Pandemic Parsing

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Some ramblings from when I was trying to put the pandemic into words…

Well… I guess I made it through. The depression and haze of the pandemic - we got through that. Not unharmed, but through. It’s been a very very long year plus of my life. I’m probably not even sure I know how much time I’ve lost. It just feels feverish. I dreamt and floated my way through it. It was the only way. A voluntary dissasociation. Distancing myself from it all, a passive, sarcastic observer of my own life. It was too much. The world just kept revelaing itself to be worse and worse. It made no fucking sense. A pandemic that some didn’t even believe it was happening. It was absurd. So many people… And because of that disbelief, it just kept spreading. Even now, there are populations the virus is ripping through, mutating as it goes. Maybe the vaccine won’t protect against one of the mutations. Maybe the virus that kills me is mutating right know. I don’t know. I’ll never know.

For someone that wants to understand the world, that was the hardest part. The uncertainty. The sheer lack of control. There was no guidance, no ideas. Just the fear. Now I’ve been spat out the other end. That uncertainty crept into everything. Who am I? What the fuck do I want to do with myself? The world is opening back up but I’m still closed. A robot, who chooses actions precisely and carefully. Stiff, unchanging. Pull lever, get response. Pull again, same response. I care, I really do. I’m just so unsure and afraid of other people. Stiffest in public, when there’s more people around. Keep reactions of others to a minimum by blending in, never let them see you. You’re still in your box. Your concrete coffin in Cali, remember that? You were sure you were going to die in there at so many points along the way. But you kind of did, didn’t you? You died in there, a version of you. That’s what the sobbing is. You can feel the certainty of death inside you. No, that’s not quite what the sobbing is. It was the certainty of death alone, of no one caring, of an endless mountain of work crushing you underheel. You mattered to no one, your efforts ultimately amounting to…. nothing. Nothing at all. Realizing that the only thing that mattered was human bonds and that you had done everything to avoid them. And then you were going to die alone. In a concrete box nobody had ever been to, surrounded by neighbors who didn’t even know your name. Reduced to a voice mostly, sometimes an image. Or not even anything… A silent listener on the end of the line. Indistinguishable from a misclick, or a forgetful afker. Never knowing what to say, craving interaction but also just despising the fuck out of the fakeness. We all knew we were pretending to be fine, and the pretend was too much at times. It disgusted me. I couldn’t bear it. All of us, too afraid to say what we wanted. What did I want to say?


I’m so scared

I’m so scared

I’m scared of everything and everyone

I’m scared of everything I’ve ever done.

The pointlessness and wasted time,

I’m going to be punished, right?

Right?

I’m so scared,

I’m so scared.

My worst nights involve me on the floor,

screaming in my head, paralyzed with dread.

A single sentence my whole self -

I’m so scared


Fuck all that. We need to work on that fountain of fear sometime, but let’s pull back from it. How would you even go about describing that horrible physical sensation when the fear took you? That catch in your throat, as your jaw locked up. The absolute cold, all the way to your bones. (You’ve written about this before.) The absolute certainty that nothing could warm you up in this state. The cold is from within, nothing can get through. A warm animal? Barely anything? The hug of a friend or loved one? Well, since you’ve been in an apartment in your own lonesome for a year, you don’t even know if that would help ease the unrelenting cold. You just don’t have the evidence… Curled up in a ball on your bathroom floor. Sitting on your ass, rocking on and slightly bruising your tailbone with each involuntary movement. Because it is involuntary. All of your mental energy is trying to keep you from screaming or vomiting. The nausea too much to stand up. You can’t let yourself scream. You know how thin the walls are. You don’t want to disturb your neighbors, let them know anything about you, give them a reason to hate you. Because they will. Almost certainly in your mind. Who would actually like a boring 20-something who is too scared to say anything and is, by all accounts, losing their goddamn mind. So don’t scream, you don’t want to disturb their days. Even if the terror is gripping you so completely you want to vomit just to make it go away. Would that even work? You decide not to try, just stay crouched in your bathroom. Hold your head in your hands. Holding back the noise is harder now. A whimper, a whine is squeaking out the back of your throat. Involuntary. It might even just be your imagination. Your brain is hearing noises like a record skipping. Songs you have heard are coming back to haunt you, taunt you, a verse, a chorus, a phrase at a time. The cacophony and disorder of noise isn’t even there, but you can hear it. Overtones and reverberations of the bathroom fan hide multiple snippets for your stimulus-deprived brain. Is that a neighbor you hear up there? They’re probably talking about you. They hate you. They don’t know you but all you represent in their life is an annoyance. That fucking piece of shit neighbor. ‘Is he ever sober?’ you imagine you hear. Is he? Are you ever sober anymore? So scared of everything, numbing yourself to everything. No more thoughts of work please. Just put me in happy mood with personal chemistry. Worried you can’t even go without it anymore. (Later on you’ll realize you actually have decent self-control when you’re not completely broken inside.) Afraid of your seeming dependence. Every effort to quit or taper off is a fool’s errand. The sobriety kicks in, the horrors and actual reality start to reassert themselves. Everything too horrible to handle. Sobriety never lasting long, and the rebound binges are often worse than the habit before you decided to quit. How many hours and days did I lose last year by medicating myself into a skipping stone on my own depths? Impossible to know how many. You discarded every task or hobby that would require keeping track of time. It seemed endless. For all you could feel it was the end. You didn’t dare hope. You didn’t dare picture life back to normal. You just tried to distract yourself. Keep the void out. You used to keep track of when you started and finished books. That’s gone now. Not only did you stop reading as part of your pandemic depression, keeping track of the books you started would have been a constant reminder of failures and how long those failures sat around. Lots of books started and unfinished in the pandemic. But it wasn’t just the sense of failure, of giving up. You REALLY didn’t want to keep track of time passing. Reminder of how long you had been stuck in this hellhole of isolation, and there being absolutely no change in the prospects and hopes. Things just stayed the same, or (more likely) got worse. And you didn’t want to keep track of that. You just wanted to hide from it. That was… not fun. Very much not fun.

So where does this leave me now? I don’t know. I’ve lost track of and my grip on almost everything. I don’t know what to do now.