It has become more and more important to me the older I get to share my emotional world with others. I have come to realize that I am not unique. Sharing my emotional world is a positive thing for me, and I hope for others. I think that if I take a chance and share my dark side, I can maybe help others or I can maybe make new connections.
I have always shared a lot, but not publicly. In many support groups where it was safe I also readily shared. There I often bore my soul. Doing so I believe saved my life because it began the process of healing. I also shared my emotional world with a trusted friend or two. Still, there was so much I wouldn’t share also because I was ashamed.
The more people I speak with or get to know, the more I realize that my emotional world is similar to others. I also know that when I was at the lowest points in my life, it always helped to hear from others. Others who either could understand or who had had similar emotional worlds as I was having made me feel connected.
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There is still so much I haven’t shared.
I wrote my #metoo list, but it is on an anonymous site. Athough I would tell myself not to feel ashamed about certain things, I still do. If these things were someone else’s experience, I would tell them to let it go, to be at peace, to not feel ashamed, that they weren’t at fault, etc. Someday I will also share this part of my emotional world.
Sometimes sharing my experience has alienated others. I cannot speak for them or explain why they turn away from my life. But I have learned that we all need to be authentic and be ourselves. The less fear we have to share our inner selves or even to just accept our entire emotional experience, the wiser we become.
But I am becoming more and more open. I hope that by doing so I not only help others, but that I too can keep growing and stay in a positive place…
My anxiety has increased with the pandemic, despite trying my best to keep it and depression at a distance. I have become increasingly aware of how much I did to overcome my anxiety and depression the past ten or more years and how the pandemic has stripped away a lot of my efforts.
Starting in 1990, I spent twelve to fifteen years dealing with my issues with groups, individual counseling, and healing workshops. I also was on almost every medication out there for depression, as well as some to help me sleep. Later also I was on a low dose of one specifically for anxiety.
The last fifteen or more years, I have been off medication and relied on other ways to feel good about myself, my work, and my life. I continued my journey to keep my body as healthy as possible, and exercised regularly. As my kids grew older and my belief that my marriage would be a fulfilling one faded, I worked on making my world bigger by getting more people and activities in my life for myself.
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The last three years saw my world become immensely social because of taiko. Many weeks I drummed two to three times with others, and I almost always had a taiko trip planned. The more workshops I did around the country and in Germany, the more people I had to share experiences with. Even online, we maintained the connection we had made while making music together. We continued the discussion of life and how taiko can change the world. I had taiko players sleep at my house, and some of my current closest friends are from taiko, even if they reside far away.
When I returned from Germany on March 16, I plunged into self-isolation with determination to get through it. I used all the tools I have gained the past thirty years of my recovery and living with PTSD. I faced each day with purpose. I exercised with different friends most days, worked at home, and tried to get my family to do things together. I posted on FaceBook often and stayed connected with my friends around the world with zoom meetings or in other ways. I wrote a lot and posted a couple of essays.
Additionally, I joined my taiko group’s zoom meetings with enthusiasm, asking them if we could check in with each person taking a turn. I wanted to hear how everyone was doing (instead of just getting to business). I reached out to people to talk or to make FaceTime appointments. I ate healthily and talked to my kids a lot. In general, I was pro-active. I was determined to ensure that I would remain emotionally and physically healthy and productive, knowing that if I didn’t, I could end up in a dark place.
I couldn’t beat pandemic anxiety
But this past weekend, I slid into a dark, low, and sad spot. I know I have been sliding for a while, but I had kept fighting to stay afloat. I acted “as if,” even if I didn’t feel it – because I learned in the nineties that if you act “as if,” very often eventually you will feel it or at least you will have gotten through the rough spot.
There were different kind of anxieties to deal with before the pandemic. Yet because I was quite active each week, I was able to rise above the negative feelings because of social interactions, playing music with others, and having purpose at home or elsewhere.
But the past two days especially I feel like something has pushed me down, and my low-grade anxiety has morphed into a depression. I feel sad. I feel like there is no point. I feel like my dream will never come true. Going mostly out of business, knowing soon I will have almost no income and will be 100% dependent on my spouse, not having income from writing, I felt like if it weren’t for my kids, my animals, my father (and whoever else I cannot think of at the moment who would be very sad that I left), I could be done with my time here on earth.
