THE COVID PSYCHE – By ELLIN CURLEY

Covid 19 has changed me, or at least the Covid lifestyle has changed me, on a deep level.

First let me explain that I am in the high risk population for Covid. I’m over 70, I have only one kidney and I have an auto-immune disease that is currently in remission. Also, my son had a kidney transplant (with my kidney) and is on immuno-suppressants, which puts him in the highest risk group. I want to be able to see him so I have to be even more careful about exposing myself to Covid risks. So I take all the protective measures against the disease very seriously. I don’t obsessively wash my hands anymore, but I’m very careful about where I go and who I have contact with.

As a result, my life has been extremely limited since March of 2020 and I spend most of my time at home. I’ve always been a homebody, so I have to admit that this aspect in itself has not been particularly uncomfortable for me. I’m also retired, as is my husband, so we aren’t as busy during the week as we used to be anyway so we’re not missing out on that much. We see friends on Zoom and two to four at a time outside, so our social life is satisfactory, though not what it used to be.

So I didn’t expect the emotional reaction I’m having to venturing out a bit more, albeit masked, into the world. I’ve scheduled doctor appointments lately to catch up on things I let slide through the worst of the Covid lockdown. I’m used to getting the mail and local food shopping a few times a week but when I face an upcoming doctor appointment, I start getting anxious. I get into the car with trepidation and don’t relax again until I’m back in the car and on the way home.

I’m an anxious person so anxiety is not foreign to me. It’s just that intellectually I know that a trip to the doctor is one of the safest things to do these days. The offices are set up for social distancing, everyone wears masks and everything is cleaned and sanitized constantly throughout the day. Yet I feel uncomfortable leaving the security of my safety zone or bubble.

I’ve recently also found new things to be anxious about. For example, four friends want to take me out to dinner for my upcoming birthday. But I haven’t been to  restaurant for over seven months and the thought of it terrifies me. I’m torn between dying to experience a nice meal with friends (though it would be outside at the end of October in New England) and fearing for my life. I keep thinking of myself alone in a hospital bed, struggling to breathe and thinking, “was that meal really worth it?” But then I think of myself eating pizza or Chinese take-out as my birthday treat and wondering, “am I overreacting?”

If we go to my absolute favorite restaurant that I’ve been dreaming about for seven months, will that tip the scales towards going for it? Or should the recent upswing in Coronavirus cases in my state after months with a flattened curve, push me in the other direction? (P.S. We decided to have a few people over for socially distanced pizza and birthday cake, as a safe but fun compromise).

Socially distanced outdoor dining

And then there’s the ‘dinner party.’ Tom and I used to entertain a lot. Not huge groups, but six to twelve people was not unusual, especially on the boat in the summer. So when I decided to have four friend over for dinner out on our patio, I didn’t think twice about it. But as the day approached and it was time to start organizing and shopping for food, I became overwhelmed. I hadn’t cooked for anyone but my husband for seven months. I forgot which serving pieces I used to use. I forgot which were my go to entertaining recipes so I had to go through my whole huge personal cookbook to figure out what to make. Did I mention how overwhelmed I felt?

My large, personal cookbook, with recipes collected since 1973

It took me way longer than it should have to set up the bar area, lay out the serving pieces, dishes and silverware (it was buffet style), roast the vegetables and make the pasta dish (we were grilling steak as the main course).  Plating the appetizers was easy but the whole process was way more difficult than I remembered. It’s as if my entertaining muscle memories had failed me and I was figuring everything out from scratch.

My patio set up for social distancing

Looking back, I don’t get what the big deal was for me, but that’s just where I am right now. Anything beyond my limited, mostly homebound everyday life is a big deal. I look forward to the day when my old life feels ‘normal’ again. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that my psyche has been frazzled by Covid.



Categories: Anecdote, Cooking, Coronavirus - Covid 19, Ellin Curley, Entertainment, Epidemic - Pandemic - Plague, Food, Recipes

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. You’re not alone… We’re all in this together and I can relate, Ellen. Dan and I are also home bodies with plenty to do right here; BUT, how wonderful it will be when the pandemic is history! Stay safe and well!

