This Introvert is all “Isolated” Out

Along with the rest of the country (and even the world), my family and I, co-workers, support groups, and community committees are living in the midst of a pandemic. This will be recorded and documented in history books written in the near and distant future. As a 53 yo, I thought Columbine and 9-11 were my life’s quota of “history making” events. I kinda hate that I’m wrong.

As an introvert, staying, working and living at home was not hard for me… in the beginning. As a woman with disAbilities, I also had a solid connection to virtual and online support groups and communities. I am blessed to have access to various technologies and WiFi, plus a husband and adult son at home that are as nerdy as a techie-illiterate could hope for.

I like to read, write, and engage in other creative activities. I have two puppies and four dogs total at home, so lots of fur family members to love on and cuddle. Imagine my surprise that I’m feeling isolated and alone. Imagine my surprise when making a quick trip to the grocery store yesterday, with mask on and service dog in heel, to be almost knocked on my butt by the change in – well, EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.

First there was very little traffic. It was surreal. Second, the store was not very crowded and everyone I met had a mask, bandana or scarf over their face. Everyone was very nice in almost, exaggerated, “OMG I haven’t seen another adult-speaking person in six days” kind of way. Several people commented on Finn and his calm ability to pick up my dropped items (yours truly averaging 2-3 an aisle as I was particularly clumsy yesterday). I saw a lot of reminders on computer-generated signs that purchases were limited to 2 per “kind”. I found toilet paper and was super thrilled with my off-brand purchase as I was down to a couple of rolls.

Third, I felt a little anxious and motivated to move quickly and not dawdle. It was disconcerting the anxiety of “rushing” that I felt. I kept thinking “I need to get home and disinfect everything”.

Even though I got out of the house for about 30 minutes, this introvert was still hurting for human contact and connection. Since this is really out of character for me, having loved my “me time” so much in the past, I had to contemplate this lack of peace I felt for being in my favorite place. After all, I’m not isolated completely, with plenty of daily contact with co-workers, friends, and family. I think my unease is that this forced isolation and limited contact is for such a serious reason. People are dying. The numbers are just staggering, both those we have already lost to the numbers the infectious disease models are predicting.

One thing I thought about that encouraged me was how capable we in the disAbility community are for such a time as this. Think about it! We are experts at adapting and coping. We have already learned to invest ourselves in the plethora of virtual and online supports which are accessible to us when many face-to-face venues are NOT.

Folks? We, the disAbility community, should be leading the charge in encouraging others, promoting positivity, prioritizing connection. and spreading a CAN DO attitude like a contagion. If ever there was a time for us to shine, it is now.

I hope you are well. I hope you are staying connected. I hope that you know that #YourLifeMatters and that you can lead during such a time as this. Go make a difference! I believe in you!

L. Denise Portis, Ph.D.

©2020 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

One thought on “This Introvert is all “Isolated” Out

  1. First, my heart goes out to you any and all struggles during this time. I hear you! Note from another vestibularly (is that a word?) challenged friend: if you are using your vision to keep your balance in any way, as I most definitely do, the mask is a moderate barrier. So now would be the time to slow down, not speed up, even as your anxiety and related heart rate might when out in the world.
    You comments about those of us living with disabilities and how this ought to be our time to shine, really struck me. I don’t know how to write it/share it publicly in a way that doesn’t turn it into something else, but I’ve been feeling like because of my challenges and limitations the past couple of years, living as a veritable recluse and having to carefully choose EVERYTHING: when and how I interact with the world, managing my budget and wondering if next month or next month things will become that much more difficult: it’s like I’ve been in training for the pandemic! The thing is, it’s similar, not the same. Current affairs mean that one of my positive distractions from my pain, getting in the car and going into nature, is much more limited now. It’s not responsible to just go driving hither and yon, and then once there, sure, I can be alone on a walk but what of the stops I would usually make, for gas, the restroom, coffee, a little shopping? Not responsible. So I don’t, I keep it really close to home right now unless I must go and get an essential item, and even then, I do my best to coordinate to make a precious few trips as possible. Nevertheless, some of the skills and lessons I’ve learned here have been most beneficial. I had to pick up some food recently. Walking through the parking lot with my mask on, I was near another man with a mask, who was like what you said in your piece, almost giddy at the sight of a fellow adult person to say hello to! He also said, “can’t wait for this to be over”. I said yeah, me too. I also hope to be here when it’s “over”. He was quiet for a few seconds and then he said you know, I would like to be here, too.

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