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Of course, I realize that my worth here on earth is more than what I earn or produce. But for me, being a great parent and a part-time essay writer, a sometimes tutor and editor is not enough. I feel I accomplished basically two great things so far in my life. But if I live another ten or twenty more years, I would like to accomplish at least one more great thing. I have a big dream that I have hardly began constructing. With life after the pandemic, will it ever get off the ground? Does it matter if I sit around? Should I really continue to work toward my dream?
I understand that much of my suffering is in my own head. There are some things I wish could change or have asked to be different. But mostly the anxiety is like an internal feeling of paranoia and fear. Becoming more socially active the past six or more years alleviated much of my lower level of anxiety I had for decades. When I went out to volunteer or play taiko, I had fun with others. I had interesting discussions or even just listened to people as they talked about their lives or interests. Even if I didn’t share my feelings, it didn’t matter, because I still felt validated and connected with other humans.
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I know that the pandemic will end, and somehow I will have to figure out how to get out there again with all my wonderful taiko and other acquaintances and friends.
I have been through other bouts of depression, so I know I won’t cut my life short. I have never sunk that low, and I have confidence I won’t this time.
I know it’s okay to be by myself or just with my kids. I know how to have special time at home and how to connect. I have the tools. I just need the willpower to adjust to this change.
I am grateful for my privileged position in that I am not an essential worker and can be safe at home. My family and I keep each other safe, and we have enough to eat. I am deeply saddened by the suffering of so many in the world. My anxiety has increased, despite these statements.
I am not feeling sorry for myself, which was the message I was told since I was a small child. This may be a poorly-written essay, but I am being honest. My pandemic anxiety has increased, and I am naming it.
Except for with a few friends and a few online taiko activities, I have slowly withdrawn. I read email only once a day because many cause me anxiety, and some I don’t read at all. I exercise less. I even passed down chances to talk with friends, something I never would have done, even just days ago. I asked to take a couple weeks off from my taiko group because I am tired of smiling or looking attentive without actually connecting with the faces I see.
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I am grateful for the friends who have reached out and with whom I could share and listen. Today I spent over an hour on the phone with taiko friends from Germany – the sole purpose of the conversation being to connect emotionally and socially. It felt so good to hear and nod when they spoke of their concerns. Plus, it felt like a burden released to tell them how small my world felt and how lonely I was. It also reminded me that I have to figure out how to have more fun during the rest of this pandemic.
My anxiety has increased with the pandemic, but I know I am not alone. Pandemic anxiety is an issue for so many people now around the world. Even if that doesn’t totally get me out of my slump today, I believe it will eventually. With the help of loved ones, friends, and my own inner gutsiness, I know I will be better tomorrow than I am today. I will get through this, and I know you will also, however you are suffering. These are unprecedented times, and many people feel lonely, sad, and anxious. I will get through this, and hopefully I will again find it easy to feel peace, serenity, and joy. I share with you honestly it case it helps you or someone else who is struggling. Despite our struggles, I believe, we can persevere.
My emotional world has started to close in on me. It is as if my smaller physical world is nagging at my mind, telling it to come along: “you can be small, too. Let’s get small, feel small, and forget about all the love out there. Just think about the doom and how powerless you feel alone and in your virtual world. Compare your measly accomplishments to others and feel the smallness!” I am fighting quarantine exhaustion, and I hope to beat it.
At first I FaceTimed and exercised every day, had different national and international taiko zoom meetings, and reached out to others to connect. I encouraged my family to do special family outings in the parks or to play games. Charades anyone? This was pandemic inventive! Games or family activities every day. Additionally, I wrote, and I worked on my dream. Basically, I took charge of the situation, knowing what I needed for my emotional health.
I so appreciated seeing people’s faces. Having conversations and hearing voices felt wonderful! I loved connecting on FaceBook with my friends. I felt strong, in shape, and as though I could get through this, despite not knowing how long it would be until I could play music or drink coffee with friends.
