My new normal is working in my pajamas and not brushing my teeth until noon. I roll out of bed fifteen minutes before the beginning of my work day to make a pot of coffee, feed the cats, and corral my hair with a plastic clip. I don’t even bother brushing it first. No make-up. I haven’t worn a bra in days. It looks like depression.
I sit at my desk in my bedroom for hours. I talk to voices that used to be faces. I sit in virtual meetings on mute so no one can hear the dogs barking in the other room. I leave my new office long enough to say hello to my sister-in-law in the living room, collect my Uber eats delivery, and grab a Diet Coke from the fridge. I’m a hermit with a head-set. My connection to people is a string of instant messages and emails.
My work day ends by closing my laptop—no goodbyes over cubicle walls; no see-you-tomorrows; no drive home to clear my head. It’s like I’ve snapped my fingers and am instantly home. My bedroom is a bedroom again. I take a nap, make dinner, hang-out with the family in the living room (steps away from my “office”), and go to bed at my usual time because tomorrow is a work day. One day is identical to the next and I don’t even care what day of the week it is.
Before COVID-19, I dreaded going to work, not because my job is dreadful, but because I just wanted to stay home and hide from the world. I didn’t realize going to work and being in the world helped me manage my depression. Depression loves my new normal. It’s been trying for years to keep me home in my jammies. It loves that I don’t shower every day or brush my hair. It loves my isolation and our long conversations. It loves that I look like I’ve given up. It loves that I look like I feel. It loves that it’s my new co-worker I have coffee with in the morning instead of my best friend.
I don’t know how long my new normal will last. We live in a strange, frightening new world. Social distancing is a word I didn’t know existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and travel bans are part of our everyday language. Personal protective equipment and ventilators are on everyone’s minds. It’s not just my depression that loves my new normal. My anxiety thrives on every uptick of COVID-19 cases and the real possibility of someone I love dying. It’s not my usual fear of death. It’s so much more.
There’s much I don’t have control over right now, but I can define my new normal. It includes hope, hair brushes, and hot showers. It includes creativity in place of naps, FaceTime coffee dates, and inhaling fresh air. It means telling depression and anxiety to keep it down during work hours. I’m thankful I can work from home, and so very grateful for those who leave home to save lives, keep our world running, and give us hope. They normalize the world that is anything but normal right now.