Hibernation

I know I haven’t written much lately. It’s been hard. Like many other people (I actually know I have things a lot better and easier than so many other people), I’ve just been focused on doing what it takes to survive in what’s turned out to be unexpected long-term, fairly extreme isolation. I know everyone here knows I’m a socially anxious, pronounced, shy, introvert with some agoraphobia. I’ve written about this often and at length. Anxiety. Introversion. Shyness. The tendency to isolate myself. But since early March of 2020, things have been different. I’m just now feeling *a little* bit of cautious optimism about things getting better, and even though I’m generally a positive, optimistic, hopeful person (I’ve written about that part of myself often too; and arguably all of my fiction is positive and optimistic), that’s difficult to really trust right now. I feel like I’m stepping out of the cave, wary and tired, from extended hibernation.

Over the past 4-5 years, writing has helped me believe in myself more and make and maintain some social connections. And in turn, that confidence and connection has fueled more writing in that time: fiction and essays. But living in quarantine with necessarily limited social life, even though a lot of my social interaction has been through writing for years before that, has strangely also limited my drive and inspiration to write new things. Hibernating for this long has worn down the social grace writing helped me develop and foster, and that’s consequently stunted my writing too.

So historically, when I’m struggling, even when it was in a notebook no one ever looked at but me, writing about a struggle has helped me solve it or move on from it or understand it better. So I’m going to try and write about that here, to hopefully ease back into writing more frequently and creating more new things. I feel better when I’m creating.

I feel like living this limited life for so many months has whittled down my social connections and has also sort of validated a lot of my worst instincts and coping mechanisms. When I’ve worked so hard for years to trust, to reach out to people, to be social, to try new things, it’s been weird and disturbing to say the least to have my fears repeatedly confirmed as real. There have been so many times in the past year and a half or so that I’ve had thoughts like, ‘See, I was RIGHT to be afraid to go to the grocery store; I was RIGHT to not want strangers to touch me; I was RIGHT to be wary to trust other people because they really DON’T care about me…’
It’s become easier and easier for me to slip into old (unhealthy) patterns of keeping everything to myself; even from my closest friends; even from J. I don’t want to talk about anything bothering or hurting me, because I know everyone is struggling and hurting, and I’ll just be piling on, and no one needs that. I’ve not reached out to friends because I don’t really know what to say. I can’t comfort fears and worries that I share. I don’t have any positive news from my life; we haven’t been doing anything. No travel. No social gatherings. No outings. We can’t make definitive future plans. We’re even rewatching a lot of media we’ve already run through multiple times. I don’t have anything new or exciting to share. So I’ve mostly clammed up. Which at least partially/sort of confirms another fear: if I don’t reach out to them with something novel and entertaining…if I’m not the one putting out consistent effort and producing and offering something pleasing…I don’t get much contact from other people at all. I’m feeling out of balance in several of the dwindling connections I’ve managed to maintain. Very few people very seldomly reach out to share things with me without me making the initial/larger/more detailed/more vulnerable effort. Some people do sometimes, and I really appreciate that. I really do. But wow. It’s been pretty lonely and quiet lately, even for someone who likes an abundance of quiet solitude.

There have been a few memes I’ve seen floating around for the past several months, joking about how none of us are really going to know how to act in public/with other people/in general anymore as we come out of this, and I know they are meant to be funny (and they are…I mean hell, I posted a picture of a bear here myself), but at least in my case, there’s a lot of truth to that. There’s a lot of mental health progress I know I’ve lost in the past year. And there have been many times I’ve had worries I was repeatedly told were irrational proved exactly correct. I’m starting the long slog to get back on the rails and moving in the right direction…but it’s a long slog. Which sucks. Because I feel like I’ve been trudging through muck for long enough now. Don’t we all kind of feel that way?

Anyway, I feel like this piece is flat and disjointed, but I guess that’s how I’m feeling right now: flat and disjointed. I guess that’s how I should feel after coming out of a long, mostly unwanted and restless sleep. But I’d sure like to wake up soon.

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