As a highly introverted person, I didn’t expect social distancing to have much of an effect on my mental health. After all, I don’t get out much to begin with. But what I’m finding, and what I’m hearing from others, is that the few social interactions we introverts had prior to pandemic life were more important than we realized.
I’m starting to really feel cooped up. I miss my library, my dog park, volunteering with other humans, and not sucking air through a mask while I run. My world, small as it was, has shrunk. But perhaps more than the social isolation, it’s the uncertainty about when it will end. Before, I might have chosen to stay in, but it was a choice. Now, this strange, lonely way of life stretches on indefinitely. I’m feeling restless, anxious, and sad. I sometimes joke that I’d like to go live on a mountain by myself, and while I’ve always known that wouldn’t actually be good for me, it still sounds tempting. But now, the social interaction that used to threaten to overwhelm me is in short supply, and I’m finding myself a little bit lost.
Luckily, we have options for connecting with others from a distance. I’ve been enjoying video calls with friends, yelling across the fence to my neighbors in their backyard, and texting extended family members. We have social media, phone calls, blog posts, any number of ways to get in touch with people who are far away. Even when digital methods fail, there are still connections to be made at home, and creativity goes a long way.
Towards the beginning of the pandemic’s reach in the U.S., when schools were closing and people started staying home from work, some kids in my neighborhood took it upon themselves to spread some positivity. I stepped out the door with Stella’s leash in hand and headed down the sidewalk for a quick walk around the block. At my mailbox, there was a message written on the sidewalk in chalk. It said “keep calm” and had a pink heart and a blue flower next to it. It made me smile and, frankly, gave me some warm fuzzies. All the way around the block, there were short messages encouraging everyone to stay safe and some adorable drawings of flowers and butterflies. It was a great reminder that we are all feeling the stress of the pandemic in our own ways and in our own homes, but we can still find ways to connect.