Yesterday, I went for a walk for the first time in 11 weeks. It felt strange to use my legs again, to exercise muscles that have started to shrink and wither away. It felt wrong to walk in an open space, to be breathing the same air as people I don’t live with.
I saw a stranger walking his dog. I smiled and waved, stepping back cautiously. As the man walked past, I found myself inadvertently holding my breath.
He was one of the first people (other than doctors and my household) who I’ve interacted within two months.
It felt liberating.
But a feeling clung to me as I continued walking, one I have never had to experience before.
I was scared.
In the first week of lockdown, I became so ill I could not get out of bed, to the point I was almost hospitalized — twice. To top this, I received a government letter explaining that due to my chronic illness, (one that compromises my immune system), I was deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” and so I began shielding.
These factors may be the root cause of two fundamental facts in my present life:
I have become paranoid and I am terrified of living normally.
Since the lockdown has begun to ease, it feels as though my household and I have done the opposite. We still only have one walk a day, we still get our food delivered and don’t go to the shops and we haven’t been to meet other people outside of our house. The impact is beginning to show. The cracks are leaking into my life, into my mental health, my physical health, my relationships. I feel the constant strain of paranoia crushing me, with no possible solution because, for once, there is something to be paranoid about. This newfound phobia is undoubtedly rational.
How can you get rid of fear when it’s persistent and reasonable? Where’s the balance between staying safe and staying sane?
Is it rational at all?
To answer myself, I don’t know if I’m being overly paranoid or not.
I feel blindsided by the government and unable to make a coherent decision about what is safe and what is reckless. I know many people who have relaxed their approach to the pandemic and have remained well. I understand the judgment from those who think I am being overly paranoid because I feel it towards myself. It is beginning to feel as though the outcome of staying safe is losing my life.
And in the end, is purely keeping yourself alive really living?
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