Designed by Yazmin Butcher.
When I got the word corona First heard, my boyfriend and I were celebrating our one-year-old in Mexico City. We were in a long distance relationship because he lives in America and I in Canada. It was mid-January and we had decided to forego presents and instead dare a little adventure and travel together. Between visiting the market and the museum, I wrote my mother a Whatsapp and casually mentioned that I can breathe a little worse at the moment, which is certainly due to the city's air pollution. She replied and told me about this new disease that affects the respiratory tract of those affected. She was immediately afraid that I might have been infected. I just rolled my eyes and told her she was overreacting.
But about months later, COVID-19 was suddenly no longer a problem that was a long way off. I, too, began to worry now - that they might close the Canadian-American border (which they have now done) and that I might not see my boyfriend for weeks or even months. He didn't share my fears and we started arguing more and more - via Whatsapp, phone and FaceTime. I wish he would show how much he loves me by coming to me right away. He wanted me to stop panicking and see what happens. We argued over our different needs: my need for closeness, his need for independence. And at some point he said to me that he needed some distance from me. Forever. My whole body felt numb. Up until that point I had thought how we would get married someday. Just a few weeks before he left me, we were still dancing next to the bookshelf we had set up together during one of his many visits to Toronto, and I thought: This will be our wedding song!
During the pandemic, I will not have anyone to hug, anyone to share my financial worries with, anyone to look after me in case I get sick.
The weekend our relationship broke up, social distancing became the new norm in Canada. All non-essential businesses had to close and all of my friends withdrew to their apartments that they shared with their husbands, partners and children. But as one of the 4 million Canadians who live alone, self-isolation meant that from that moment on I was really completely on my own. During the pandemic, I will not have anyone to hug, anyone to share my financial worries with, anyone to look after me in case I get sick. I have suffered from depression and an anxiety disorder since puberty. So I feared the isolation and separation might plunge me into the deep hole from which - after two years of hard work - I had just climbed out.
But to my surprise, that didn't happen. Yes, I often woke up with puffy eyes. And yes, there were times when I blamed myself. I worried that the good years were behind me - after all, I'm 32 - and that I would never find love again. I was sad. But the feelings didn't overwhelm me. When I was depressed, I kept thinking about death and almost never got out of bed. This time, however, I didn't feel so hopeless.
The question naturally arises: what is different now?
On the one hand, it's me. After years of therapy and self-reflection - plus regular stress-relieving boxing workouts and antidepressants - I've finally developed self-compassion. Yes, I was tempted to downplay my emotions and think: Now pull yourself together! Compared to what's going on in the world right now, your little breakup is a joke! But I decided not to feel guilty and to allow myself to grieve. This is extremely important if you want to deal with a breakup - says Jennifer Hollinshead, the founder and clinical director of the Peak Resilience advice center in Vancouver. She says the first step is not to get ready for being sad about not having love. “Find out: I want love. That is a need that I have and that is currently not being met. So of course I'm sad. ”And that's perfectly okay too.
I decided not to feel guilty and to allow myself to grieve.
Because my boyfriend ended the relationship during a global crisis, I realized once again that control is an illusion. The only thing I have control over is myself and my actions. Everything else - from my ex's feelings to the stock market - is out of my hands. Like the rest of the world, I am learning this important lesson all over again. And it makes me feel less alone. Realizing that everyone in the world is having similar experiences to yours can help you cope better with the whole situation, says Hollinshead.
There could of course be other reasons why my mental health has remained stable over the past few weeks. For example, some people with anxiety disorders may currently experience their symptoms as less severe because they are already prepared for the worst - they have already played through even unlikely worst-case scenarios in their heads. The fact that some of our greatest fears become a reality during the pandemic means we can finally take a deep breath because the worst has already happened and we are still okay. "Research shows that people tend to focus on the things they really need to focus on under traumatic circumstances," says Hollinshead. Non-essential things - like a shitty breakup - then automatically take a back seat.
I want to use this separation as an opportunity to focus on myself. I'm trying to get out more confident, stronger, and more independent on the other side of the pandemic.
Whatever my personal reason, I am now in the fifth week of self-isolation and I am surprisingly fine. I work as a freelance writer and I love my job. I have two small dogs and an apartment that has become my oasis. My therapist, friends and my parents give me strength; we chat almost every day via FaceTime and Zoom - more often than before the social distancing era.
Although I wish we were still together, I also use this time to understand that I will survive the whole thing without him and maybe even grow from it. I'll admit that I find it tempting to set up Zoom dates with any Tinder match, but I try to control myself. I want to use this separation as an opportunity to focus on myself. I'm trying to get out more confident, stronger, and more independent on the other side of the pandemic.