Roundtable: From Our Shelters, Places to Yours

It’s a weird time, friends and loved ones; we’re all feeling disconnected and scared, and many of you are, too. Many of us are simultaneously hyper-plugged-in – to Twitter, to the news, to Instagram, to seeing that dumb “Imagine” song posted everywhere — and isolated, feeling like the only person alive eating noodles with butter for breakfast at 11 am and panicking a little when you can’t know how everyone else is spending their time because no one has posted an Instagram story for 20 minutes. We’re here to share a little about how we’re spending this time and what rituals, routines and practices are helping us get through this period; share yours with us too?

Carrie Wade, Writer

Lately I’ve found comfort in the idea of “Best Next Choice”: I can’t control much of anything about what’s happening right now on a global scale, and none of us truly knows what’s coming each day, but what I can do is make the best possible next decision with the information I have.

For me, that’s meant social distancing as well as staying informed via local news sources; I use national sources to keep up more broadly, but focus most of my attention locally, since that’s where I can learn a) the most relevant new developments and b) how to put my financial resources, such as they are, to immediate and meaningful use. I’ve found that balance of news consumption extremely helpful for keeping panic spirals at bay. When the “rules” for how to navigate are changing by the hour, I don’t actually want every piece of information I could possibly get — I want to know what I can and should do right where I am. So far that’s looked like donating money to local orgs and businesses, heading out to my parents’ house to give them peace of mind (and a designated grocery shopper), and staying inside except for a daily walk as far as possible from others.

I’m sure I won’t be the only person in this roundtable to recommend meditation, but if it at all appeals to you, I’d say now is as good a time as any to start. I fell off the meditation wagon for a bit but it’s safe to say I am back on now. And I’d be remiss not to share my feel-good show of the moment: The Repair Shop on Netflix. As we all face a wildly uncertain present and future, it feels great to watch some stuff get fixed.

Drew Burnett Gregory, Senior Editor

I really want to write something here that is inspiring and hopeful and brings comfort to whoever reads it. But I’m trying to be easier on myself through all of this and I know it might just not be possible. Some days I won’t be able to write or say or do the perfect thing that helps others, some days I won’t even be able to get out of bed.

As of writing this I’ve officially been completely self-quarantined for a week. Much of that week was spent trying – and failing – to maintain my usual work-from-home habits and trying – and failing – to convince people in my life, especially my roommates, that they needed to take this seriously. I’ve felt despair at what I initially perceived as selfishness and nihilism, but now view as something more complex. We’re all totally unprepared for circumstances like this and that’s going to manifest for people in different ways. It left me extremely agitated to watch people I share a space with who have the option to stay home choose otherwise. But in the passing days my anger has subsided, and, I guess, been replaced with something closer to sadness. Never have I wanted less to be able to say I told you so.

The past week I’ve been confronted with the extent of my mental illness. I feel like the tricks I’ve spent the past five years learning to manage my OCD no longer apply. How do you stop irrational thoughts when they’re no longer irrational? How do you check in with reality when reality is itself so terrifying? Previously, thoughts like if I don’t do this basic task perfectly my parents will die could obviously be acknowledged, considered, and let pass as a false intrusive thought. But now even the shred of truth attached to it has overwhelmed me. My roommates coming in and out and inviting their partners to come in and out and friends to come in and out doesn’t have me worried for myself. I just can’t silence the thoughts of all the people they’re spreading it to – people who still have to go to work, people who don’t have homes, people who are immunocompromised. Then I think about them spreading it to me and who I might spread it to when I do ultimately have to leave to restock on groceries – even if I do so with precaution. This has me rationing food in a way that I know isn’t healthy as someone who on a good day doesn’t have the best relationship to food. I’m also worried about all the people I know and don’t know who are now out of work. Before the quarantine began I was trying to find ways to make more money and given some of the work I do I know I could keep doing that – I want to be someone who can give money to those who need it instead of being yet another person who will need to ask for help. And, yet, I’ve never been less productive.

Okay, so that’s me being honest about where I’m at. But it’s also leaving out the fact that I’ve cried as many happy/comfort tears this week as I have sad/scared tears. Something about the current situation has heightened everything for me and filled me with levels of gratitude I didn’t know possible. I feel grateful for the friends of mine who have taken this seriously and have comforted me when I felt insane. I feel grateful for my best friend who is checking in on me via FaceTime multiple times a day. I feel grateful for my friend who scheduled a FaceTime hang out for later in the week when – unknowing to her – I was feeling my loneliest. I feel grateful for my friends who invited me to play games on Google Hangout after my worst day this week. I feel grateful for the journalists I know who are continuing to write important coverage even as they’re struggling themselves. I feel grateful for the friend who sent me a quarantine playlist. I feel grateful for the people I’m getting to know better with this excuse to chat online. I feel grateful for the organizers and activists who are providing practical aid to those who need it most and pushing politicians and companies to act responsibly. I feel grateful for the book I’m reading – Vivek Shraya’s The Subtweet – that’s good enough to actually pull my attention away from Twitter. I feel grateful for all the other books on my shelf that are giving me something to look forward to. I feel grateful for Fiona Apple, Solange, Ingrid Michaelson, and Carly Rae Jepsen. I feel grateful for Glee, yes Glee, for providing a silly and necessary distraction. And, most of all, I’m grateful for everyone at Autostraddle who has been enthusiastic and practical in their determination to meet this crisis with love and action. I honestly don’t feel like I’m there yet, but witnessing that level of focused selflessness has inspired me to try and get there – not out of guilt or self-judgement, but from a place of possibility.

