This post is not easy for me to write. Let me start with that.
But I feel like I have to write it. Both for my own therapy and also for the chance that maybe one person in the world will read it and know they are not alone.
This is not my usual blog. No pictures, funny videos, or 80’s references. Just my words. Thank you for reading it and for not judging me by the words on this page.
I am a social creature.
I know some people say that they are extroverts, but I’m truly a person that gets energy from crowds. I love crowds so much that one month ago, in the wake of SXSW getting cancelled, I ponied up my own money to host an event with those educators stuck in town.
Yes, it was a risky move. Yes, I got lucky that none of the 100 or so people from various countries in attendance was sick. But for me, it was absolutely exhilarating. I loved playing host, interacting with people from different parts of the world, and discussing how to help education during this troubling time.
That was a month ago. It seems like a year ago.
Since then, I’ve tried to stay preoccupied with house chores, helping teach the girls, creating content to help others, and walking the dog. My god, I’ve walked the dog more than she ever wanted to be walked.
I do all of this to keep my mind from traveling to a dark place.
You see, I quit my “day job” last summer to become a full-time public speaker and consultant. I know, bad timing. I’ve been able to do some work as a virtual consultant and writer, but I truly do miss the crowds. And I don’t see them coming back anytime soon.
So, without that social energy my heart craves, my mind starts traveling to dark places.
The mental health aspect of this Coronavirus pandemic is something that should not be understated. I’m lucky that I have a house and loving family. I know that. I appreciate that every day. Yes, we are worried like many others when it comes to finances, but we aren’t worrying about our next meal like many others.
But that doesn’t stop my mind from thinking the worst.
Depression is like the virus that’s causing this in that it’s an invisible disease. It invades the mind and doesn’t make any sense to the person it’s attacking. One moment, the sun is out, then the next moment a dark cloud appears.
My energy is draining. I miss the crowds.
Zoom happy hours, playing online poker with friends, and waving at neighbors I’ve never seen when we are out walking are nice. They are all temporary upticks of joy, but they are not the crowds.
Going Pokemon hunting with the kids is fun. It’s a nice distraction, but it’s not a room full of educators eager to learn, listen and laugh alongside me.
People that know me probably think of me as ‘fun-loving’ and light-hearted. People that really know me also know that I can sometimes push people and their thinking. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing that very thing. Pushing people on Facebook to think and ask questions about what was happening and how we were all handling it. Part of it was to gain understanding and part of it was because I needed to believe that there was a way out of this.
That completely backfired. People that I know and love got pissed at me for asking questions and pushing a bit. I don’t blame them. We are all unsure and scared about what is happening.
I handle uncomfortable situations with humor. Always have and always will. It’s both a defense mechanism and a way to diffuse intense situations. That might work well in person, but not so much on a Facebook feed. After a few days of having this backfire on me, I realized Facebook was not helping me. I had a love/hate relationship with it. It kept me connected socially, but it also depressed me with every graph or grim report I saw posted. It was time to delete Facebook and take a break.
Call it practicing “social media distancing” for lack of a better phrase.
So where do we go from here? There’s glimmers of hope in the news, but honestly, I’m not watching any more. The other day someone posted a rant on Nextdoor about someone going to the store for a gallon of paint. They tore the guy to pieces over it. I thought in my head, what if that gallon of paint represented a project to keep his mind occupied? What if it was that or relapse into a bad drinking habit? Or depression? Or suicide? I know we are all very sensitive and scared right now at the immediate threat facing all of us, but let’s not forget to have some empathy.
And I don’t mean empathy in the “I’ll go get my older neighbors some toilet paper” or “I’m applauding the health care workers”. These are things we should be doing on a normal basis. I’m talking about empathy for the friend or family member that might be in rough spot mentally, but is going to great lengths to hide it.
My kids don’t notice how I’m feeling. I hide it well and try to keep them laughing, but they can tell something is off. My wife is much more perceptive and she’s known me for over 20 years. She can tell the stress is building in me while she has her own stresses protecting the family from this virus. She doesn’t want any of us leaving the house, but also knows me well enough to know, I have to get out to stay somewhat sane. I’ve adapted and only done so when we need something. I wear a mask, wash my hands, and clean off anything I purchase. I figure being inconvenienced by a mask and cleaning off a bit is well worth the trip out of the house. That said, I hope this gets over soon.
I miss the handshakes.
I miss the hugs.
I miss the crowds.
For those of you out there also traveling to dark places from time to time through this, know that you are not alone. You have a friend out there who knows what you are going through. And one day, I hope we’ll meet up and share a laugh over all of this.
Because without laughter, this can get pretty damn depressing.