Every person has a different Corona story to tell. I talked to some of them to gain some understanding. To imagine myself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe you’d like to imagine yourself in their shoes too. I’ve asked each person to put a photo to their story. Anything that they feel encapsulates their Corona experience.
I haven’t washed my hair for a week. What’s the point?
She called it the Corona Coaster. ‘One day I suddenly feel quite sad. The next anxious; and after that happy. My emotions aren’t predictable’. Margreet worries about this because she’s suffered with mental health problems in the past. ‘I think it’s a fear of fear. I wonder if I can handle it; sometimes I feel I’ll disintegrate’.
Margreet also works in mental health care as an ervarings deskundige (peer coach). Pre-Corona she’d meet and talk with clients face to face but for the last few weeks she’s been working from home and calling them up. She finds it difficult to do her job now. ‘The whole point of my job is communication and a lot of that is non-verbal. Somehow phone calls are more exhausting. I don’t know why. My colleagues say the same’. She finds it hard to comfort a client over the phone. ‘Often my job is about acknowledging someone’s pain, just sitting there with them. I can’t do that on the phone. I can’t see where they’re focusing’. She’s defeated by the silence.
For some of her clients who suffer from a variety of mental illness, intelligent lock-down is very difficult. Margreet told me, ‘Contact is necessary for recovery from mental illness’. There are no more trips to the community centre for coffee, drawing or cookery lessons. People who already have very little social contact suddenly have none at all. ‘They can’t get out of their head. They’ve worked on building up a healthy structure and now that’s fallen away’.
I ask Margreet again about how she’s feeling during these Corona days. She knows everyone’s mental health is suffering. She knows she’s not the only one but she feels more vulnerable because of her mental health struggles. ‘The other day I distanced myself from my thoughts. I caught myself watching what was going on at that moment, instead of getting sucked into it. That was interesting’. And then she perked up. ‘Sometimes I think wow. The longer it goes on, the more I realise I haven’t fallen apart. Maybe Corona has given me more confidence in myself’.
There are some things she likes about Corona days. She feels more appreciation for what she took for granted before – going to the cinema, pottering around at home. She’s sorted out her DVD collection, pimped her balcony and painted her kitchen. ‘I’m not sure if I really like doing these things or if it just makes it all more bearable’. She’s been going to the park more and has started jogging because the gym is closed. ‘My body likes jogging. Maybe I’ll do it once a week even when the gym does open’. And then she laughed ‘but only if I get a dog’.
She’s thinking of fostering a dog. The dog home is full of dogs whose owners have died and she wants companionship. All of her friends and colleagues have partners. ‘I feel when people are together they don’t really get what it’s like to be alone during Corona. I haven’t had a hug or a handshake or an arm around my shoulders for eight weeks’. She’s had one socially-distanced date and has another coming up. ‘I don’t know how long this is going to last and I had a lot of time on my hands. Besides it’s quite chilled. Normally there’s a lot of stress involved in a date. Now I don’t have to decide if I fancy someone so fast. I can take the time and see if I like him. There’s no awkward hug at the end and you know he’s not going to make an unexpected lunge at you.
We’re in our seventh week of intelligent lock-down. ‘I do think humans are really adaptable’, Margreet told me. ‘I’m kind of used to it now and I have a lot of hope that the rules will be relaxed in a few weeks. In the beginning I thought I would need to have a really strict structure to be able to cope with it, now I’ve sunk into laziness which is luxurious. I’ve tried to let go of the feeling that I have to be productive all the time. Not in a depressed kind of way. I’m just going with it’.
She went on ‘It makes you think about what’s important in life. People aren’t capable of social distancing forever. The first thing I’m going to do when this is all over is give a friend a hug’.