Kamala Puligandla, Former Editor-in-Chief

I like rituals, they help make me feel at ease, and allow my body and mind to kick into modes they already know. I’ve gotta say, a lot of my rituals are off now that we’re social distancing and since I just can’t tell whether or not I should be outside if other people are outside! Also my life/love/writing practice is heavily reliant on being able to go to talks, events, dinner, drinks, film screenings, strange installations with friends and pack on to each other’s couches and discuss all the things we’re reading and thinking and feeling and lying awake at night anxious about, and for me, there’s an energy in the being together that ignites new ideas and tangents that follow that are — though I’m in love with text — impossible to mimic in written form and lost in virtual space. So, let’s be real, I feel flattened and less magical.

I have fear for everyone’s livelihoods and what it means to be separated from sources of joy, and feel uncertainty about our future, but I also am CHILLING. Because I know that’s something I can have control over. I can make my apartment into a deep chill station. Every night I turn on my purple light and smoke a joint and listen to Alice Coltrane while I watch the smoke curl around my (thriving, btw) money plant. And then I read aloud to myself (and sometimes to friends) and laugh loudly at all the ridiculous parts, and eat forkfuls of mint chocolate chip ice cream but do not allow myself to chew the chips until all the ice cream parts have melted in my mouth. I could probably do other things. But I’m not. I’ve also gotten in my car a few times to scream sing while I drive the 2 North into the Angeles Mountains.

I went to Joshua Tree right before this pandemic got very serious and my friend Angela had me empty a bunch of pitchers into the sand at sunset and asked me what I wanted to be rid of, what had helped me arrive where I’m at, but wasn’t serving me anymore. And I dumped several large pitchers of impatience water out into the sand and watched them get sucked back up into the earth. So now I’m learning to wait and see — and as an Aries in Aries season, this is no small feat — but I am pretty sure this is how I’m going to keep my cool for now.

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

Right now I’m focusing on supporting my own health and survival and supporting the folks around me. I made a list of all the ways I’d like to spend my time at home. If I feel lost, I have something to return to. The list includes everything from “practice writing topical jokes” to “have a solo dance party” to “do some push-ups… more than 10!” 

I live alone, which feels scary right now. Every morning, I check in with a friend who also lives alone. We’ve made each other out “designated check-in buddies,” and our morning ritual of, “Hey! You still healthy and safe?” makes me feel a little more at ease. 

I’m used to going to a rock climbing gym several days a week to keep my physical and mental health in check. Lately, I’ve been going for long walks outside instead. On those walks, I’ve been checking in on friends and family who live in different parts of the country.

I’m writing more, but I miss live performance. I’ve been organizing some livestream shows with pals, and I’ve been going ham on Twitter with dumb quarantine jokes. Humor is leading my right now. Any time I can make people laugh, even if it’s not in front of a live audience, I feel a little more like myself.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

I have such vivid childhood memories of Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassination, the Challenger exploding, the Cold War (and so many major movies grappling with nuclear proliferation). I remember sitting on the floor of my living room eating a grilled cheese sandwich and playing with Legos as NBC News broadcast SCUD missiles falling on Iraq the night the first Gulf War began (and every night after that too, until it was over) (well, “over.”). Columbine. September 11th. My main focuses in college were the women’s labor movement in World War II and the Rwandan genocide. My senior year, I was reading through Time magazine articles from 1944, and came across a photo of FDR right before his third election; he looked like the ghost of a man. And beside it, a poll that basically indicated an overwhelming majority of Americans thought it was the literal end of the world. My great-grandmother grew up on a farm during the Great Depression; my great-grandfather was drafted into WWII; my dad’s generation watched the Vietnam War on the news every night while eating dinner, assuming all boys would eventually be drafted into it. My sister was sounding the alarm on climate change when she was in the fourth grade. 

This pandemic is, by far, the most horrifying thing that has happened during my lifetime, and I know for a fact that the world will not look the same on the other side of it. None of my lived or learned experiences with large scale tragedies compare to this — but growing up always aware of those things that had happened and were happening, with high anxiety and superhuman empathy and not a lot of parenting, I have always held the truth in one hand that the world can be cruel and terrifying and mercurial, while holding the truth in the other hand that I have to excavate hope and humor from my experiences to make my life worth living. In third grade I wrote a story called “My River of Sadness” about how sadness flowed through my body like blood, always, and that’s never not been true. But it’s also always been true that I’ve found things to be grateful for and joyful about. Those mental and emotional and spiritual muscles are getting the biggest workout of their lives right now, but they’re also muscles I’ve been flexing for as long as I’ve been able to form memories, so I know they’re capable. 

My partner, Stacy, and I are full-on self-quarantining in NYC. I have been for almost two weeks and she started four days ago. We want to go at least 14 days since the last time we were in contact with other people before we venture out to do a food and toiletries run and return back home, with the most safety precautions possible this time. Like basically everyone else I know, we have symptoms of either colds or allergies or anxiety or COVID-19, so we’re trying to be extra extra careful. 

