The hidden ills of Covid-cloistering.

We all want the current Covid-19 crisis to end. It has been many months since life resembled the ‘normal’ that we once knew. The tragedy that has unfolded since we heard of the first cases in Wuhan approximates something from a post-apocalyptic novella. Data modelling and politicisation of the problem has us all on tenterhooks as we trawl through media and conversations. So, we just want it to end.

I must say unequivocally that I pray daily for an end to the infections, the fear, pain, loneliness, suffering and loss this catastrophe has brought to so many. I have been fortunate, living in a bubble of safety these past weeks, where I have had access to fresh food, water, warmth, security, connectivity and (reduced) income. We have not had to endure anything like many in Europe, the US and Asia and I am grateful every day for our health and safety. And I shudder at the fine line we all currently walk between life and death.

Our experience of lockdown has been shamefully easy – it has been somewhat stressful, uncomfortable, frustrating and inconvenient at times, but it has not been horrible.

We homeschool the children anyway, so having them around all the time was nothing new and, to be honest, it was a bit of a treat to not have to drive around for extra-curricular activities and commitments. We have missed seeing our family, friends, fellow parishioners being able to explore our beautiful surroundings. But to say it has been hard would be untrue.

And so it is with a sense of shame that I hang my head and say I have had a tough time today. I have been healthy and completely safe, but I spent a great deal of today in tears. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But those with anxiety know how any molehill can reach great heights without warning.

This is not life-threatening, and so must take its place squarely in the back seat during this crisis. It is an embarrassing problem (not because of any stigma associated with the mental health issue itself, but because it smacks of self-pity and pales in comparison with the real horrors facing communities right now). Still, I must admit it. It is part of my reality and I wonder whether it may be for many others too? Surely I can’t be the only one who is terrified of life returning to some kind of normalcy?

Life inside the bubble of social isolation has been so safe, so predicable, so easily controlled. And that’s what is so frightening about lockdowns being lifted and gatherings recommencing – not so much the prospect of having to resume commitments or making small-talk with others in the community (which, for someone with high-functioning anxiety is right up there with abseiling or jumping out of a plane). No, it’s that having been indulged with weeks of existing in a controlled and predictable environment (as predictable as it can get with two young kids) I now find the thought of losing that sense of security simply immobilising. It is terrifying and it is not just a possibility – it will happen. It must happen. Daily rigour must resume, economies must recover and our children must thrive.

If I gave in to the terror I would almost certainly become a recluse – I can see how easily it might happen. The bold, aggressively gregarious mask of my youth has perished over time and I admit that, having lost the will to overcompensate with loud abandon, I actually find it very difficult to be around others. (Understanding this now, at my advanced age, also helps me explain many of my very poor choices in les objets d’affections of yore. And some of them really do need explaining).

These are strange times and I could never have imagined feeling anything less than abject relief at the prospect of an imminent end to a global pandemic. But there it is. I know it will pass and I will grit my teeth and forge out of the house. I know I will be glad that I did, but I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I didn’t acknowledge the firm grip fear has on me right now.

I don’t think I am the only one, either.

Image by chezbeate from