A friend of mine admitted to me recently that he had judged me when I told him I was having anxiety about reintegrating back into society after the pandemic.
For saying that I felt almost feral and perhaps even a little agoraphobic — and not at all sure how I was going to prepare myself for leaving my house on a regular basis again.
He told me that he had judged me for it — until he then had his own outing that made him understand how I might be feeling. We had a good laugh about feeling almost feral, but I’ve been feeling anxious about it for a while now and as much as I half-laugh about it, I also knew it was something I was going to have to face.
In fact, I had to face it as recently as last week, when my 18-year-old daughter had an honors convocation ceremony at an indoor venue at the beginning of the week, and then her high school graduation at an outdoor — but much more crowded — venue in the middle of the week. In addition, we also had a few family celebrations at restaurants scattered here and there throughout the week.
The thing is, I am not at all concerned about contracting the virus. That’s not what my anxiety is about.
For me, the anxiety is about being in my protected, introvert bubble for the past year and not feeling sure I want to leave that safe, secure, lovely bubble. Luckily, when I started to feel this anxiety more and more, I also started seeing some terms and phrases that have been resonating with me in a big way.
I read these articles and suddenly felt seen. I felt like I wasn’t alone in feeling this way after more than a year of lockdown.
I began feeling this anxiety — something I have never experienced in my 51 years — only during the last 6 months or so. It’s interesting to me that it didn’t happen at the beginning of the pandemic…or during the summer last year when things partially opened up again and I could watch my son play a limited season of baseball. The anxiety didn’t begin for me until right before Thanksgiving, when the world began to partially shut down again.
But it was interesting to me that the anxiety I felt wasn’t about the virus and the millions of deaths it caused…it was about not wanting to leave my home. It was about feeling that I was becoming slightly agoraphobic when thinking about venturing out, and always feeling massive waves of relief when I returned home from just dropping my son off at school or filling my car up with gas.
I have become used to having groceries delivered to my front door and started feeling anxious when I had to go into a store to pick up a prescription for someone in my family. I had gone back to restaurants once or twice in the fall when I was lulled into believing we were on the downswing of the pandemic…but have since gotten used to having delivery services bring any type of takeout meal straight to me, including Sunday brunch with Bloody Mary’s or chips & queso with margaritas. There have even been weeks when my kids were at their dad’s house that I didn’t get into my car for days at a time because I didn’t need to drive anyone to school.
And I didn’t hate it. At all.
I have been fully vaccinated for a few weeks now. And I am still not at all ready for life to return to normal.
At least what my normal was before the pandemic began.
I like my bubble. It’s safe here.
But in my heart, safe isn’t where I want to live.
I want to live outside my comfort zone.
I want to be out in the world again for my soul’s growth. But I’m finding it gives me anxiety now.
I want to do some things. I want to see some people. Just not all the things and all the people.
But at the exact same time, I don’t want to live a safe life.
Even if my home feels like my sanctuary. Even if I love this delicious haven I’ve created for my little family.
I started wondering how I could plan a way to make this transition easier on myself. Then, my son’s school had a town hall meeting about the plan for the next school year and the strategies they were going to use to support the students in returning. One particular phrase they used during this town hall meeting really resonated with me: Social-emotional recovery.
That’s it! That’s what I need! A structured process…a tangible plan I can implement to facilitate my own social-emotional recovery.
Because I might laugh with my friends when I talk about being almost feral…but I’m not joking. Not at all. I feel like my raging introvert has become even more introverted than I thought possible. I feel like more of a hermit than I ever have. Like I could move to the woods and spend my days searching for unicorns.
So…how do I not do that?
How do I facilitate my own social-emotional recovery? Especially after a year of not only a global pandemic…but several personal losses. Devastating losses of life. And some less-than-devastating losses of narcissists (but losses, none the less). Losses of lovely souls that I so enjoyed — who made me feel loved and cherished and beautiful…and made me laugh. Losses of friendship. Losses of school milestones. Losses of time spent with family and the dearest of friends.
In fact, it’s not until I write it this that I realize how much loss I experienced in the past year. And how much loss my loved ones have experienced, too.
We all need some social-emotional recovery.
Some time to transition back.
Not back to normal…but back to whatever we want our new normal to be.
For me, this transition feels like it comes at the perfect time. When the stressors of school are over for my kids…
…and we have three months ahead of us when all we have to do is focus on our healing.
So…how do we do it? How do we heal? How do we transition back? How do we reintegrate if we’re feeling almost feral?
Personally, I have been indulging in unhealthy habits for the last nine months or so. (Wine and queso…lots of wine and queso. Shut up.)
I have also unconsciously and unintentionally let go of some of my most soul-fulfilling spiritual practices.
And I have relied — perhaps too heavily — on a few gorgeous souls who have been there when I needed them, made me laugh when I needed to laugh, and shined their light on me and inspired me. Some for the past several months, and some for decades.
But after spending time a few nights ago with a wonderfully witchy friend, I realized that it’s time for me to create something beautiful and fulfilling and fun for myself. To create my own healing and to reintegrate into society.
Because I don’t want to rely on unhealthy practices or another human (no matter how frickin’ gorgeous their souls are) for my own fun, happiness, or fulfillment. I want to create that for myself. And they can just be the frosting on my cake. Yummy vanilla frosting.