We’re trying to keep ourselves on a similar schedule to the one we had before we squirreled away. Waking up at the same time, starting and ending work at the same time at the co-working station we’ve made out of our kitchen table, eating dinner at the same time, and getting into bed around the same time. I’m doing at-home physical therapy every single day and also meditating. We’re building in time to hang out in the little isolated back alley that people mostly use as a driveway behind our house, walking and stretching and jumping around in the sun, tossing a football, thinking we might eventually try to get our hands on some badminton racquets. We’re both playing video games we love, watching our favorite shows and movies, reading books, and encouraging (sometimes firmly!) each other to stay off social media. I’ve started using Instagram stories again for the first time in years to act like a clown away from Twitter. I’ve also been cooking a whole lot more and delighting in trying to stay present with all the scents and sounds and textures and colors of the ingredients, and taking joy in the way a meal comes together and sustains us. I’m finding great comfort revisiting the foods of my Southern upbringing. Biscuits! They’re what’s for breakfast! 

I’m also trying to stay connected to my closest friends via texting, social media, and online gaming. My regular D&D group got a Roll20 one-shot going last weekend and it was an absolute delight. I have another one scheduled for tonight, and another one for this weekend. It’s not the same as being at the same table for a whole day of course, but still hilarious and heroic and captivating. I’m starting a co-op Stardew Valley farm with a dear friend. I’m calling my family more, just to check in and share stories. It’s comforting to hear how they’re going about their daily routines too, while social distancing. I’m trying to find a good online situation to get a regular game of canasta going with my grandparents. Carmen and I are planning to start a non-dystopian book club here at Autostraddle. I love seeing what my friends are cooking and reading and how they’re getting some sunshine on their beautiful and handsome faces. 

And of course, I’m trying to figure out how to use my resources wisely to help as many people as I can who need financial support during easily the scariest economic situation any of us have ever encountered on such a broad scale. I’m grateful to the threaded Twitter lists and the curated link round-ups of humans and charities to support. I’m going to try to be extra strategic with my money in the coming months so it can have the maximum impact on my community. Whatever I save from not going out or ordering in, I plan to give back to the people who made going out and ordering in possible before they lost their ability to work. Instead of buying just… stuff, I’m going to make sure people in my community can eat. 

I’m also trying to laugh as much as possible. Laughing and making other people laugh always makes me feel better. When my great-grandmother died when I was 12 and when my uncle died when I was 20, my grandmother — daughter to one, mother to the other — walked around at the funeral home and asked everyone to tell her a funny story about her mom and her son. I remember so many tears during those days, and so much joy too. 

All of which is to say that I’m really scared and sad, which is a feeling as familiar to me as my own face, and I’m hopeful and grateful too, which is also familiar, and I’m trying to balance those things and remain grounded in the moment as much as I can.

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

In some ways it feels dumb to talk about how my life is different now than it was a week ago – I already worked from home, and what was previously something of a personal disadvantage for me (working online in an unstable industry) now feels like a huge privilege; my work is suddenly much more stable and has a much more reliable future than many other people in my life. I do have cold/flu symptoms, but no fever and relatively, can’t complain. At the same time, the reasons why I’m suddenly in this privileged position are not great! It’s very difficult to worry about so many people I love, and be relatively helpless to support them; one thing I’m grappling with is that my brother, who has always been the one of us who’s Doing Well comparatively – straight, male, physically healthy, stable jobs in moving/construction that pay well and are reliable careers longterm – is suddenly in a lot of uncertainty; he’s likely to get laid off and is risking a lot of exposure if he doesn’t, and his history as a heavy smoker puts him at risk. I’m also noticing how much a lot of mine and others’ pre-existing Issues are getting exacerbated by this crisis – if you have baggage around uncertain, unsafe or unstable past situations, have lived with martial law or state violence, have had reason to fear scarcity or poverity or food insecurity, are sensitive to feeling trapped or unable to move freely, or any of a dozen other things, this is probably really tough right now! I know it is for me.

At the risk of sounding extremely corny, the things I’ve been relying on are the things I’ve been lucky enough to get a chance to learn in therapy over the past few years: I try to sit and breathe through intense bad feelings until they subside a little and when they do, trying to think through whether it’s a rational reaction to what’s happening or whether I’m reacting to What It Symbolizes To Me; I try to fact-check what I’m thinking and feeling to see if the intense story I’m telling myself is completely accurate or if I’m being somewhat all-or-nothing about it (“I need to reach out and ask if anyone can FaceTime if I’m lonely” is different than “I’m all alone at the end of the world!”). I try to remind myself that however intensely bad I’m feeling right now, and even if I can’t force myself out of it, I’ll feel different eventually if I wait it out, and will be able to re-center on doing what I can to help. I’m focusing on keeping my field of vision close, if I can; if I can’t know or plan for what will be happening in a week or a month or a year, I can keep myself from spiraling about it by focusing on what I can do this afternoon, or tomorrow, even if it’s only making a FaceTime date. I’m giving myself permission to be exhausted – whether it’s the allostatic load or the work in trying to figure out how to deal with this or just lethargy from being in the house all day, I could absolutely fall asleep at any given moment. Most of all, I’m trying to choose to actively focus on the things I can do – I can still impact the space around me by arranging it how I like, cleaning and doing laundry; I can still work on projects at my job that will make a difference in this time (although I know that isn’t an option for everybody); I can donate to others who need it and encourage others to do so too; I can check on the people in my life and sometimes when they need small things I can help get them. Today I sent 200 nitrile gloves for my mom because, as a gay, I knew someplace that still had some in stock. (She works in healthcare and will use/share them without hoarding!) She sent me some Irish soda bread; I can eat that in my kitchen and call her before I go to bed, and so I’ll make sure I do.

