Sam Holstein

The Coronavirus Pandemic Did Not Change My Life Much At All

The Coronavirus Pandemic Did Not Change My Life Much At All

My life before coronavirus looked like this:

During the day, I worked from home on my blogging business. This involved a lot of writing alone, a lot of reading alone, and a lot of working on the computer alone. My free time was also spent at home, reading books and enjoying marijuana, a drug it’s not legal to consume in public places. When I spent time with friends, it was usually at home. Sometimes I went out to coffee shops or bars with friends, and sometimes I went to metal concerts and moshed, but not often.

My life after coronavirus looks like this:

During the day, I work from home on my blogging business. This involves a lot of writing alone, a lot of reading alone, and a lot of working on the computer alone. My free time is also spent at home, reading books and playing video games. (I don’t smoke much marijuana anymore, which has nothing to do with coronavirus). When I spent time with friends, it’s usually at home. Sometimes I go to coffee shops and bars with friends. I used to be religious about wearing masks when I did this, but I am not anymore. I have not gotten COVID. I have not been to any metal concerts since the shutdown.

For nearly a year now I have been reading article after article crossing my dash about the collective trauma of living through the shutdown. People describe being trapped in their house as if the very air outside were poisonous to their health. They describe having an anxiety attack from making a once-monthly trip to the grocery store, their one and only excursion to the outside world. I’m in a lot of therapy, and my therapists all told me they were suddenly far more busy than usual because so many people were having mental health trouble because of the shutdown.

I haven’t read any articles about people like me, people whose lives have gone on mostly the same as they always were.

There are a lot of people like me. I think the majority of people, actually. Not a single one of my close friends report being traumatized by the pandemic. Aside from the brief shutdown in March, the only change anyone’s experienced is people are either working from home all the time or they have to get a COVID test every time they’re sick before coming into work. The COVID tests are an inconvenience, but nothing to be traumatized over. And the work-from-home policies and sudden influx of stimulus checks were a downright blessing.

What the people around me are struggling the most with is not from the disease itself, but from the economy. The immense labor shortage is affecting supply lines and disrupting people at work. The labor shortage is only affecting blue-collar work, too. My friends who have recently graduated college and are looking to establish themselves are not able to find work that affords them the middle-class life for which they’ve been working so hard. There are ways around that for the entrepreneurial-minded, but none of them are easy.

I’ve sidestepped these problems by being mentally ill and living with my parents. Between the mental illness itself and the amount of time I spend in outpatient treatment, I couldn’t work if I wanted to. (My decision years ago to start my own blogging business is paying off here — running a blogging business can be time-boxed to ten hours a week, meaning I still get to work despite being sick).

For me, the total impact of the pandemic has been… a few uncomfortable tests and half my therapy conducted over Zoom.

I’m not saying the trauma of the pandemic isn’t real. People are saying they’re traumatized, and I believe them. But I look around me and I don’t see traumatized people. I see a bunch of midwestern folks still living their lives in more or less the same way they always have. We are still going to the local bar on Sundays to watch the game, we are still getting takeout with friends, and some of us are still even going to concerts.¹

I’m sharing all this with you because I don’t think it’s a good thing that all we see online is fear and panic about the shutdown and the economy. Maybe the damage to your mental health isn’t just from the pandemic itself, but from the constant fearmongering online about the pandemic, too. Being stuck in the house is one thing, but being stuck in the house and reading about being stuck in the house and getting upset about being stuck in the house and catastrophizing about being stuck in the house and breaking down into tears about being stuck in the house is another.

Yes, there are some people in major metropolitan areas who are still literally in lockdown, and that can’t be any fun at all. But many of us are leading relatively normal lives now. The pandemic is a problem, but it’s one of many problems, not The One Big Problem That’s Going to Kill Us All Tomorrow. There is plenty of room for us to take our minds off the pandemic and be grateful for all that is still normal.²

Keep in mind, I’m only talking about trauma or stress related to being stuck in the house or feeling the threat of disease looming overhead, and only from the perspective of people who are not front-line workers. Losing a loved one is hard, no matter how it happens, and there isn’t a human alive who can be a front-line worker during a pandemic and not feel stressed.

But the rest of us, the vast majority of us whose lives are plodding along more or less as they were… we’re basically OK. Things are tough, but in the last hundred years, humanity has survived two world wars, an economic and global disaster, and the Spanish Flu. Coronavirus is not that bad.

Let’s not lose sight of that.

1: Before you exclaim “People like you are the reason COVID is still spreading!!”, you need to know that in the US, outbreaks of COVID tend to be isolated to individual states. See: Florida. I do not live in one of these states. The state I live in has tracked nearly identically with the national COVID statistics. Nothing special happened here.

2: That doesn’t mean we should take our minds off the pandemic at the institutional level. If governments, schools, hospital systems, etc. take their feet of the gas pedal (any more than they already have), we as individuals will have a lot more to worry about.