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Stuck Between Floors A Blind Introvert’s Pandemic Pickle

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“We are not all going through this together but we
can be there for each other.”

~Kimberley (Kym) Dekeyrel

A Real-Life Claustro-germophobic Nightmare

As a highly sensitive introvert, one would think ‘physical distancing’ would be heaven right about now, right? Wrong! Allow me to elaborate.

For those who don’t know me very well, I’m an anxious and quirky person full of phobias, rules, and overthinking. Take elevators for example, whenever I get on one I try to prepare for how I’d react if it got stuck. In my imagination, I’m the calm, unflappable, take-charge type but I know the reality would be totally different. In reality, I’d be on the floor in the corner, rocking back and forth, sobbing and hyperventilating. I’m so fearful of being stuck on an elevator I’ve jumped off when too many people try to squeeze in. Honestly, doesn’t anyone care about weight restrictions?

Then there are microbes. Microscopic anything, especially germs, sends me straight over the edge. Heck, when I learned dust mites existed I had nightmares for years; seriously, some things are best unknown. Obsessive hand washing has been my norm for as long as I can remember. So imagine my distress when a global call was broadcasted telling everyone to wash (I mean, really, really wash) their hands—EEWWW! And don’t even get me started on cell phones and bathroom stalls—I just can’t! The more important question however is, what were people doing before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak? Nope! I take that back I don’t want to know.

Even though I avoid germs like the plague (granted I probably coulda used a better reference here), I contracted H1N1. Yup, the same year I was declared legally blind I caught swine flu. The odd thing here is no one else in my inner circle, including family, friends, and co-workers, caught it.

On Physical Distancing & Social Isolation

If being an introvert weren’t enough, here we are in the midst of a global pandemic and I’m beside myself, literally. Social isolation isn’t anything new for me because this is my comfort zone! But here’s the thing, when all of my neighbors are also safe at home it sort of defeats the whole purpose. Not to mention the anxiety-inducing walking of the dog or checking for my mail. My preference would be for my dog to check the mail while walking herself but she’s a little diva. Then there’s my brother.

I never thought I’d see the benefit in my brother’s passenger car door not working until now. While we aren’t six feet apart as I ride in the backseat, I’m lovin’ it! That is until he asked me: “do you need to stop by the grocery store?” Now keep in mind, I live alone and my sons have been great at physical distancing-thank heavens. Even though I’m an H1N1 survivor, asthmatic with hypertension my brother seriously asked if I needed to go to the store. So against my better judgment, of course, I said yes, I needed groceries! When all I really wanted to do was to go home or at the very least sport a blinged-out hazmat suit. 

Here I was with my white cane trying to keep up with my brother wishing like hell I was anywhere else. Then the unimaginable happened; I lost him. I must have been looking quite disoriented because this older gentleman asked me if I needed help. Choking back tears all I could think was ‘please step away’ but I held my composure. Eventually, my brother came to my rescue and all was right with the world, well, almost.

One Heck Of A Pickle

In life as far as pickles go, this pandemic is off the charts. Going through a pandemic as a germaphobe introvert with sight loss is extraordinary. Before sight loss I went to great lengths to avoid invisible threats, barely stopping short of ordering a personalized glass bubble. Who am I kidding? A glass bubble wouldn’t work well with claustrophobia—Duh!

Seriously though, when you rely on navigating the world through touch, sight loss during a pandemic is extremely difficult. I’ve been more aware of my sense of touch, my sight loss, and germs since the beginning of the outbreak. Hyper-awareness comes with the territory when you lose your sight, thus making physical distancing an additional burden. From the time I wake until I go to sleep at the end of the day, I’m always ON which triggers my anxiety. When I’m safe at home these anxiety levels, for the most part, are bearable. However, the moment I go outside just to walk the dog, my internal alarms are activated.

If managing sight loss, germophobia, and physical distancing weren’t enough, try doing it as an introvert. I’ve always needed my space and now more than ever I’ve had to put in place additional boundaries. Since most people rely solely on communicating virtually, I feel sort of trapped and have to shut down mentally and physically. It seems like I need to recharge my batteries more frequently which leaves me feeling a great amount of shame.

A Rock And A Hard Place

You know the feeling you get when you’re on the top of your game? Well, the feeling I have right now is the exact opposite. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I think the appropriate terminology is “rock bottom.” Yes, I’m feeling a heaviness, scared, overwhelmed, powerless, and my thoughts are so chaotic I think I’m losing it. The mere action of typing these words provides some relief because I’m acknowledging my vulnerability. Now is not the time to pretend I’ve got it all figured out. Truth is I don’t and I’m more than sure I’m not alone.

