Coping with code red
Advice to make it through these next months sane
With Montreal in it’s second red zone, opinions writers share advice on how to make it through this next phase.
As I find myself locked in my teeny tiny studio apartment with only my cat for company and a random Spotify playlist playing in the background to fill the dead air, I realize I’m slowly spiralling down a rabbit hole of self-doubt. I wonder if my friends are truly my friends, not having heard from them since the beginning of the school year. I think back on how I managed to get through it all the first time. I’m surely not the only one wondering where the rest of the world has gone. Then I remembered how I did it. And so, my advice would be to simply reach out first, whenever, wherever. Post a story, text some friends, or organize a group call. Your friends didn’t forget you, they’re probably just as caught up in their own head as you are right now.
No matter how lonely you get, don’t text the person you went on one date with back in January and never spoke to again. Don’t date them for months out of loneliness. Don’t almost live in their studio apartment, go on camping trips together and promise to teach them French only to realize they aren’t the one you want to spend Quarantine 2.0 with. “But they were so good and kind,” you’ll say. And they were. But let them live. Buy a vibrator, order cute underwear for you only, masturbate instead. Cry. Do all three. Don’t text your ex. You know the one. Pour yourself a glass of wine.
I remember when they said, “If the world is ending, call me.” I know it feels like the world is ending, but don’t call them. Go for a walk instead. Pet your dog, and kiss her when she accidentally pees on the rug.
Lay on the grass at the foot of Mount Royal and stare up at the glaring light of that white cross, and contemplate life like you have so many times before. Remember all of those weekly existential crises? I bet they’re looking kind of silly now (except they were valid you know? It’s all valid). I know it feels like anxiety has made a home out of your throat these days, I know that some days it tightens its grip as you look at your phone. Maybe you’ll feel dead inside, scrolling through memes about feeling dead inside, it all depends on the day. Don’t be afraid to put your phone away, take a hot bath, call a friend. Maybe it’s time to re-read that book that you swore you’d never read again all those years ago. The one from that class on contemporary writing by women. Girl, it hurts to exist in this world and in this body. I know it and you know it. But we get by.
Being in quarantine while pregnant was scary because I kept hearing how I may be at higher risk for getting COVID-19. After reading many articles and talking to other pregnant women, there was no conclusive evidence. So, I was left to assess my own risk. I also felt an immense responsibility to not only protect myself, but the life growing inside me. I spent the first half of quarantine living in a nightmare, too worried about contracting the virus, whether it was from going to doctor's appointments or checking the mail. Being pregnant and seeing all these social media posts of people starting their "better self" journeys made me want to overload my days with endless tasks. I kept trying to compete with strangers because I felt inadequate with how I handled things. Especially because I was pregnant, it felt that I was using my pregnancy as a crutch if I wanted to take it easy one day.
Now, I want to tell myself this, pregnancy is hard work in and of itself, so don't feel shame for the choices you make. Your baby is important and it's no longer just about you. How other people choose to spend their time is their own choice, you don't have to follow. Relaxing is good. And just enjoy the small moments.
Since the beginning of the virus, I have learned some lessons to say the least. I’ve realized the importance of taking advantage of the good weather and to get outside between classes. It’ll clear your head while you get exercise.
You’re finally back in university, despite a ten-year lapse. The younger generations as well as the older ones have much knowledge to dispel, so do what you can to absorb it and instill into your consciousness. Don’t forget, it’s okay to not feel okay. Tell someone how you’re feeling, before it gets out of hand. There’s more to look forward to, like new friends, new knowledge, and new opportunities. So, don’t give up; just keep on pushing ahead. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
If I’ve learned anything from the first round of zone red, it’s that I definitely don’t give myself as much credit as I should. Sometimes, I just need to treat myself right. Let the isolation bring some self-care into the picture. A bubble bath, a glass of wine, a journaling session, and most importantly, self compassion. Don’t feel guilty for not doing anything. You’re allowed not to. The first three months of quarantine paused me, and I reflected on what has been working in my life thus far, and what I want more of. I can’t control what happens outside of myself - that much is evident. But there’s a lot I can control, and I’m grateful for all of it. I’m grateful that I can make my life the way I want it to be, even if it’s not perfect. So- remember to take it slow. Give yourself the credit you deserve for each and every small success. You’ve done a lot this day, this month, this year, even if it’s just getting out of bed to snack on yogurt and granola and curling right back up again (God bless that duvet!). You’re valid, and you’re still valid when you’re not doing anything 'productive'. You’re as valid as the sky is or the trees are just for breathing, and you’re allowed to just be. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that, amidst all the chaos and drama, that we can just be, and that's more than enough.
This article originally appeared in The Disorientation Issue, published September 8, 2020.