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

I’d been invited on a press trip to Columbus, Ohio, from March 12-15. I flew out on Tuesday to see my family first. Wednesday is when the terror really set in. Things happened quickly. When this started feeling less like the myriad large-scale tragedies we’d endured before and more like something that would set a dividing line right down the middle of civilization, marking a clear before and after. Surely they’d be cancelling the trip, I thought. Visiting restaurants, going to a hockey game? It wasn’t cancelled and therefore on Thursday evening, my aunt dropped me off at the trendy hotel in Short North where the trip was to begin and I checked in and got my free greenish cocktail with a decorative toothpick and I went up to my room and I sat on the bed and I read the news for the 55th time that day and my bones and my face felt hot and I opened my laptop and I booked a flight home for the next day. I’d seen my grandma in her assisted living facility the day before. Visitors were barred the day after.

I flew home Friday and have been in social isolation ever since.

I miss people. I miss my friends. Drinking tequila on the roof, playing games we make up as we go along.

It’s odd. My fiance left me in November 2016, and if you read my writing often you’re likely already aware of this, but I was then alone in a house in rural Michigan that we owned, and oh I was alone. I saw nobody. Texted a lot. I stocked up at the grocery store so I never had to leave. I barely remember those ensuing weeks, my depression was so endless, the solitude so cavernous, my fear for the future of this country looming over everything. Sometimes this reminds me of that time. Being profoundly alone and terrified for how Trump’s presidency could hurt vulnerable people. Worried the world was about to end. Selfishly preoccupied that I’d be alone when it did.

This feels like that sometimes, my coping mechanisms oddly familiar. But of course this is so much worse. So many sick, dead, laid off, scared. I’m scared for people who will get sick with other things and not be able to get treatment because the hospitals are already flooded.

I feel lucky to be employed, to own a business that has somehow been able to survive through so much. I feel lucky that every day I can pay queer people to write and draw and think and talk, people who need work now more than ever, who’ve lost other jobs and who are scared.

This next part I need you to read as if the job I am writing about is not running this very website because I don’t want it to seem like a passive-aggressive solicitation for funding — it isn’t, and don’t donate because of it — but I want to talk about these feelings because I do imagine somebody reading this might also be a small business owner and be experiencing similar panic. I’m terrified by this widespread job loss, I’m scared we won’t be able to raise the money we need to maintain the budget we started last summer. Prior to this we were finally— finally, after ten years of constant struggle — on the up and up financially, confident our community could support us and we could continue supporting them. The economy was the strongest it’d been in years. Now we’re looking at something far worse than the recession of 2008. I’m pissed at this incompetent government. Widespread access to testing could change everything.

But. Nothing about the structure of our business relies on a space we can’t access, and most of how I’m coping is figuring out how to make the most of that: how to give people community and bring joy and support to everybody who is scared or sick or in social isolation. It is an honor and an opportunity I am so grateful for. I feel best when I’m able to give paid work to people who need it.

What do I do.

I exercise every day — strength training or using the stepper (similar to this. Making lists of tv shows/movies is somehow relaxing for me. I walk my perfect dog Carol, b/c fresh air is nice. I’m in a near-constant group chat and other one-on-one text conversations, I face-time or zoom with friends. Reconnecting with people I’ve not spoken to in a while is probably when I’m happiest. I work on my book. I do the hard jigsaw puzzle I gave up on before. I take pictures of myself, consider posting them online, and then don’t. I’m reading mostly dystopian fiction, marathoning Grey’s Anatomy. I’m writing this, now.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

I work in live music, and spring is our busy season. This happened so, so gradually and then quite suddenly, and our industry is devastated right now. A lot of my focus is on my colleagues and how we’re all taking care of each other through this. It’s not just musicians who are out of work, it’s everybody who travels with them, tour managers, techs, merch, plus venue staff, security guards, bartenders, door staff, sound and lighting, stagehands…. We’ve all been checking on each other pretty regularly, particularly folks who have developed symptoms. The worst part across the board is the uncertainty as to when this will all be over, or what things will even look like for us then.

I live with a roommate, who also had his girlfriend come stay with us, and while they are both very nice this is a very small apartment for three people! I spend a lot of time in my room with the door closed, and if I’m being honest, I’m struggling quite a lot. I sleep at weird hours, I’m never hungry, I cannot motivate myself to actually do things at specific times. For the first few days, I also felt sick, but was advised by a doctor to not bother coming in for testing if I didn’t think I needed to be hospitalized. My symptoms were mostly minor and I’m feeling much better now, but I’m still pretty pissed about how unavailable proper testing still is.

While I do feel unstuck in time, I’ve found that structure helps. I am, for the first time in my adult life (sorry), a making-the-bed person. Playing bass is always good for my mental health, so I made a playlist of my favorite songs to play and run through it once a day. That helps me get out of my own head and simultaneously feel a little more grounded. I’ve also ordered a bunch of stuff to exercise with, as I’d only just joined a gym and don’t want to lose the (very small) benefits I’d already accrued. I bought a lot of fun things to cook but haven’t had much of an appetite, hoping that turns around as I adjust to this new reality. Keeping in touch with friends has been crucial.

The thing is that I love spring; I’m coming out of a winter slump, work is busy, the weather’s getting better, things are turning green, and I’m usually in a pretty good mood this time of year. It feels like the universe is trying to force me to have a depressive episode whether I like it or not — it often feels like my only options are to do the things that severely depressed Stef would do. I’m working overtime to avoid falling back into that trap by making lists of all the possible ways I could be improving my situation, and then committing to those things instead. It’s harder than it sounds.

Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor

It really depends on the day.

I am a very anxious person, I work in digital media, I’m Extremely Online, and I live about 8 miles away from New Rochelle, where the second known case of COVID-19 in New York was diagnosed at the beginning of March. I have been sort of waiting for this level of panic for…a while. In some ways, it is almost a relief that we are finally taking this seriously together. I’m not sure if that’s fucked up to say; I’m sorry if that’s fucked up to say. I just want everyone to be as safe as possible, and we can’t do that if we’re not on the same page. It is a relief to feel that many (not all, but many) people are finally on the same page.

I was supposed to be in Portland this week. I’m on spring break from school and I was excited to go back to the place I consider home and see my friends and my girlfriend. I was excited to attend birthday parties, have a lot of sex, enjoy the magnolia trees, and maybe casually look around for jobs that might be available to me come June, when I graduate. I started having second thoughts about the trip the week the man in New Rochelle was diagnosed, I tried to reason with myself that it would be okay to fly to Portland even if I got stuck there, and then finally, on Thursday, I admitted to myself what I had already known in my heart for a few days: knowing what we did about the virus and the way it is spread (and not knowing all the things we still don’t know), there was no way I could fly on Friday for what was essentially a vacation. What if I had been exposed to the virus and I brought it to Portland? What if I became exposed on the 6.5 hour plane ride? I did not have a reasonable place to self-quarantine for 14 days upon landing in Portland. I wanted to be there so badly – I wanted the option to quarantine with my girlfriend, I wanted to go hiking with my best friends and maintain 6 feet of distance, I wanted to weather this pandemic in the place that feels like home to me even if I haven’t lived there in almost two years. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t have been right, and I would have regretted the harm I may have caused. If someone else had asked me what they should do, I would tell them not to go. I called my girlfriend and my best friend. I cancelled my ticket. I made plans to hunker down in my studio apartment in Yonkers.

The hard thing about being a person who deals with anxiety is that so often it feels like my job is to reassure my brain that whatever it happens to be panicking about at any given moment is not grounded in truth or reality. When things actually are incredibly scary, when the future is filled with questions that do not have answers, when things actually are potentially catastrophic, I find myself at a loss with how to tell my brain to calm down. I keep telling my mom, who also deals with anxiety, that while it is appropriate to be worried and appropriate to take all the precautions we are able to take, panic doesn’t serve anyone. That’s true. But I still panic sometimes. I understand when she does, I understand when anyone does. We have not lived through something like this and our best tool to fight it is to put physical distance between ourselves; it is painful and it would be weird if it didn’t feel painful. I’m trying to remind myself that: this is painful and my brain’s response, to recognize and internalize and try to manage that pain, is not just an anxiety response. It’s reality. This is our reality. It’s not okay, but it’s okay. You know?

I think I feel guilty for having a hard time with this so far because I am objectively pretty okay, on an individual level. I have a home. I live alone. I have enough food to stay home for two weeks minimum, probably much longer. I have enough unread books to stay home for two years, minimum, probably much longer. Two of my three income streams have not been affected. My parents are staying inside, my brother is staying inside, most of my friends are staying inside if they can and taking as many precautions as possible when they go to work if they are unable to stop working. I am okay, for now, kind of.

But also – I am not okay, because this is not about us as individuals. I don’t want to celebrate being fine if the people I love, the people in my community, the healthcare workers putting themselves on the front lines, the humans keeping our world functioning at a very baseline level through this crisis, are not fine. I am not fine because I know this is bad and I know it is going to get worse before it gets better, and I know I can’t coax my brain into understanding exactly how bad this is going to be because we have never been here before and we just don’t know. I am managing these feelings, the feelings of not being fine, by limiting my social media and news intake (especially Twitter), looking for ways to help the people in my community (both locally and online), checking in on the people I love, pouring my energy into my Autostraddle work, trying to go for a walk every day (and not being mean to myself on the days when I don’t manage it), making food I like to eat, planning FaceTime dates, and trying to envision all the ways we can continue to take care of each other. I’m also trying to sleep more and drink more water.

And – some days I just cry. And that’s just how it’s going to be for a while. It’s not that it’s okay – it just is.

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  1. I’m like 2 miles at best away from WeHo were the mayor of that city caught the virus. I am also now under a state-mandated stay at home as my business is non-essential. My plan is to just exercise at home, ride my bike solo, play video games with my parents, & call my bff who so far has been stuck in her Detroit home for a week now. I am just thankful for sites like autostraddle, discord, & youtube to keep me distracted. Speaking of which, is there an autostraddle community discord channel? If not maybe there should be one?

  2. I was supposed to be in Vegas this week having a super fun break from all the stress that’s been building over the past two months. HA HA

    So now I’m working from home, taking patient calls on a laptop at my kitchen counter, trying to reassure them and make sure they’re doing everything they can to protect themselves. My whole team is offsite, using skype and telemed to communicate with each other. After I logged off last night I watched Parks n Recs with my family, spread as far apart in the living room as we could get and still see the tv.

    Two days ago we had a decent earthquake, 5.7, no major damage, but really could it just not for a bit?

      • Thanks @amidola. I’m back in the office today, we have patients that just have to be seen in clinic. I’m sorry I don’t have time to dish out any recipes just now, but I’ll keep you in mind if I get a break!

