Anxiety, Tears, Tequila: Welcome To Quarantine Fatigue

I’m coming for you COVID.

Remember when I bragged about not freaking out about the apocalypse because having had MS for 19 years has trained me to roll with life’s uncertainty? Well, that was 59 days ago. I was 70 years younger then. My bluff has been called and quarantine fatigue has announced itself with a teary, boozy meltdown. 

Out of an abundance of caution – I know what a cold or flu can do to my MS; I am NOT getting COVID – I hadn’t left my apartment in 56 days. For the most part, it’s been fine. Well, manageable. I like my apartment. I like my husband. I’m grateful for the things we’re supposed to be grateful for; food, shelter, track-pants. I’ve put my head down and focused on doing what needs to be done to keep myself and others safe. 

What I’m beginning to understand is that safe basically means alive. It doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. While I’ve successfully (so far) guarded myself against COVID, my overall physical well-being has taken a hit, and as for my emotional health, well, let’s just say I’m starting to come a bit undone. 

The physical cost of quarantine for me has been lack of physio, sunlight, sleep, and exercise. I’m not getting the infusions I’ve been prescribed to help calm down my MS. Happy hour is happening earlier and more frequently, and I don’t know what the hell happened to my Whole 30/FMD diet, but I am aware that in the absence of the normal things that bring us joy and pleasure, filling that void with baked goods and Miss Vickie’s is an easy fix. I’ve lost many things because of the lockdown, but what I’ve gained is a steady 3-5 pounds.

The emotional cost of quarantine is harder to measure. I should be in DC right about now, with a fresh mani and a new dress, to speak at the MS Society’s On The Move event. Instead, I’m wearing an 8 year-old t-shirt with a hole in the armpit, staring at the fingerprints I’ve left on the wall, waiting for the next Zoom party to give me an excuse to brush my hair.

You didn’t really think I was gonna show you that ratty T-shirt, did you?

On Friday, The Banker announced he’s been mandated to continue banking from home until the end of July. And I was like, duh. No surprise here. But the reality is sinking in as I started to do the math. We’ve been doing this for almost 8 long weeks. The end of July is 11 weeks away. We’re not even at the half-way point. And I am starting to lose my chill. 

I’m trying to be brave and resilient and thankful, but quarantine fatigue is real. I know there are many struggling more than I am, but that doesn’t make me feel better. It only makes me feel like a spoiled selfish twat for complaining. After waking up Saturday and feeling that Oh right, it’s Groundhog Day, please don’t make me go to the living room again pit in my stomach, I grudgingly decided to face the day. Even though it fucking snowed—in the middle of May—I managed to ignore my feelings of anger and frustration and sadness. Or so I thought. When evening came and The Banker noticed I was moving with a little more of a Frankensteinian vibe than normal, he offered to help me with some stretching. 

I don’t know why this loving gesture is what triggered the tears that lead to the tequila, and a decision to get me out of this apartment the next day. Maybe it’s that I don’t want my husband/coworker/roommate/housekeeper to also now be my physiotherapist. Maybe it’s that I’m tired, and need a decent night’s sleep. Maybe it’s that feelings don’t go away, and the only way out of them is through them. 

I MISS BRUNCH SO BAD

Even before my health was a factor, I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to get the most out of life (check my Insta for the receipts). My MS diagnosis jacked-up my seize-the-day MO. MS has cost me so many things, I live by the mantra: If not now, never. Because, as hard as it is to write this, the realist in me knows, with a gut-wrenching certainty, that my strongest days are behind me; that my MS gets worse. That doesn’t mean I don’t realize there are lots of things I’ll figure out how to do as MS progresses and continues to slow me down; only that I endeavour to do as much as possible on these two legs while I still can. 

There are two Stay Home narratives cruising around the interwebs right now. There’s the bossy directive to shower every day and pour yourself into new hobbies; learn a language, start a garden, write a novel, whatevs. That was the first thing we were told to do. The second narrative is the backlash that recognizes we are all in shock and grief. It’s the narrative of self-care that tells us to free ourselves of the pressure to do or be anything right now; to allow ourselves to grieve and eat banana bread and just exist. 

I get it. I see both sides. COVID happened so fast. It was a stunning reminder that anything – ANYTHING – is possible, and that nothing is guaranteed. I feel punched in the throat with the warning of how little time any of us has, and I don’t want to just pass the time. Even if it’s a really shitty time. 

Because how can I rationalize wishing away time when this is the time that I am still walking? Still able to speak? It’s hard not to feel like I’m using up all my last, best days of semi-functional legs in this tiny apartment, waiting to start living again. 

If my philosophy of carpe-ing the fuck out of every god-damn diem holds up, how do I make this time count? Even as things start to open up, COVID isn’t close to being over. How do we make sure we’re still living and not just existing?

This. Is. Hard. 

I miss my life! Is what I want to say, but this is still my life. Somehow, I have to normalize this.  

And so, yesterday, I finally left the apartment. After 56 days of looking at these four walls, I put on my military-grade face mask and braved the elevator to the underground. The Banker took me for a drive to remind me of what the outside world looks like. We parked on a quiet street where I could walk for the 15 minutes my legs would carry me – about 13 consecutive minutes more than they’ve carried me in the past 56 days. I was stiff. The walk was difficult and disheartening, and…good. I went out, and I will go out again. I will keep living. 

