Getting out of bed is an accomplishment, too
Upon arriving at Duke, LinkedIn found its way into my daily regimen of social media apps to peruse. I found it a fascinating way to get to see another dimension of my peers, the side I don’t glean from their Instagram beach pictures and wild Snapchat stories. Yet, as of late, my five minutes of LinkedIn stalking have often left with me with a pit in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, my peers and friends are doing INCREDIBLE things. They are coding contact tracing apps, creating resources to fuel voter registration, and starting sites just like this one. And me? Yeah, I can’t even get out of bed most mornings.
Am I doing something wrong?
I’ve often considered myself an introvert; while I love interacting with people, particularly those who already know me well, I definitely need my alone time. I started to find that balance during my freshman year at Duke; while I would carve out time to go to Shooters or hang out in the Blackwell hallways with friends at night, I often chose to work alone in Perkins or have breakfast by myself during the day. When that ill-fated email arrived mid-March informing us that we would not be returning to campus, my initial thought was “Hah…this quarantine thing will be a breeze for me.” After all, I felt like I had been in constant “GO” mode since returning to school in January, and unlike my peers, I didn’t crave the revival of “darty season.” So, some time back home sounded quite nice.
I had envisioned my virtual school days looking something like this: class, daily run, home-cooked meals, calls with friends, tv, bed. My reality, however, looked quite different. Instead of this “ideal agenda” I had imagined, I lacked any sort of focus during class, and I even commended myself for showing up at all. After over a decade of daily physical activity, I stopped working out entirely. Occasionally, I picked at the snack cabinet to curb my cravings, but I often skipped out on actual meals altogether. I did not reach out to friends and when I did, I usually lied and told them I was “doing great.” And to cap off the night, I fell asleep atop my tear-soaked pillowcase.
To put it simply in the words of my therapist (who I had not talked to for a year prior), “It sounds like you have all the symptoms of depression.”
Her words didn’t surprise me. The reasons for my lack of productivity, motivation, and joy were seemingly mounting daily: my beloved grandfather passed away in April from COVID, I fell out of touch with a lot of friends who had been so pivotal to my wonderful Duke experience, I dealt with the pain of a breakup and subsequently losing someone who had been a go-to person for me, and, like many others, I had been stripped of the sense of independence I had found in college. In such a short amount of time, so many people that had been important to me had seemingly left my life all at once. I felt so alone. I also experienced “Zoom FOMO”- that feeling that everyone else remained in close touch with one another and talked frequently, while I was not a part of it.
As a result of all of this, anxiety attacks became about as common for me as mold infestations in East Campus air conditioners.
Yet from 144,000 Coronavirus deaths in the US (as of 2:17pm on July 22) to the Black Lives Matter movement and everything in between, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. How could I cry this much when others are fighting for their lives and we are all in the collective fight for equal justice?
I’ve come to realize, however, that this does not mean that my feelings are invalid or can be pushed to the wayside. Just as the world and the country ache and search for healing and change, we must also focus on healing ourselves.
So, why am I writing this? If you told me a month ago that I’d be typing this article for you all to read, I would have laughed. Anyone that knows me knows I keep to myself, I hide any problems I may be having, and I like to portray the “I have it all figured out” persona. But all of that has left me feeling one thing: alone. Since coming home on March 15th, I have felt like I have few people to talk to, that no one really cares what I have to say anyway, and that I am the only one feeling so isolated.
I’ve realized that this could not be further from the truth...
In a moment of reflection and strength, I recently shared a picture on Instagram with a rather brief and cryptic caption highlighting how difficult the past months have been for us all. A few days later, a friend reached out thanking me for being honest and for saying how I was feeling; she had been feeling the exact same way and knowing that I was going through the same struggles made her feel comforted. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I, too, am not alone. We all have each other.
The months have now passed and our “quarantine break” is coming to a close. After dozens of half-baked emails, a mass exodus off campus, and bookbagging part two, throngs of Duke students will descend upon campus in just a few short weeks. While we are all quite aware that the upcoming semester will look...different...the rumblings of the big return grow louder each day. Which brings me to my last point: I’m very nervous about returning to school. And that’s okay.
You would think after months of quarantine that getting out of the house would be as exciting to me as the day I discovered that Il Forno serves gluten free pasta, but it’s not. My joy at the thought of seeing my friends for the first time in months has been met with an equal feeling of anxiety and fear. Fear at what personal “dynamics” with others will look like. Fear of how well I will be able to transition back into Duke’s culture. Fear over how I will be able to navigate challenges back on my own. And most of all, fear of uncertainty, a concept that has become all too familiar since March.
But I remind myself that no matter what it is, I’ll get through it. We’ll get through it, together.
If you’re reading this, just remember that you don’t need to do something monumental today. Sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment, too.