        We had another aftershock last night, and once again, I felt nothing. I am inured to the world falling apart.

  3. I stock the freezer section of a Costco, for us the sudden escalation was last Thursday. Before that there had been panic toilet paper buys, rice, canned roast beef, but we were all still laughing(it’s easy to do when you live and work with an excess of product all covered in comforting bright packaging)
    In the past week the world changed every day, shelves emptied, lines formed, every manager and most of the employees in my building got a crash course in crowd management, limits popped up, and I thanked my lucky stars that social anxiety had landed me with a stable morning shift that ended before the chaos and boundaries on my time so solid I haven’t had to work to enforce them now. My roommates parents had come to visit before everything, and it looks like they’re sheltering in place with us, which I’m not sure is better or worse, they help with his WFH boredom, but we struggled to get them to take things seriously and my job makes me a huge liability to them. I’m coping by trying as hard as I can and bringing home food to keep everyone else inside and just, aggressive physical self care. And shitposting, a lot of shitposting.

    • I hope people are being kind to you. Grocery store staff in Australia have been coping all sorts of abuse over shortages they have no control over. So I hope your customers are being kind and that management is putting in place strategies to support staff and their mental health.

  4. I work at a public library in Missouri, and I was supposed to be in Seattle March 8-15, visiting the city for the first time and attending Emerald City Comic Con. I cancelled the trip the Wednesday before I was supposed to leave (still fighting with Airbnb to try to get the rest of my refund btw) but still took that week off work.

    My library system sent out our 3-stage emergency plan on Monday the 9th. I had lunch with a close work friend on Tuesday and we speculated that we might get to Stage 2 of the plan (cancel all public programming, turn the library into quick-service only) within a week or two. We doubted we would get to Stage 3 (close the library). We went to Stage 2 by Thursday. I returned to work at 8am the following Monday, and then we closed at noon.

    I feel ludicrously fortunate at the moment. My library took this situation seriously from the get-go, gave anyone who needed it the opportunity to take 2 weeks admin leave prior to closing, and now that we’re officially closed everyone is being paid with administrative leave whatever they were scheduled to work. My job, wages, and healthcare are not in jeopardy. I live alone, which feels like a blessing at the moment. My pantry and freezer are stocked, and I impulse-purchased a new TV and a ukulele. As an admitted penny pincher who struggles to splurge, I’m so glad I was able to indulge in my creature comfort and entertainment.

    I’m trying to keep a schedule and a routine, trying to stay connected with friends and family, trying not to worry about my mom, who is mulishly insisting on still working. Every morning I do yoga with a friend, most evenings I watch other friends play games. We’re working on getting Roll20 set up to be able to do some fun one-shots. I take walks, I practice my new ukulele, I read, I cook, I watch hours of Critical Role (no better time to finally tackle campaign 1). I’ve given some money to local food banks, and I’ve been trying to patronize some local businesses as best I can. I’m working on wrapping my head around the reality that this is life for the next month, at least. Probably longer. I’m trying to be grateful for the chance to slow down, rest, build connection and community in new ways.

    • I work at a public library in New Jersey. We went to Phase 1 (of 4) about 3 days into the closings of schools and concerts and events. Phase 1 was not doing outreach to senior centers and our patrons who are homebound and canceling all programming. We moved to Phase 2 last Wednesday. That is basically more cleaning and then cancelling any holds or over due items. Phase 3 is temporarily closing all branches (in a 21 branch system) for 2 weeks. I just got a text this morning that we are now closed until further notice. So that’s a little scary. That uncertainty. Especially, for me because I just got a full time position last May.
      But like you, I know my benefits, pay, and insurance are not in any danger of being cut because of being closed. I feel happy? But guilty at the same time?
      Anyway since I am living with my folks, not out as Sarah yet and didn’t have funds to move out on my own yet, this is where I am self isolating for the time. I’m fortunate that there lots of places to walk around my folks’ neighborhood. And people are friendly. I plan to take time to read more, play games, watch movies and shows and just try to not freak over the things I cannot control

  5. I’m currently working from home because capitalism, so I’ve greatly enjoyed attending Zoom meetings dressed in a blazer and sweatpants. Fancy top and casual bottoms. Which may also be my sexual preference. Idk.

  6. It’s strangely comforting to read all of these stories, makes me feel less alone in what we are feeling. I just filled in this questionare from my psychologist, asking me if I’m “axious in crowds” or “avoiding public transport”.

    In the Netherlands the situation is getting more serious every day. There are 106 deaths already. (We are a small, densely populated country, 17 million people.) Hospitals in the south are almost filled to the max. Bars, restaurants are all closed, schools and daycare are closed, many shops have closed. I expect a lockdown coming soon. Four of my close friends have already been infected, they went skiing in Italy, but all are doing okay now, thankfully. Two of them were quite sick. My best friends father and mother in law are in the ICU, the father is not expected to make it.

    I’m scared. Scared for my parents, who are pretty healthy, but still in their late 60s. I’m scared for my uncle whith heart failure. My brother and nephew dropped of some flowers and things at my parents, my mom was so upset she couldn’t (shouldn’t) give them a hug.

    Thankfully we have a solid social security system and universal healthcare. No one has to be worried about hospital bills here. The government is putting a lot of extra money towards helping freelancers, entrepreneurs, etc. There are likely people who’ll fall trough the cracks, but it will not be as bad as in the US.