So my plan—my plan for reintegrating back into post-pandemic society? It goes little something like this…
1. Self-care is healthcare.
I am completely out of alignment with what I know my body needs. And that includes more movement, more fresh air, more green juice, more of what I like to call ‘spa food’ (plant-based, whole foods that are healthy and look pretty on a plate), more water, and more sleep. And much, much less wine and queso. Self. Fucking. Love. (For fuck’s sake.)
2. Spiritual practice.
Spending time with my witchy soul sister that night solidified this one for me. I need more people in my life on a daily basis who get me. Who adore my love for tarot cards and crystals and serendipity and synchronicity and trusting our guts. When I feel seen, I feel loved. And my spiritual world is something I kept hidden for so long that I just can’t not live it fully and completely anymore. Even if that means a sweet, skeptical soul admitting they’re skeptical but still want a reading from me. Or someone to go into the woods with and search for Big Foot and unicorns together. Or someone who will adore my love for glitter and sparkles even if they don’t love the glitter and sparkles themselves. This also means getting back to meditating daily — if not hourly, for pete’s sake. Because some days, that’s the only thing that gets me through.
3. Mental health support.
A friend reached out to me a few days ago asking if his writer’s block could perhaps be contributing to his depression and not only did I think, “Fuck, yes!”—I also remembered what a vicious cycle it can be. If we don’t have an outlet for our feelings — whether it’s double sessions of therapy or writing our morning pages or talking with a trusted friend — those feelings will not only eat us up from the inside out…they will become imprinted on the cells in our body. And believe me when I say that the pain and trauma we hold in those cells is so much harder to process years later than it is in the moment.
We need to do whatever we need to do to feel those feels, process our shit, and let it go so we can move on and step into our next chapter. Somehow, we have to do this even if we can’t fix those things and have to carry them with us along our journey.
4. Emotional support = Motherfucking boundaries.
Full stop. I need to support my own emotional health like I support all my favorite humans’ emotional health. Are you grieving, love? You get to grieve. Are you hurting after pain and loss and trauma? You get to hurt. Did you get your heart broken by a few different loves who promised they would never hurt you? Well, of course your frickin’ walls are high. But let’s decide which humans are worth taking a chance on. Take a good hard look at their green flags, but don’t ignore their red ones. What feels right in our body? Does that lovely soul root for yours? Does that amazing human who has been a savior to so many make you laugh more than they make you feel weird? Do they look at you like you want one of your favorite humans to look at you? When you spend time with friends, do you come away feeling uplifted and energized? Or do you feel drained and exhausted? Do. Not. Fucking. Settle. Never again, love.
5. Have some fucking FUN.
I have fallen down on this goal. Hard. I was serious as a young person and it never changed. And then life became hard. Harder than I ever expected it to. Not only did I forget to have fun, I forgot to model that for my children, too. What a heartbreaking thought that is. So when they hear me on the phone with some of my favorite souls who make me laugh and giggle and who tease me and make me gasp with delight…I let them hear that. And I want them to hear me play my music ridiculously loud just because it makes me happy. Because they see enough of my tears. Now I want them to see me having fun and discovering new things that make me happy. I’m looking for fun now.
6. Baby steps, love.
This one is critical for my own personal plan. As important as all the self-care is that I need to offer my body, mind, and spirit…I also have to honor my highly sensitive nature that can get jarred by too many people, too much noise, too many plans. Too. Much. Everything.
Having multiple events last week for my daughter’s birthday and graduation week was a lot, but it was worth it because we were so blessed to be able to actually experience all of those events. But I also know that I need to take things slow and pace not only myself, but all of the events that are available to me again.
For example, after a week of graduation festivities last week, my new neighbors wanted to have a gathering and I was just so emotionally exhausted, I had zero desire to go. In the end, I decided to go for just a few minutes. Long enough to meet neighbors I haven’t met and chat with a few people, but not long enough to sit down and stay. It was what I needed in that moment, and only after I had finished my personal moving meditation of folding laundry and watching the PGA Championship. It felt good and balanced and healthy.
In my bedroom, I have a few of my favorite oracle cards blown up onto canvases that hang on my wall. In the middle is the goddess card. A woman who stands in her power and owns everything that has happened to her, without playing the victim…without any drama. I feel her deeply. Her innate strength, her weakness, her messiness, her love. She is me.
On one side of the goddess card is the self-love card…because I can have a healthy ego and love myself wholly, but I am the first to admit that I can always practice the art of showing myself more self-love in the form of self-care. Always.
And on the other side of the goddess card is the solitude card. Because I have always loved spending time by myself. More so than any other person I have ever met. But that solitude card is also a reminder to me that it is up to me to create the life I want for myself.
It’s up to me to take responsibility for reintegrating myself back into society, post pandemic.
It’s up to me to set my boundaries and decide what my life will look like from here on.
It’s up to me to take care of my health — body, mind, and spirit.
And it’s up to me to decide what a shit-ton of fun looks like for me now.
And who in my life gets to add their bright, shining light to my world…and who adds to my fun.
Just like it always was.
This almost-feral chick might have developed a little anxiety along the way this past year.
But I’m not worried about her.
I trust her implicitly.
Because we got this.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
You Might Also Like These From The Good Men Project
|Compliments Men Want to Hear More Often||Relationships Aren’t Easy, But They’re Worth It||The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex||..A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Unsplash