I’ve been wanting to write this letter for a long time now, or so it seems. How long has it been since I was last in the presence of a dear friend? I think St. Patrick’s day it was. Yes, that was it. We risked going to IHOP just for the luxury of green pancakes topped with Lucky Charms cereal.
There were few customers that morning, an unusual sight, and the tables didn’t come preset with silverware or advertisements for whatever their next special was going to be. There wasn’t the usual spread of various flavors of syrup or containers of salt and pepper next to different packets of sugar and sugar substitutes. The tables were empty and we weren’t allowed to sit down until it been thoroughly sterilized. The staff was down to the bare minimum as well.
The Sunday before, I’d gone to the Renaissance Festival. No one seemed scared then. They just went on with their jolly antics and elaborate costumes. Ded Bob made a joke about selling toilet paper for $100. On the way home, I stopped at the Starbucks that was still open but had stopped the use of reusable cups. So much for helping the environment. But my Starbucks still gave me the discount because they knew I usually brought my own cup for the earth and for the 10 cents off.
But when Wednesday rolled in, everything changed. The final two weekends of the Renaissance Festival were canceled. Inside-dining everywhere was canceled. And we were all told to stay home. And, if we absolutely had to go out (for groceries or medical appointments), we were to wear masks and maintain social distancing of 6 feet. We were told especially to protect the most vulnerable (people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly, like my parents). That meant my sister and I had to pick up a few extra chores. I’d be the one who’d risk going out. She’d be the one to take the safer route and order in.
Of course, I knew ordering in wasn’t safe for those making the deliveries. I knew that convenience came at a cost (and possibly a deadly cost at that). It was clear that people we needed the most were the ones who hadn’t the luxury of staying home. That irony escaped some members of my family, but not me.
Lucky I’d bought a box of masks during flu season a couple years back. Lucky Dad already had a habit of buying toilet paper each time he went to Costco so we had some stocked some up already. We could handle the shortages for longer than most.
Now for exercise. I tried running for about two weeks before the shin splints came back and I decided walking in the evening, just as the sun was beginning to set, was enough. Even in the cooler afternoons of March and April the midday sun was too much for me. My favorite walks are the ones during which I get to talk on the phone with a friend. That way I can imagine we’re walking together and feel less alone.
And what did I do with my days?
Sleep, mostly. I tried to read but it fatigued me. I tried to set my alarm for early and ended up involuntarily hitting the snooze button until it turned off indefinitely.
At least things were happening in my sleep. I was dreaming one dream after another after another. My dream life was exciting! My waking life was boring.
My family heard me cry. I couldn’t hide it from them. They saw that my tears were real and tried to help. Playing Scrabble helped. Eventually word searches would eventually help. But what was I to do when I felt so tired and unmotivated and useless most of the time?
I even used the word jealousy to describe how I felt! They all were doing things with their time. But not me. Why was I so lazy? I was fading away from humanity. If the virus didn’t get me my own idleness would.
God! Why do I have to feel so useless!
My dear someone, anyone, perhaps you should know. I have bipolar disorder and had only had my second major manic episode ever seventeen years after the first. It was in December of last year, about four months ago. The depression was bound to return with or without a lockdown. But the lockdown robbed me of my favorite escapes: coffee shops and libraries. Now where was I to go when the feelings overwhelmed? Who was I to tell? How could I find peace?
Dad said I probably was struggling more than the other family members, given my mental illness history.
That’s right! I’m also the only one in the family who is desperately missing hugs from friends! We are not a hugging family and touch deprivation is real. A hug from a friend would mean the world to me right now!
We have a cat who sleeps on my bed during the day now. He’s really my sister’s cat but at least he’s here to keep us entertained. He let’s us pet him and pick him up while he purrs in perfect contentment. I love him. Maybe that’s why I’ve been dreaming of having another pet. Mom wants a dog. We lost our dog last November and every once in a while I think I see him, but it’s not him. It’s a hair dangling in front of my eye or something. It’s my longing for someone to care for who cares for me too – maybe even someone I can call “my beloved.”
Sleep is my escape even now only now is night, the time when most people sleep, with a few exceptions. For somewhere someone, maybe you or someone you know, is lying in a hospital bed, scared, touch-deprived, and in the care of nurses and doctors who are also scared but doing their job as best they can, saving lives in a chaotic world, fighting an illness we still know so little about.
I will sleep safe tonight. For those who can’t sleep safe tonight, the best I can do is pray.