The Lasting Effects of Quarantine

Throughout this whole ordeal I’ve been fairly vocal about mental health and quarantine. I believe that while this whole thing may be better for the physical health of us, it’s been detrimental to so many people’s mental health. Even people who don’t struggle with mental health issues are bound to be feeling the effects of ten weeks in quarantine now, and those of us who do have issues have been struggling for some time. Good and bad days, highs and lows. We’ve had to make our own ways of coping and getting through. But now, the return to semi-normalcy is going to produce a new challenge for us, reintegrating into society.

As countries around the world slowly start coming back to life, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it will be like when we’re “released” onto the world again. I wish I could believe it will be the same as before; flitting in and out of shops, lunching with friends in a cafe and hitting the gym for morning yoga classes. But I fear that, at least for now, it won’t be that way. The strict rules places will have to follow after the “loosening” up of lock down means that even when we’re “free” to go about and do our shopping, the shadow of quarantine won’t be far off our minds. Every where we look there will be reminders, masks here or giant marks on the floor there to remind you not to get too close. Clear plastic dividers will remain between us and our cashiers. It’s all too surreal for me to even comprehend sometimes. And in a way, I wonder if just hiding at home would be better. But we can’t do that, life needs to go on, we need to work again, play again, hug again.

For me, on top of my GAD and PTSD, I struggle with crowd anxiety. I like to joke it’s because I’m short and can’t often see over people when I’m in a crowd, but that’s actually pretty accurate. Being pressed in on and unable to escape places causes me to have panic attacks. So in that sense, quarantine has been good. No crowd induced attacks in two months! And I joke, but this is a real thing. And I fear that it’s going to get worse for those who suffer. When my husband moved back to America from Okinawa, he (a non mental health issue sufferer) had an anxiety attack at his first night out at a bar in LA. There were more people in that club than he’d seen in one place for most of his time in Japan. And I imagine that is how it’s going to be for all of us. Stuck in our homes seeing no one but those that live with us, or maybe no one else at all, our brains are no doubt going to be overloaded when we’re finally in crowds again. I have no idea how I could possibly prepare myself for such a thing, other than to just be aware that it’s coming.

Furthermore, on top of the possible crowd anxieties and the constant reminder that you must stay away physically from your friends, neighbors, fellow shoppers by six feet, there is the residual guilt trips people are bound to give. People love to give unsolicited advice about wearing a mask, where you can grocery shop, your health, risks you’re taking with your own body. It’s all very overwhelming in normal times, and much more so in times like these. You never know what is going on in someone else’s head. Your snarky remark or so called “advice” might linger with them for hours or days. It might be the trigger that causes an attack or sends them spiraling. You just don’t know. It’s because you don’t know how your words will affect others that I come to you today with this plea: do what you can to help those with mental health issues.

If you see someone who looks like they might be having an anxiety attack, see if there’s anything you can do to help. Or if you know someone who suffers, ensure them that you’re there to help if you can . Often we don’t know and can’t physically help someone who is in the throes of an attack, but what we CAN do is ensure we don’t add to the stress. If you’re in a location where masks are optional, don’t spew hate at someone who isn’t wearing a mask. If you are in a place where people are allowed to travel again but you don’t feel safe to, don’t tell others they shouldn’t be traveling. In general, and I’ve said this before at the beginning of quarantine, just don’t offer unsolicited “advice.” We’re all adults and we are all doing the best we can. Your way might be different from mine, and that’s okay.

The effects of quarantine are going to be seen for a while after freedom is granted both economically and socially. But let’s do our best to support each other without overwhelming each other.

Until we meet again,

Love from the Farm.

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