So many people I know are describing a similar condition. “We’re losing the capacity to share and experience certain things,” my friend Stephen said this afternoon. “We’re losing community. Zoom is not the same thing.” The haze is pervasive.
The haze of depression
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
This morning, I was on the phone with my friend Sheila. The woman she had hoped to see had recently canceled the socially distant trip she’d been planning to make to her. “Too much stress for her to handle a visit,” she said. “I understand. I’m not mad. But some hours after she told me, the haze of depression descended. Will I ever see her again? I wondered. Then later, I was organizing my kitchen, going through platters and tablecloths, things we used for holidays. I looked at them and thought, When are we going to have a group of twelve friends here again? Will it ever happen? I don’t think so. I can’t see a future where it will.”
When you’re in your sixties or seventies or eighties, this is not a hyperbolic question, not when a vaccine expert goes on MSNBC and tells Nicolle Wallace that ‘the coronavirus will continue to plague the United States “for years and years, even after vaccines are out and we get people vaccinated.”’
As my day went on after the phone call—running the vacuum, doing laundry, making the bed, preparing lunch, finishing the current mystery on my Kindle—I too started feeling the haze of depression descending.
There are so many pieces of the societal nightmare we are trapped in. We all know them. No need for me to repeat the list here. Mostly, despite it all, I have a pretty good attitude toward my life. I’m lucky enough to be working, which keeps me both busy and engaged; I have good friends; I live in a neighborhood that is quiet enough for me to feel comfortable taking daily walks past flowering yards and under tall trees. I am (knock wood) healthy. I basically trust that by putting one foot in front of the other every day, I am moving in the right direction and will, when the time is right, discover where my path is leading.
And what if I do not live to see the end of this? What if, optimism be damned, something does me in before it’s over? How will my good attitude fare if my annual mammogram once again reveals something untoward or, despite all my best efforts, the virus enters my body? Will I have the ability to, after the shock and terror subside, once again find my positivity under those circumstances?
This time is requiring such strength from us all. We can’t use many of the distractions and activities that helped us manage our unhappinesses and anxieties in the before-Covid times that we took for granted.
I am also aware that I don’t want to go back to things as they were. It seemed that my life was often eaten up by what appeared to be essential errands and obligations. So I don’t yearn for the good old days. They really weren’t all that good.
I am grateful to Michelle Obama for her public acknowledgment of her own “low grade depression.” And I also appreciate her subsequent message that “I’m doing just fine.” She continued, “The idea that what this country is going through shouldn’t have any effect on us—that we all should just feel OK all the time—that just doesn’t feel real to me. So I hope you all are allowing yourselves to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.”
“We’re really being called to navigate a new normal,” Sheila said. “And there’s nothing normal about this.”