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But after a few weeks, I got tired. I started to feel more withdrawn. Quarantine exhaustion felt real. It was as if the anxiety of the pandemic and staying at home was gnawing at me more and more. It was tugging at me to stay in bed and binge watch Game of Thrones. Once, during a zoom meeting with mostly European, but also a few North American drummers there was a chance when the formal topic ended to just talk. But after only a few minutes I wanted to leave. I didn’t understand why, because I liked to hear what these people were saying – some of them were wonderful friends I was close with.
Of course, I googled to investigate why I didn’t feel as connected as I felt I should, even though it also seemed obvious. Without any great insight it seems natural that true connection for humans comes from being together physically. Plus, I had spent the last ten years of my life working on becoming more social. By the time of the pandemic, I drummed with friends two to three times a week. I volunteered most weeks and exercised with a friend fairly regularly. I went to movies, book club, lunch, and other events. Being a writer and a home-business owner, as my children had grown, I had needed to do this for my well-being.
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During the second half of April, I realized I was slowly sliding into the darkness, despite feeling grateful for me and my family’s health and well-being. Over the years I have learned that being grateful for one’s circumstances is not enough to feel content. It doesn’t mean I feel guilty for my circumstances. It means I believe humans or at least that I was meant for more connection. I needed more face-to-face conversations and more accomplishment.
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My old reality and my dreams and goals from just a two months ago seemed so far away. It felt harder and harder to work on them and to remember that this too shall pass. It was hard to remember that maybe I’m not heading toward death and destruction and grief. I felt and have been feeling small and powerless. Furthermore, I am angry at Schleich and Amazon.com who, with their economic bullying are taking away so much of my income. No matter what I write to them, they do not care. I feel angry at all the corporations and greed and at our incompetent and immoral politicians and their supporters. I was starting to feel I will never accomplish my dreams. Of course, logically, this didn’t make sense: the pandemic will end at some point.
Still, as a survivor of patriarchy and too many bad things that can happen to young people, feeling angry and powerless is a familiar, deep-seeded feeling. I know it has the power to bring me down into a darkness I haven’t visited for a long while. So, before I slip too deeply…
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I woke up realizing it is Prince’s death anniversary, and I decided that I was going to feel differently. As I wrote this essay, I sat looking out the window by my bed.
I wanted to write, to believe, and to tell you that we can get through this. I can get through this. If I can get through this, so can you. Please join me in believing that this pandemic will end without the entire world dying. Join me in believing we can have large gatherings with lots of human connection and interaction. As we shelter-at-home and feel grateful for those who are risking their lives for us, know we are doing the right thing for the greater good. Know that we will persevere, that you and I have inner strength and wisdom and love that we and the world needs.
I want to beat quarantine exhaustion
So, today I will wear some purple.
Today I will do something with my hair.
I will work a little on my dream, even if for just ten minutes.
Today I will call a friend.
Today I will express to someone, somehow my true feelings.
And I will step outside and look up to the sky. I will breath in and feel my inner power and wisdom and the connection I have to the great universe.
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On top of our daily work, if we can also take a few minutes every day to do some of these positive things or to do as many of them as we can fit in, then I know we can get through this. I know I can. No matter how much time each of us has left on this earth, we can spend it knowing that we can make a difference in ourselves and in those around us, even if we are stuck at home for the duration of the pandemic. We can find meaning in our circumstances and beat quarantine exhaustion.
So, I ask you to look out your window, step out your door, or just look to the ceiling. Imagine a – or look to the – big beautiful sky. See how big you can become, feel how much wisdom and love you have inside yourself. Know you can share this love and spread it and help heal the world. Know too, that all love given returns. The positive energy you send out today and every day will help others and yourself as well.
Note from September 8, 2020: Of course, if any of you read through all my essays, you will see, I was unable to beat quarantine exhaustion. I tried my darnedest. But I was facing a lot. To me, the most important was that I saw where I was. I was honest with my kids who checked in on me. I asked my doctor for help. Within a week, I was doing so much better. I am grateful to friends, my kids, doctors, and the universe for helping me through that difficult time.