Covid Burnout: Falling Through the Cracks

As I go back and read my old blog posts, particularly the entries in the fall and winter of 2019, I am reminded of the person I used to be before quarantine, Zoom meetings, financial hardship, and burnout. My problems were certainly valid in my undergrad years, but I do wonder how Old Me would have reacted to the problems I’m facing now; problems and stressors that I never could have predicted to fit into my story. I was the twenty-one year-old girl running on four hours of sleep, punching out midterms, tests, papers, projects, and creative projects week after week, all while having an active social life and making time for hobbies and external activities. Additionally, around this time, I was suffering through a fairly serious withdrawal from Lexapro, which I had weaned off of the prior summer. I was doing everything I just listed above while experiencing insomnia, depression, anxiety, frequent vomiting, and hundreds of micro seizures a day, which left me dizzy and often crawling around on the floor.

However, this article isn’t about 2019. This article is about the New Me; the me who works two jobs, buys groceries every week, meal preps with said groceries, gets decent sleep, does laundry, and is genuinely fairly happy and content with her life. This is the New Me who doesn’t really like to go out often, the me who takes more naps, the me who cocoons at home and doesn’t really think about the outside world. The me who is tired. The me who looks back at myself from two years ago and thinks, “How did I do all that? How was I okay?”

I mean, I probably wasn’t okay back then. Our world was so fast-paced, it didn’t even feel like we were living in the present- it felt like we were living in the future, always one step ahead of where we needed to be. And now, we’re stuck. Stuck to be with ourselves, stuck with our thoughts and our boredom and our loneliness. And somehow, through the metamorphosis of quarantine, I have found myself feeling more “okay” than I ever have. Graduating in 2020 ripped me away from the comforts of the world I relied on and forced me to start living for only myself. I survived on food stamps and government assistance until I could get a job. And now, I work two jobs, while I prepare to put myself through grad school and think more heavily about how I want to take control of my future again.

What I’m trying to say is this: the cursed year of 2020 changed all of us. Many of us for the better, and many of us for the worst. I don’t have the energy or motivation to do the turbulent things I used to do; I find it difficult to connect with people and understand within myself what it means to be human. Sometimes, I have a hard time feeling anything at all. But at the end of the day, when I put my head down on the pillow, I am filled with gratitude and peace in the midst of all of my pain. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I remind myself that I am strong enough to carry it. And I remind myself that the lifestyle I was living before this health apocalypse probably wasn’t benefitting me in the long run- my very limited view of the world was shrouded by a veil of ignorance and dependency.

I’m proud of myself for doing the little things. I’m proud of myself for getting up every morning and making my bed; I’m proud of myself for shoveling my little government allotted groceries into my plastic tupperware and eating healthy leftovers at work. I’m proud for allowing myself to have the luxury of “me time”, and nights in watching Netflix documentaries or Pixar movies, when I could have been doing something that “wasn’t a waste of time.” Now, I cherish my time more than ever, now that I realize how precious it is.

Please continue to go at your own pace and take care of yourselves. It’s okay to admit that you’re not the person you used to be. I know how frustrating it is to feel like you’re not where you envisioned yourself to be right now. Trust me, I know exactly how much of a grievance it feels like. However, we are meant to change and grow, to adapt to new privations and traumas that we never imagined being written into our stories. We are meant to upstand the ripping away of our veils, exposing us to the raw and painful (but sometimes beautiful and absurd) reality of our meaningless existence here in this fever dream. To me, that’s what it means to be human. ✩

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