In the Jungle – Coronavirus Diary Part 11

This is a weird time during the Covid-19 pandemic. The natives are getting restless. More and more people are protesting the lock down and the molasses slow reopening.

I could write about that, but historians will most likely cover it in far better detail than I could–from home–watching it all unfold from afar.

I am not protesting the reopening of anything. 1. It would do me no good. I will not be working again for some time, with schools and non-essential retail both closed for the foreseeable future. 2. I don’t disagree with it. I’m terrified of this virus and what it could potentially do to my body. I’m prone to bronchitis and inflammation, so this is not something I want to mess around with. And the more I hear about it, the less I want to play Russian Roulette with my immune system.

I’ll just hunker down in the house (where I always wanted to be pre-pandemic anyway) and wait it out.

And technically, I should be happy.

Jeremy is still working (and working from home until mid-July, at least). We have shelter over our heads, food in our fridge, good health insurance, and I’m one of the lucky ones in New York whose unemployment benefits are being paid. The boys are here, and we’re all together. Cases in this area are rising somewhat, but the number of local cases hasn’t overwhelmed local hospitals, and I wouldn’t call this area a hotspot. It’s safer than a lot of places right now.

So, rationally speaking, I am fine. And if this were a normal time, I could use this time to be so productive. Everywhere I look, I see projects I now have the time to tackle. It would be awesome.

But my brain disagrees. It perceives that I am in danger–a danger it cannot see or predict–and therefore all systems– flight/fight/adrenaline/cortisol–are cranked to 10.

I can’t shake this constant mental restlessness, the need to stay vigilant, the total inability to relax. Now, confronted with all these options, my brain just flat out will not cooperate. I have no attention span. I can’t lose myself in anything. It’s like my brain has literally raised the floor, minimizing the space in which my mind can hunker down. Where once I had three floors and a basement, now I’m trapped in the attic. Forget big, involved tasks. Cleaning the basement, organizing the attic, revising my novel, writing a new novel, even reading a book.

My brain says “no, thank you” and steers me toward shorter, less time involving tasks. Things with one step or, at most, two. Things that require no concentration. Emptying the trash. Cleaning the stove top. Brushing the cat.

I’m no neurologist, but I think my brain is saying, “Let’s not get too distracted. The shit can hit the fan at any moment. So best be on guard and vigilant at all times.”

Jeremy and I check in with each other pretty much daily. We are constantly asking each other “Are you okay?” “Anything I can do to make this easier for you?”

I was telling him how I don’t like my brain right now. I can’t get comfortable and it’s unlike me to have no focus. I am a focused person. Historically, when I’ve lost myself in a task, I really lost myself. I don’t recognize myself in this disorienting mental landscape. It reminds me of the depressive brain fog I was in post-divorce. Like a cloud of ether hung around my head, when life became a disorienting haze. I would really rather avoid that place again, if I can.

He was trying to understand my mental state, when I came up with the perfectly analogy to describe why it feels like it does right now.

Imagine you are in a jungle with a group of people, and somehow you get separated from the group and lost in the jungle. You know they will eventually find you and lead you out of the jungle. But you also know that in this jungle, there are poisonous plants, venomous snakes, crocodile infested rivers, and predatory animals that can kill you. The safest thing for you to do is find shelter, hunker down, and wait for rescue. You have a backpack of supplies. Plenty of food. Plenty of water. And a book.

It may be a while until your group finds you. You might pass the time more pleasurably by reading. Do you read? No, you don’t. You stay alert. Listening for approaching sounds. Staying vigilant. Constantly assessing your safety.

You probably couldn’t read even if you wanted to. And your mind would amplify every leaf rustle, cracking twig, and bird call, amping up your adrenaline, and making it difficult to even sit and wait.

I think that’s where we all are now, collectively.

We are all sitting in a hostile jungle, waiting for rescue.