My story of social distancing: It’s okay to not be okay right now


Last Friday I woke up early and headed out to the gym to meet my trainer. I’ve been busy with a rigorous fitness routine aimed at bulking up.

My trainer and I are from two completely different worlds, so I always love catching up with him for some gym banter.

Afterwards I usually grab a coffee at my local coffee spot, where the barista already knows my order, and we greet each other with a special handshake that we’ve perfected over time and ends with us clicking our fingers.

Then it’s a quick walk to the office where I’m greeted by the friendly faces of my work family. I spend more time with them than my actual family.

Absolutely exhausted

It’s now a week later and I’m writing this from my couch.

So much has changed in a week. There was no gym catch-up with my trainer this morning, no coffee or secret handshake with the barista, no familiar faces greeting me. The small things I hardly noticed before was now what I missed most. 

I’ve been in isolation since Tuesday when our company announced that, for our own safety and that of others, we should rather work from home to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has brought the whole world to standstill.

I will admit the first day was exciting in its unpredictability. There was an element of curiosity in joining virtual meetings, conversing in digital chatrooms, and doing everything online. 

But I was surprised when, after my first day of working from home, I was absolutely exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow.

I’d carried on working much later than usual as my desk was just a few steps away from my couch.

Not working nine-to-five

I tried to keep to as much of a routine as possible on day 1, but by day 2 I was already up earlier and logging on way before my usual day at the office would start. The virtual meetings got longer – because there was a lot more logistics to discuss.

The digital chatrooms didn’t stop pinging – because there were more questions than answers.

The e-mails doubled. The enthusiasm stopped. I didn't even have the energy to comb my hair.

The third day involved me running out to go get food as I didn’t have nearly enough to eat at home. But I also didn't want to look like I was stockpiling. So, I bought just enough to last me for a few days more.

I tried ordering online, but the delivery services were so overwhelmed they’d only be able to deliver on Sunday – if there was stock left.

I washed my hands about a hundred times like they show in the online videos.

We've only just begun

Today, the fourth day was when reality hit. I had abandoned my desk and was now writing from my couch. My healthy diet has been replaced by any snack I can get my hands on. I haven’t had any exercise in a week. I’ve felt moody, irritated, anxious...alone.

It has only been four days and already my life as I knew it was gone. This is only the start and there are still plenty of weeks ahead before it will be safe to return into society again.

Despite all of this I'm still one of the lucky ones. I'm not sick yet, I can still work, and I am able to go into isolation. Not everyone has this privilege. 

In the middle of writing this piece I had a Google Hangout with some co-workers. A digital chill session of sorts where we could just discuss love, life, and the impending apocalypse. The type of thing we'd usually do over a cup of coffee but had now moved online as well.

As soon as we logged on, we started to giggle and the laughter soon poured out of all of us.

Happy laughter. Nervous laughter. Laughter filled with fear. Joy. Uncertainty. But, above all a deep sigh of relief. We're in this together and we're all feeling equally confused and unprepared. 

It was then that I realised that it’s okay not to be okay, especially when everything else is not okay.

Image credit: Herman Eloff
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