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23 thoughts on “Anxiety, Tears, Tequila: Welcome To Quarantine Fatigue”

  1. Well said. Quarantine fatigue is hitting me hard right now too. I am going to say carpe fucking diem and go take a walk. Good advice and thanks for it!

  2. Heather Suhsen

    As always, you speak my truth. Although I’m not as cooped up as you are (thankful for the lake cabin we can escape to) the part about wasting the”good” days really hit home. What will our mobility be like when the world opens up again? Thank you for doing what you do. It reminds me that I am not alone in my journey.

  3. Lindy Henshaw

    Same here! I have found that heading to our back porch to throw the ball for our dogs (about 4 times a day!) has kept me sane during this quarantine! Life goes on, the dogs are so happy which then, makes me happy.

    My husband is an essential worker so his routine in and out helps break up the monotony.

    1. Still waiting for it to be warm enough to enjoy our balcony. We are getting a puppy at the end of June, and I think that’s going to help a lot.

      1. Getting a puppy will be a tremendous help. We got ours in January and he has helped to make staying home so much easier to deal with. He doesn’t care what I wear or what I eat…he loves me anyway. 😊

  4. I loved this one. But I’m sure you aren’t surprised by that. Nicely done. I went out today too but to a doc appt. But it still felt really fucking good. Also…I managed to get myself back in my house. I’m not going to say HOW (dude…curses are real). But yeh. That happened. If you get really bored I accidentally discovered yesterday that CBS is running old episodes of soap operas so I caught a 1997 episode of The Bold & The Beautiful. Priceless.

  5. I do relate to your thoughts! I am single so this quarantine is very hard on me. I did water aerobics 3x a week for last 8 yrs so I miss the exercise and the human interaction. It has me concerned about my mobility. I try to exercise here at home but it just isn’t the same! Continued safety to you and your hubby!

  6. Kathryn McVean

    “ After waking up Saturday and feeling that Oh right, it’s Groundhog Day, please don’t make me go to the living room again pit in my stomach, I grudgingly decided to face the day. Even though it fucking snowed—in the middle of May” Audra, this is me! I will take your great advice and get out there and walk. I’ll do my best. Thank you for making me laugh today.

  7. I shower on alternate days and shave (my face) every three days. I check my mailbox every day for the hair clippers that I’ve ordered from Amazon. When they come I’m going to give myself a haircut. Then probably look in the mirror and shave my head. I’m scared of going out so I’ve set up a meal delivery service. For about five dollars per meal, they send me the raw ingedients and instructions. My butternut squash souvlaki was really bad.
    When I peek out I find that Amazon has left some DVDs that I ordered. After cooking and eating I watch a DVD.

  8. Just being scared does not help anything, God fearing souls not withstanding. Fear is not a strategy tho.

  9. I fractured my big toe in a fit of rage taking the drawers out of the dresser at 4 am. I had just binge watched Hoarders and could no longer tolerate my own minor clutter. Of course – no shoes. Now I can no longer go for any walks, even though I finally got my new rollator today. Moving on up to SPMS. Appointment for lumbar procedure coming up soon. Can’t wait! Having a blast. Wish you were here.

  10. Great post -again! Enjoy the world again! I’m missing it also. I live like in quarantine for last 2-3 yrs. Can’t get out of the house even to buy some groceries because I have mobility issues and from last year I use a wheelchair and my neighborhood looks like prison. Bussy roads on 3 sides and railway on main with problem how to cross it.
    Good thing – I have lost 12kg in 12 months thanks to keto! Next task – discover how to go to store.

    1. Have you noticed an improvement in symptoms thanks to keto/weight-loss?

      Good luck with the shopping. I’m so grateful for delivery these days.

  11. I can’t tell you just how much I look forward to your posts. I’m terrified of this virus and it helps to know that I’m not losing my mind (or am I)?
    Stay strong, stay safe!

  12. My heart goes out to you and what you are going through. Please don’t despair – I try to walk 500m along my lane regularly at the moment and I have a power plate that I go on every day to help keep my legs strong. I was so inspired by your post at the beginning of the year that I adopted the word “Walk” instead of resolutions and I have also tried to stand more and sit less – and it’s all down to you, awesome friend! I really understand the not wanting to get up or wash too. But my yoga teacher friend says that when you wake up in the morning you can choose whether to be positive or negative and that has really helped me. But we all have good days and bad days.
    Please can you write a blog about MS and fasting and your diet (I am struggling with an extra pound or few due to having two grown up kids return for the duration to live and work from home – wonderfully cheering, but feeding them is like trying to fill two bottomless pits and it’s the afternoon cakes that call to me like sirens). And I so get the increase in alcohol consumption! Keep positive, bless you. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to find your blog and how much my heart lifts when I see an email from you in my inbox.

  13. The quarantine fatigue is really messing w my mojo too. I’m usually annoyingly positive and all I got right now is – this fucking sucks.

    And I was also thinking the other day that right about now my Mom & I HAD planned on being in DC for a girls weekend to hear you speak. Knowing her, she would’ve probably baked you 3 layer cookies! Damn u Covid!

    I know that having fun will help but I am having trouble getting the mega doses I need!

    Thank you for keeping up the writing. It helps to connect when feeling disconnected.

  14. This is so inspiring to us normals — as in, I want to implement these wisdoms into my own quarantine existence. I love you.

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