I write from the perspective of someone suffering from debilitating social anxiety. I have spent the last decade of my life battling with a fear of existing in public places; of being seen; of being known. My friendships have diminished to almost nothing over the past year on part due to my refusal to leave the limits of my comfort zone, and my one routine social outing was my weekly train rides to and from my university in the city.
It would be logical for anyone to assume the restrictions of social isolation and the vast physical distance meant to be maintained between us would be a solace and a relief to my frail temperament. But in reality, I have never felt more trapped than I do now. When you and everyone you know are trapped at home, there is no excuse to keep boundaries. There is no excuse to put off working, to not attend your Zoom class meetings; no excuse to not want to talk, Skype, Netflix party, FaceTime, Houseparty, invite the world inside the one place you once felt at ease.
I am constantly on edge. I am doing more schoolwork than ever for the fear I might not be doing enough (and, of course, we are all at home and it is expected of us)–and I truly fear I will fail under the pressure of trying to succeed. I turn my phone off to avoid the buzzing; I leave it turned down on the table and forget it in my room so I don’t feel the burden to stay connected. I leave the TV off and avoid the things I love to do because I make a burden out of everything now; everything is “I will do it tomorrow” because there is no pressure to do it right away, yet all the pressure in the world to get it done. I can’t sleep and yet I crave it; I am exhausted at all times but can’t turn my brain off at the dead of night.
And I am lucky. I am living rent-free under my parent’s roof. I have a healthy immune system. I am young, and inside, and my biggest issues are nothing in the scheme of this entire pandemic. But I have an ache in my gut that won’t leave; it’s the weight of a locked door, and the way I never thought my greatest anxiety would be staying home.