    Personally, I was already home with disabllity benefits, so that will stay the same. I do feel guilty however, since I have a medical degree I feel like it is my duty to help. But my depression is not yet gone, plus the ADD and the autism, it’s difficult to take care of myself. All this staying in is not helping. I want to help, be useful, matter. I know I can’t deal with clinical patients at this point, but maybe something at a desk, behind the screens.

    Advice on this last part is welcome, I’m not sure how to deal or what to do.

    To everyone: stay safe, take care of each other. Sending virtual, germ free hugs your way.

    • Hey Yasmin, a big part of my job right now is just rescheduling non-urgent appointments. We’re moving as many clinic spots as we can into the end of May and June, knowing those may simply serve as placeholders, but encouraging people who are well to stay isolated. I’m also triaging my patients and enforcing protective protocols for them. Maybe you could do something like that? It’s all phone work, but it takes time and there are so many patients to check on, I’m sure it would be appreciated. Hang in there!

    • Hi Yasmin,
      If you‘d like:
      There are online counseling/therapist resources and I meant to google them, possibly make a list, but haven’t gotten around to it,yet.
      I know I stumbled across some really good links while googling trauma resources for refugees, but I haven’t been able to find them, again.
      But only if that isn’t too triggering, or bad, or anything.
      Everyone is talking about ventilators and ICUs but honestly,I’ve had a handful young
      and older people coming in who‘ve been clinically depressed and I can’t admit them to a hospital or refer them to a psychiatrist, because we’re shutting down our health care system. So I can only give them pills without ever seeing them again, and it’s harrowing. A lot of them speak English, so that‘d be fine!
      Have a good day!

    • I feel weirdly calm, possibly because I’ve been an anxious mess my whole life so now when shit is really hitting the fan, I’ve reached some equilibrium?? Dunno but trying to let myself be calm. My job has disappeared with the tourism and hospitality industry. I have some safety nets but unsure how long I can make it with them. Feeling guilty that I have no resources to share. Very grateful that my partner drove in the day before their city shut down. Enjoying their company and the freedom to spend our time as we please. Cuddling my dog a lot. Trying to write and play the piano everyday.

      Thank you all for sharing this. It’s hard to explain but it means a lot. Sending love to you all.

  7. Hey, I just wanted to say I am very grateful for all this real talk about our fears and this new world we’ve found ourselves in. sending lots of warmth and care to everyone.

  8. In a surprising twist of events, I find myself coping better than I expected in this corona-worldgonemad situation. I grew up in a cult with no access to tv, radio, newspapers, censored books etc so I spent a lot of my childhood entertaining myself, playing and communicating with friends and family. Yes obviously being in a cult is not an ideal place to be and the majority of it was terrifying. However, it did teach us a lot of survival skills and I am kind of grateful (never EVER thought I would write these words) for it.

    I have many many rituals that I do, most of them cult rituals but also new ones that I learned after I escaped that keep me grounded.

    Obviously now that I’ve been fully read into the internet, I am well and fully addicted and wouldn’t cope without it! I spend my time playing music, writing songs, painting, watching movies and speaking to people on the phone. Anything to avoid university work!

    It warms my little queer heart that there is so much kindness amongst the panic and I am grateful.

  9. literally one of my biggest anxieties/two am infodumps for the last several years has been a pandemic, specifically inspired by the spanish flu. one of the ways i would talk myself down was to come up with my pandemic plan: what resources do i need? who do i need to check on? what will my finances be like?

    in a lot of ways i feel almost vindicated? like for once in my years of existence the mental illness was right! but also this is an objectively terrible situation

    it’s extra weird because I work in childcare, and thus there is no working from home. as of right now we’re not only still open but are cautiously starting an elementary school care program up. i think this is a terrible idea and will lead to more exposure risk, but i just work here So i’m at the day to day: feed the kids, read the stories, talk about worms (worms are in right now), clean the poop off the wall. maybe i’ll work monday, maybe not. maybe i’ll get paid again in two weeks, maybe not. maybe the world is crashing in a fiery blaze, maybe not.

  10. We just closed the store I work at for an undefined period of time this afternoon, soooo yeah. Living in the second most expensive city in the world, no family in the same continent and living alone.

    On the plus side, since I’m isolated now, that means in a couple weeks time I should finally be able to see my gf again?

      • @leee this made me teary, both the kind thoughts and reading all the help people are offering to each other. Thank you so much, and take care. Hope you have a good network of virtual and non-virtual support 💜

      • Thank you @amidola ! Sending lots of love back – and lots of lots of good wishes for your health. I’m sure your work is crazy right now – thank you for everything you’re doing and take care <3

        I've never really tried podcasts before, but I have the feeling this is the ideal time to try, so thank you!

  11. It’s something to know for a fact I’m not the only one dreading the social and political outcomes of this event.
    Watching kids and adults online parroting eco-fascist rhetoric is…concerning.

    There’s much more but heh even typing with a touch screen is unpleasant right now because it’s happened I’m having a worse flare up than I’ve had in years.
    My throat is fine but my hands are angry sausages and I have to make the choice to suffer thru it or take a corticosteroid and further comprise my immune system.
    Universal healthcare is something that could have prevented this situation I’m in, but I’ll likely never know that for sure.

