I was borderline agoraphobic when I was in my late twenties. Hold up. Wait. back up. When I was a kid (stop groaning, yes, we do need to go back that far), I had no friends. I was a fat, socially-awkward, intelligent Asian girl in a very white suburb. My home life sucked as well, and I first thought about suicide when I was eleven. But even before then, I wanted to die. I didn’t like anything about life which has continued to this day. Wait. Back up again. I don’t want it to sound like every moment of my life is terrible. It isn’t. For the most part, it’s just that everything is low-grade meh. When I’m really depressed, life is torture. There are mornings when I open my eyes, and I immediately want to close them again forever. For the most part, though, it’s just me dragging my flattish (but not as flat as before taiji) ass off the couch and going about my business.
After college, I had a period of chronic and deep depression. There were days when all I could do was brush my teeth, and I would consider that a win. Now, I brush my teeth three times a day every day (and floss three times, too), but there are several things I leave undone. I don’t do laundry until I don’t have anything else decent to wear. Many people do that, I know, but it can be a month or two before I really feel the need. Given that we’re in a pandemic, it’s not as dire at it would be otherwise, but it’s still a factor of my depression.
At that point, I didn’t leave the house except to go grocery shopping and to get my meds once a month. Even that was a struggle, but I managed to get it done. Two things helped my depression–therapy and taiji. The two Ts, as it were. I reached a point where I was going out for my taiji classes three times a week, went out with friends once a month or so in addition to my normal errands. It was enough for me, and I was less blah than before.
Fast-forward to the coronavirus and the lockdown. The last place I went to (except pharmacy and gas station) was a nearby coop. This was late February/early March. I wasn’t wearing a mask, but I kept my distance as best I could and had my sweatshirt pulled up over my hands so I didn’t have to touch anything with my bare hands. This coop is small, and the aisles were narrow. It would be hard for two carts to go through an aisle at the same time, for example. I was already feeling slightly panicky, but at least most of the workers were wearing masks and gloves.
It was all fine. I was dealing with my anxiety until two things happened. One, there were two people talking. One customer for sure, and the other either a customer or a worker. They were about a foot away from each other and talking casually. One had a kid, and I was thinking, “Why the fuck aren’t you socially distancing?” I managed to keep it under control, but then there was a worker who wasn’t wearing a mask and was stocking the shelves. The former, fine. Maybe the store didn’t provide them (though most of the other workers were wearing them), but then she deliberately walked between people and brushed against them. That’s when I freaked the fuck out and said, ‘no’.
I left as quickly as I could and that ended any voluntary trip outside. I have been shopping online since then, and it’s been…three months? four months? since I’ve been somewhere voluntarily. As I’ve written about before, the isolation itself hasn’t been a big issue, but my motivation is in the shitter. A few weeks ago, when the state started opening up again, I had a mini-freak. I thought it was too early, and I knew the reason was political rather than medical. Now, however, I’ve had a change of heart. Oh, not as to the reason. It’s definitely political, but there’s a reason for that.
It is not feasible to keep everyone on lockdown for months, maybe years, with no end in sight. In addition, the mental health toll it takes on many people is not negligible, either. I don’t feel the same way myself, of course, but I could easily imagine it being similar as to how I’d feel if I HAD to be around other people 24/7. Just the thought of it makes me want to stab my eyes out often and repeatedly. It would be one thing if we could say with certainty that within two months, we’ll be able to get back to a semblance of normal. We can’t, however, and there is no way Americans will batten down the hatches indefinitely. We can’t even deal with three months, for fuck’s sake!
So, the thing to do in America, is figure out the way to reopen that will cause the least harm. Don’t get me wrong. There will still be thousands of needless deaths, but maybe we can temper that phenomenon. I’m not hopeful because Americans are very much resistant to doing what’s best for the collective good, but I’m just throwing it out there.
Anyway. Back to my personal musing. I find myself freaking out about the idea of going out at all. I feel like everyone else is underreacting, but I know I’m overreacting as well. The problem is, though, that I’m basically right. It’s impossible to ratchet things down to zero risk. If you go outside where there are any people around, there is a risk. It may be minimal depending on safety precautions, spacing, outside/inside, etc., but it’s still there. And that’s tripping me up. I know that there are most everything is beyond my control. Even if I remain inside for the rest of my life, I could trip down the stairs, have a heart attack, and die. I accept all that. What I can’t force my brain to accept is being around avoidable risk.
To that end, I want to try to go to the coop again. Maybe not the one that sent me into a panic, but the one near my old taiji studio isn’t much further away. It’s bigger, and I would think they would take the pandemic seriously. More so than my local Cubs. I can’t say for sure how Cubs is dealing with it, but my guess would be that a coop is more compliant than a chain grocery store. I’m aiming to go tomorrow, and I want to have a list in hand so I can go in, do my shopping, and get out as quickly as possible.
In tangent, I’m cutting back on my meat consumption, both for environmental reasons and for humane reasons. I have a bunch of frozen foods that contain meat, but once I use them up, I want to get down to eating meat a few times a week. I don’t want to think of it as cutting out meat, however, because I always get resentful when I feel as if I’m depriving myself. So, I’m going to try to make some easy vegetarian meals including this one called shakshouka. It’s been a rage lately, and it sounds simply delicious. Basically, it’s poached eggs in a delicious tomato stew, and I would eat the hell out of it. I’d ignore the onions and use chile peppers rather than anaheim peppers (because they’re easier to find), and I would use three eggs rather than six because I’m but one woman, but I’m down with it.
I also bought Beyond Italian Sausage. It’s the first time I’ve tried a Beyond/Impossible product, and I’m eager to see how it goes. I’m simply going to fry it up and eat the hell out of it, and then we’ll go on from there. The other thing I’ve been doing is adding more fruits to my diet, mostly blueberries and blackberries. The problem is that it’s difficult to buy enough product that I can have some every day and not too much that it rots.
I’m planning to go to the coop tomorrow, but we’ll see how I feel when I wake up. I just don’t want to regress to complete agoraphobia, which I could see easily happening. I just don’t know where to draw the line between reasonable and not.