do not know the after. We are still in the thick of things. Our walls have been reinforced to keep the virus and people out of our lives.
We do drive-by birthday parties. That is the new norm.
We visit through windows of nursing homes, Zoom meetings to see people, stay in our homes as much as we can, and yet we still feel unsafe. Lord forbid, we need to go to the emergency room or urgent care; our hearts race when we think of all the things we can be exposed to.
What is now thought of as the new normal, is not normal. It is how we are adapting to survive through the chaos right now. We are all in the same boat and just trying to keep it afloat.
As we move forward, we can make things better for ourselves. One thing that has helped me cope with this craziness is working on art. I have also worked on writing, hiking, and eating healthier. Perhaps you have found something that works for you like needlepoint, painting, or something else. Maybe learning to cook new foods or making healthier choices.
Since we are in our homes more, we concentrate more on our own microcosms world. I feel that is not a bad thing. It gave us the time to figure out what is truly important. In essence, this time was a gift, and we got to choose how we used it.
My mental health during this time of confinement—well, banishment, really—has dealt with debilitating depression. It is a struggle to get out of bed, much less get out of my own head. Eating healthy became a struggle. My emotions took over and I fell into a period of total misery. I knew I needed to keep my job so that was the only thing managed to do. Work, home, repeat! I thought of seeking a therapist but was over-daunted in making the decision of who to see.
I sank deeper and deeper, and my walls again closed in on me.
Then, my bloodwork came back with not-so-good news, and I realized I needed to start walking to get better control of my health. Walking three miles every day helped. I got to see other people wearing masks walking. I smiled even if they could not tell.
Getting back out in the world was the change I needed. I found the perfect trail to hike with water meandering through the woods. I started with a mile and worked my way to those three miles. I held my core. I brought water. Sometimes, I listened to nature. Sometimes, I put in my headphones; either way, I was outside my walls, and I was walking. I felt free, if only for this brief period.
I turned inward as well and realized my writing, hiking, painting, sketching are the things that are important to me. Exploring art has allowed me to have inner calmness—if only during the period in which I create. Even that respite is thoroughly needed. I turned to the Internet to teach me to watercolor, to friends for peer edits of writing pieces, to a fellow painter on instructions on where to start.
Art was my therapy while confined in these walls.
There are so many great new things to learn thanks to the Internet that it allowed me to see people, learn new things, and feel like I was a part of something again.
The fresh air did my physical body good. I lost 40 pounds from walking. Then, I changed how I ate and went vegan. I put avocado on my sandwiches. I made vegetable fajitas. I learned what helped with keeping up my energy in both body and mind.
The fog started leaving me; the darkness let light in; I was back in the world. I was going to be okay.
I needed the doctor’s news to push my wall over. My mental health is still not 100 percent okay. I believe it will take us all a long time to recover mentally from the shock of all of this. I still have anxiety over things I did not have before, but I am off the couch, I am moving my body, which allows my mind to relax and lighten up.
Each day is another step forward to having our bodies and minds whole.
Every day we get to choose how to live our one precious life.
My goal in all of this chaos is to be healthy mentally and physically, and then knock down my walls one by one and reconnect with my people again.