Am I depressed, or just sad?
I am finding it hard to take joy in the everyday things that come my way; things don’t please me the way they once did; food doesn’t taste as good (yes, I have a sense of taste!) and I find most experiences draining rather than energizing.
I don’t think that I am clinically depressed. I get out of bed, I keep myself clean and well groomed, I carry out all the daily tasks of housekeeping and get to work (relatively) on time. I sleep no worse than usual, I am empathetic to the needs of others, I am generous (sometimes) and giving (often, mostly in the form of baked goods).
I think my deenergizing is due to the lack of a sense of future. I have little to look forward to; no trips planned, no relatives scheduled to join us from the States and now a bleak period of winter setting in, limiting my already limited social outlets.
I feel like a horse in a corral, going round and round, going in a circle with no discernible start or finish. Because of the lockdown and the closing of all educational institutions, the number of children scheduled for evaluation is way way down. I am a speech pathologist in an early childhood development center. I usually do an average of 25 evaluations a week. As of today, I have only done one(!) with two more scheduled for tomorrow. Time does go slower when you aren’t having fun and the children usually jolt me tremendously with their positive energies.
My house has been filled; my son-in-law and (pregnant!) daughter have moved back home until their new apartment is constructed. My oldest child, also a daughter, has moved back home temporarily to avoid the isolation of the current lockdown. Yet , as much as I love them and love having them with us, we all seem to deplete rather than augment the energy flow in the house, it often feels like our presence repels one from the other. Sometimes I feel reduced to cooking, serving, cleaning and repeating…I try to surprise my housemates with meals that they will get excited about, especially spoiling my pregnant baby who has many varied cravings. Usually I am disappointed in their reactions to my culinary efforts; they come and they eat but there is no (energizing) exclamation of surprise or appreciation.
My social interaction outside of the house has been severely limited. We are permitted to leave our homes for a distance of 1000 meters, for the purpose of exercising. My husband and I used our vacation time for a daily morning constitutional, walking for an hour each morning and complaining,(I admit mostly I did the complaining!) about muscle aches and pains, for the following two. But it was fun, a change of air, of scenery, and definitely of pace.
There is little framework for meeting friends, even those living in the neighborhood. The men get together for makeshift minyons on almost every block in the community. I have tried calling my friends to sit on the benches in the playground and chat while the husbands pray. My suggestions have received limited positive replies.
I seem to lack motivation for projects. During the first lockdown, I cleaned parts of my house that I haven’t seen or touched in 20 years! My oldest daughter was with me and we tackled the big ones, getting way down and dirty. Now I feel a sense of inertia. Things are “good enough”.
I have crafts projects that I want to try, to continue or to complete but lack the drive to get started on them. I find it easy to fall into the deepening wells of the internet, YouTube and Facebook, mindless pursuits that burn minutes with little return.
I have returned to my job, I am considered essential personnel, and as such have a permit to travel during this lockdown. It is good for my mental health; it gives me a daily routine. I get up , get dressed, made up and out. The only catch is that the kids are not showing up. Either the family is quarantined, or a family member is ill, or they are afraid of exposure to the disease. I don’t really want to chat with co workers, we speak, but briefly, masked and at a distance.
So how does one keep their sanity during such insane times? What can one do to avoid depression, inertia, apathy? Well, the one thing I have found is that the more time you have to think the less actual thinking you do. So I made a conscious effort to do something cognitive. I have recently completed a Level One course in hypnotherapy. The course, by the way, was amazing, well presented, scientifically based and extremely fascinating. It gave form to my week and something to look forward to. Connections were made, with new friends from around the world, via Zoom. I delved deeper into the topic, watching YouTube videos (hey, this time it WAS an intellectual pursuit!) and reading articles about the various topics we covered in the course. I started downloading nonfiction material to my kindle and am reading an absolutely incredible book about SuperLearning and sound therapy.
I heard that many people came to similar conclusions, and spent a great deal of time baking, cleaning and straightening up the house. Did that too.
My go-to response for the blues is to find some way to help someone else. I have started baking challot weekly; firstly to be able to partake of this special feminine mitzva and beseech God to heal us from this plague. Secondly, I distribute the challot (which are objectively pretty tasty!) to others who may need a little gesture to brighten their day. I try to find out who is quarantined, who is ill and to bake something fun and comforting for them; like cupcakes with unicorn sprinkles or that gold standard of comfort baked goods, chocolate chip cookies. I usually do not want contact with people at risk for getting sick so I ring their doorbells and run, texting them that the treats are from me. I got an extra kick when one family absolutely could not guess who the treats were from, even though I used the exact packaging and ribbon as the previous delivery 48 hours earlier.
I decided that I should use the time to do the things that I said that I would do if I only had the time….so I have started quilting. Again, YouTube is an amazing resource, and I have watched beginner videos on how to create a baby quilt out of fabric squares for my (not too) soon to be born grandchild. I have not yet reached the stage of attempting homemade pasta, that is something I really hope to delay until retirement!
The biggest way I find to avoid the corona blues is to connect with my faith and spirituality. The fear that chases me is that there is no where to go, nowhere to hide. I can’t take a vacation from corona, I can’t escape to an island untouched by the disease. On the flip side of this fear is the realization that there is no place to go and no place to hide because this is exactly the way God has decided that things should be, right now, for me and for everyone else.
When I have time for deeper, more philosophical introspection, I think that the fear of death is the most basic, most fundamental fear and that most of us deal with it by denying it. I comfort myself by reminding myself that I have no clue as to where my essence dwelled during all the thousands of years of history before my birth. I can only assume that my soul will be going back to that same place and hey, I don’t remember it being too bad the last time around. And, more seriously, we are all going to be dead a lot longer than we will be alive! So once I get the fear of death off the table, I can surrender my life and the course of it to the Higher Power, whom I believe has all of our best interests at heart, and has the supreme knowledge to know what is the exactly perfect thing for each and every one of us at every given moment.
Things will change. This is the nature of the world, nothing stays the same, not even for a second. Sometimes we have to learn to just be in the minute, and sometimes that is the hardest thing of all. So in this time of Coronoa, I want to try to embrace this period that has been gifted to me and to use it for my benefit, not my grief. I want to appreciate the time out and use it to turn inward, to stop fighting the limitations and learn to love the freedom that Corona grants me.
May it be a healthy healing winter for us all.