Hello, today is day 18 of being in the house for the next, basically, forever. How’s that going? Well, the being in the house part seems fine. I like my house. I like my things. I like walking around without pants and I like flopping down on various surfaces in my house (which are all covered in blankets because as we’ve established this is my house).
Somehow time passes quickly and I have plenty of people to talk to and plenty of movies to watch and books to read. Life feels the same in a lot of ways because I’ve been living a fairly simple life for a long time. I live a life that doesn’t ask much of others and which allows me many methods to obtain joy and happiness. However, I long for the woods and the sea and all the outside world. I console myself by watching the world from my browser window and I contemplate what was so wrong with me that I didn’t enjoy them until they were absorbed completely inside of me before this ordeal. As if I didn’t appreciate them correctly so they were stolen from me even if that’s not quite the case being inside for nearly three weeks has made me poetic and melancholy about the outside world.
It seems a bit dire to just stay inside your house but my husband is severely immunocompromised. Thankfully he was asked to work from home exactly a month ago today and he’s gone out only once since then. I have stood at my husbands hospital bed and thought it was the end three times already. I have had enough of that to last a lifetime so we’ll stay inside because there is no need to tempt fate.
If you don’t know I’m in a quite funny position. Privileged at the same time as being vulnerable. And though I don’t mind being inside and have had plenty of people to talk to, plenty of things to do, and plenty of hugs, I am a neurological wreck. That’s not a new state for me but it’s been an interesting experience in these times because funny enough I went to therapy on and off for most of my life to get rid of the behaviors people are doing during this pandemic.
I nearly died from being unable to regulate the behaviors people are linking videos to. Are suggesting. Are listed on a CDC site. Every day for days on end has been waking up inside of a nightmare I might have designed to torture myself. A personal “No Exit” scenario if you will.
There is something ironic in the fact that people have always been very kind in making sure you know the content of a video might contain rape, or suicide, or death, but who would think to ever warn you about a video about hand washing? Absurd.
And it isn’t like I can’t handle myself or that I expect trigger warnings. There’s just some sort of mental wall that falls down when you’ve spent years of your life trying not to wash your hands as part of your treatment and suddenly every 10 minutes someone reminds you to wash your hands. Internal demons made manifest. Hushed and secret repetitive thoughts turned voiced. All justifying me. All validating the things that have ruined my life.
“You were right! You’re always right!” says my goblin brain. “And if you were right about this, what else were you right about!?” screams the dark horrible part that wants to extrapolate bad data. What if all those intrusive thoughts about other things were right too? It’s a slope.
This pandemic hits me personally because I’ve struggled with hand washing as a coping mechanism for fears about germs and infection but also because I worry about contamination of others, of inadvertent harm. I’ll be fine personally (statically) if I get sick, but it could kill my husband. I worry about making him or other people I love sick by making a mistake. By not taking enough care. And worse yet, I worry that this will cause me to lapse into life destroying levels of obsessive behaviors again. I worry that when I do (if I do) fall into that hole I am never getting out, never getting back to even this level of function. I was already struggling with that. Every day. Before there was a pandemic where if you step outside those fears have an out sized chance of become realities. Being outside is a risk of doing some inadvertent harm to others, even if you do everything right.
I have been outside twice since the 11th of March. Both times to buy food (and medicine). Which makes it sound very Resident Evil. It isn’t. It’s quite banal from a meta view of things. Except that every time I leave the house I have a full blown panic attack and when I get back to the house I basically strip all my clothes off, take a shower, and then wipe everything in house with cleaner and spend the next 12 hours terrified to touch anything.
It’s college all over again.
I don’t really say that to be glib. I spent most of my time in college being absolutely incapacitated by my mental illness and in the end, I don’t think many or most people knew.
Part of me think it’s quite selfish, or at least self centered to talk about this stuff as if it’s important since there’s people actually dying, people with “real problems” but on the other hand I spent a very lonely lifetime struggling with my OCD and most people either brushing it off or being just generally unaware of it. I have a way of making myself invisible in a sense. Of minimizing myself.
It’s not hard when you’re small to make yourself disappear like that. Especially when you grew up putting other people first because other people in your life had more dire problems than you. And it’s hard in a society where you know people with worse problems than you to not just decide “oh that’s a real problem, my problem is a fake problem.”
My husband never makes light of the issues I have even though I always use his illness, his problems, as an excuse not to address my own. To make myself smaller in his shadow if I want it. After all, he IS the vulnerable one. He’s the guideline regulated one. I’m simply a person who can’t get their head on straight (I tell myself to minimize myself).
I’m unsure what the benefit of telling people is. I usually am pretty forthcoming with people that I have OCD and that I struggle with it (and depression and anxiety in general and suicidal ideation though sometimes I think they’re all the same animal, I’m that same animal, chasing its own tail). But since I usually just kind of manage on my own or vaguebook and because I tend to just look vaguely happy at any given time people tend to kind of just gloss it over. Which is fine, I rather like that personally. I don’t really want attention.
But I thought if you were struggling in way that maybe didn’t have to do with the actual factual part of just being in a house most/all of the day you might commiserate about those sorts of anxieties I have had about the state of my mental illness or the impact of these vague anxieties about hurting people by accident or even if you’re having trouble with ritualization and compulsion.
It’s always good not to be alone. And you’re not. You’re not alone. I’m not alone either.
I know people want to help but I’m not sure anyone can specifically do something to help me. The best we can all do is just endure. Follow health guidelines without going overboard. Don’t shame yourself for moments of human weakness. Get enough food and water and sleep. Read news and feeds for very limited parts of the day. Distract yourself. Vid chat, phone chat, talk to other humans.
Find something you love, and love it.
It isn’t perfect and there are no instant cures for the kind of soul sickness that this type of problem presents us but it doesn’t have to perfect, it just has to get you through this. And we will get through this.