Last week was particularly difficult and it wasn’t until I read one of my favorite blogs that I understood why. I was wearing shame like a blanket and once I was able to name it the clouds began to clear. This “stuck between floors” feeling may last through the entirety of this epidemic and I understand it’s natural to feel some angst.

I’ve been cycling between the basement and the top floor really since before the outbreak. The important thing for me is to keep things in perspective. Fear won’t solve anything and, when I can, the way I combat it is to practice being present. Some days I don’t have the energy to wrestle with my feelings so I give myself permission not to.

Owning & Respecting The Pandemic Journey

What I find helpful is respecting other people’s personal journey especially through these extraordinary times. A friend of mine put it this way: “We are not all going through this together but we can be there for each other.” We have to be mindful that everyone isn’t experiencing this global event the same way. Remembering our humanity by exhibiting kindness, compassion, and patience will help ease our burdens. 

Enjoy the little things because it’s our moments that matter most. All we have is right now and we can choose how we will spend it. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. If you need some helpful tips about COVID-19 Abby recently shared this post: Navigating The Coronavirus Turmoil In Kindness.

Image Description:

A photo of a woman behind a frosted glass wall. Her face and body can barely be seen however her hands are braced against the wall like she’s trapped.

9 thoughts on “Stuck Between Floors A Blind Introvert’s Pandemic Pickle”

  1. Hi Susie, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my post. It’s interesting how this pandemic has altered our lives, some in a good way and others, well, not so much. I’m sorry to hear that your husband is struggling so much with this although I believe nearly everyone is doing the best they can during this time. Personally, I stopped watching the news several weeks ago and only happen upon the newest information when my brother tells me or if I see something online but I’ve intentionally decided I just don’t want to know every minor detail associated with CoVid-19. Perfectionism is something I know about all too well as I’ve tried to attain it for most of my life and while I know it’s unattainable I still sometimes find myself lapsing. I hope your husband can find some peace of mind.

  2. I enjoyed reading this post, though “enjoyed” may not be the right word for it. I understand every word of what you wrote as I go through this myself, because of my husband’s anxiety about all things COVID.
    For one, he battles a fear that he is going to get it- that COVID is waiting around the corner waiting to attack hime- that gives him severe anxiety and his anxiety confuses me- him being a doctor and germs should be something he deals with matter of factly, right/ Well, wrong.
    Yet another anxiety is whether he could have lived life differently two months back- was it something that he did around March 6 that led him to be locked in in this country which is not his own/ The constant rumination of a perfectionist is something alien to me as I am quite chill about the whole thing.
    I am glad you took the time to write down about your vulnerabilities – the catharsis would have been good.

  3. Hey Liz, thank you for commenting and yes, you get me!! I read a book not too long about about introverts that really hit home for me because I used to think there was something wrong with me. Once I understood my processing patterns it really enlightened me. The book is “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney. I bought my copy on Audible.

  4. I’m an introvert too so totally get you, especially the feeling of being always on. I’ve struggled with anxiety too. It’s not something you don’t just “get over” or “feel better” from because you decide to. It can strike at any second. Having an excuse to say I’d rather stay home has helped me deal with my latest bout of anxiety. Not that I wanted a pandemic. I just wanted some time to do what I knew I needed to do for myself. Not everyone understands some people don’t want to feel like they have to always be on.

  5. I’m sorry to hear about Art’s continued sight loss. I remember you telling me about him in previous conversations. Struggling with the loss of sight is so different for each person and just based on my experience it seems the older we are when we acquire the loss the more difficult it can be for us to adapt. The good news is we can and do adapt. It’s not easy and I still have days that nearly take my breath away but honestly I’ve lived an amazing life and am so grateful for everything that’s been placed in my path. Sending love and light to you and Art.❤

  6. This really touches me.

    My husband Art has lost so much vision since I last visited here, especially the past year. He is almost completely blind now, and really struggling.

  7. George thank you for your kind words as we are in somewhat similar situations. Chronic depression makes sustaining positivity a bit difficult however just based on what I know from previous struggles, and as you stated, “this too shall pass.” I’ve been living in my condo complex for about 5 years now and thanks to my introversion I don’t know too many of my neighbors although this is my preference. When the few I do know see me out with Mollie they are always so kind as to identify themselves.

  8. I understand quite well. We are both vulnerable in two categories, so we are staying home. I’m an introvert. Yes, I can mix with the best of them, but that is not my nature. We are on Day 41 of staying home. Deliveries go on the front porch and are wiped down before the box gets past the foyer. Neighbors have understood and been super helpful, for which we shall be eternally grateful. You know the dangers, having experienced something like this yourself, and that cannot be making it easy. Please try to stay positive as this shall pass. If I can help in any way, you know how to reach me. Blessings.

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