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  2. You’re certainly not alone in your thoughts on this, Ellin. I’m not sure many of us will ever think the same ways as we did in the past. Everything has changed.

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  3. I think all of us of a certain age or vulnerability feel like this. It’s not that I was such an active person before, but now I don’t go anywhere except the doctor, grocery, and once in a great while, a park to take a few pictures. I had been baking more and doing some more creative cooking (just for some variety!) — until I weighed myself. I put on 4 lbs. in two weeks. So now, I bake occasionally only. I had noticed Owen had stopped eating the baked goods. It turns out he had put on 15 lbs. Meanwhile, Garry keeps getting skinnier.

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    • Tom and I are both watching our weights so we haven’t been able to join in the national cooking and baking frenzy. We have to eat simply and in small quantities, so any major creative cooking is not in the cards.

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  4. Thank you for writing about the ‘other side’ of the pandemic – the impact this pandemic is having on what we refer to as the ‘vulnerable demographic’ where I live.

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    • I think to some degree, most of us in the vulnerable groups feel like that. I wasn’t much for going out before, but now, between my body hating the stairs — both up AND down — and the pollen which make breathing so difficult. I tried to get a daily inhaler and yes, they had dropped the price from $475 to $256 … not enough to put it in my budget. They charge less for men’s erectile dysfunction medication and somehow, I think being able to breathe should get us a discount.

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    • This has been a fascinating study in mass psychology. We’ve all had to change our daily lives dramatically and most of us seem to have reacted in similar ways. In fact, we’ve adapted so well, that our previous lives now seem strange and create anxiety for many of us. That plus the fear of the virus lurking ‘out there’, has contributed to the stressfulness of this whole experience.

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  5. I think this whole pandemic has done something to us all Ellin. When our wedding anniversary came we decided not to go out for dinner, which was our tradition. I ordered a lovely meal from our favourite restaurant and picked it up and we ate it at home on fine china and silverware. I put a nice table cloth on the table and had a lovely bouquet from the garden. It worked well but we do long to return to some of our favourite places.
    Leslie

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    • Leslie – It sounds like you made a lovely anniversary celebration! Today is my birthday and next month is my anniversary, so we too are getting creative on ways to make an evening special. I had my son and two other couples over with masks on for pizza and birthday cake and it felt like a birthday party to me, so I was happy. I’m worried that when we can finally go back to eating in restaurants, there won’t be that many left in my area. And if we lose our favorites, we’ll have to find new ones that we like so I’m not sure that we will ever be able to go back to things as they were.

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  6. I hear you, Ellin. I am older and have cancer–so Covid scares me. Here in Florida, our state is open. Mind you, the cases keep on growing, but our Governor has opened up the state. I cannot do it. I can’t go out to eat. I’ll gladly wait until next year (hopefully) when we have a handle on this. Until then, I’m staying home.

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    • If you have underlying conditions that would make COvid worse for you, you have no choice but to stay home and limit your outside contacts as much as possible. It must be very hard and very scary to live in a state that doesn’t believe in COvid at all and is doing nothing to curb the disease in your state. I’m so grateful that my whole area (the tri-state area of New York, NJ and Connecticut) are very serious about controlling the pandemic and everyone wears masks and social distances wherever I have to go.

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  7. I’m with you all the way. I’m 74 with asthma and catch pneumonia easily. So home I stay. There are outdoor cafes just 3 blocks from me but I stay away. My lawn furniture has taken on meaning. I’m not sure when I’ll feel safe to go out without a mask 😷 Until then we are trying to figure out thanksgiving on the deck.

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    • For those of us who are particularly vulnerable, it’s a whole different ballgame. Even for a lot of people who don’t think they are vulnerable, it hasn’t been as easy as they thought. How it hits you is so unpredictable … well … we are at that age when caution is the better part of valor!

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    • We’ve only gone to an outdoor restaurant once and that was in the summer. We don’t feel comfortable doing it any more either. I’d prefer to do take out if I don’t want to cook.The pleasure of eating out is counterbalanced by the anxiety of the experience these days. Especially since people can’t wear masks while they eat, I get stressed out looking at bear faces around me.

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