  12. I’m very privileged and fortunate in that I can work from home with no loss of income. I also do very well at home alone, I’m a massive introvert and I’m actually looking forward to time alone. I am concerned about my family though- my grandparents are in their 90s and don’t have the best health. My uncle lives with them as a caregiver, but he is leaving tomorrow to go back to his home in California for three weeks. I’m going to be caring for them in his absence, and while I’m happy to help them out, I’m pretty pissed at my uncle for refusing to cancel his trip. My entire family in general has really sucked at social distancing and as a nurse who knows what’s coming, it’s hard not to be really angry with them. And then my parents are both small business owners that might lose their businesses, which of course is awful. So it’s been an emotional roller coaster, with lots of work stress on top of it.

    To help deal with everything, I’ve been spending lots of time in the backyard. I just bought my first house a few months ago, so this is the first time I’ve had a backyard in years. The weather has just started to be nice, so it’s been wonderful to spend some time outside. My cat has been hanging out with me on a blanket in the grass while I work on my laptop and it’s been wonderful.

  13. I am a perpetual lurker, but have such a deep need to reach out that I rebooted this old account that I basically only used once to comment on that post about Ani Difranco and her plantation getaway. I have a lot of feels and fears, is what I’m saying.

    My dad was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, which was earth-shattering in itself. I’m lucky that the university where i teach has allowed us flexibility in how restructure our classes. I taught a first week of online coursework and feel like I was able to meaningfully engage and support the students. Yesterday my dog and my moved back home for the first time in 15 years to be with family as my dad goes through chemo next month. I spent today reclaiming the my childhood bedroom from the cats, moving boxes and going through old journals and pictures. Strange nostalgia in our brave new world. Also realizing, as quarantine stretches on, how atomized my life had already become as I’ve gone deeper into my ‘30s. I teach about community, and the queer community as a space for collective resilience, but feel very far and fractured from my community. I am worried for my dad and my students for whom sheltering in place at home is not the safest options.
    I hope that this will radically change our society to be a better, more interdependent place. I am trying to hold on to the good. Cuddling with my dog helps.

    • Oof, that sounds like a lot to be navigating. I’m wishing your dad improving health, and wishing you and your family good health all around <3

    • Wishing you and yours the best! This is already a difficult time, as it is, and now a pandemic on top of all of that. I hope you settle in well, and wishing your dad a successful and well tolerated chemo! xoxo

  14. thank you for posting this, and thank you all for sharing so honestly.

    I work in a university’s residences, and it is terrifying. I’m praying and working and doing my best to only process the emotions I need to, but it’s dizzying. We’re basically begging all the residents who CAN move out to move, and everyday feels like an uphill run.

    I’m also living apart from my husband as he is going through chemo and we can’t risk me bringing anything home, let alone COVID-19. I’m both very lucky to work somewhere that can house me, but also being apart from my main support system is another layer to an already complex event.

    Coping mechanisms – Fantasia on Disney+. Sunsets. Sunrises. Working out. Taking thirst traps. Journalling. Tea.

    best wishes to you all. much much love.

  15. I always knew the company I work for was objectively terrible. But I had hoped they might react differently in this instance. I should have known better.

    Today, two people in my department were made redundant. The rest of us were ordered to stand down for a month, with the choice to draw down on our vacation days or take leave without pay.

    I’m one of the lucky ones with just over a years worth of vacation days. Selfishly, I am sad that after this I will have almost no vacation time. When everything has calmed down, I won’t have the option to take a joyful holiday to a cute country or beachside town that needs support after our devastating bushfire season. I am grateful that I will receive full pay this month, but I worked so fucking hard for those vacation days, and to see them drained in this way…vacation is supposed to be refreshing, not horrible and sad and anxiety inducing.

    Similarly successful companies in my industry are letting their staff work from home, or shuttering temporarily and still paying their employees for the next month.

    I like the routine of working, of going into the office each day, weekends allocated for laundry and grocery shopping and meal prepping. I was already on a downward mental slope, after a truly shitty month at work, and then the anxiety from corona and inaction that both my government and company have taken until now. But the routine of life has kept me going as it usually does. Without that, I worry for my mental and emotional health.

    Sad woe is me tale over. Sending love and light to all in the AS community. Stay home, stay safe xx

  16. I’m trying to get through a shitty birthday, and I’m always suicidal around now anyway! Hurrah for covid and not being able to use any coping strategies as a result!!

  17. @malingo all the birthday love as care to you – I’m sorry you’re having a tough time, but please know you’re cared about and that we’re here for you online, even if we can’t be in person. If you would like to chat, I’m around!
    What would be your ideal birthday cake? Would it be a cake??

  18. Thank you all for struggling through whatever distancing measures are possible in your space. It is officially appreciated.

    We’re freaking out about what happens if/when distancing is inadequate, and PPE shortages occur. This has led to interesting scavenging throughout the house for elastic, nebulizer masks (and… did you know… albuterol inhalers are kinda tough to get?), and filter options.

    I’m very tired. I feel like I ought to be useful but as a self-employed person, I’m not networked into an organization that knows my skills. I also live with someone at high risk of bringing it home to me, so the general “go pack boxes for the food pantry” idea may also be irresponsible. Even though they need hands.

    And I’m struggling with the messaging for stratifying the risk for myself. Apparently, if I were in the UK, I would be under self-isolation for 12 weeks starting very soon. How many lines I checked off on their list was a little unnerving. But here, there isn’t even consensus as to whether I am really high risk or not. So, bah. (We are stay at home but whether I should arrange for grocery delivery versus go myself…)

    I also rebooted a very old account (haven’t used it in maybe… six years?) to comment.

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