It affects all of us in one degree or another; we all experience this differently. Just because I don’t cry, drink a full bottle of jack over the weekend, or otherwise express myself outwardly doesn’t mean I’m not fighting a battle inside.
But yet, talking about mental health is as taboo as discussions around workplace compensation, sex, harassment, and more. And the 2020 Pandemic brought on by COVID hasn’t made things easier on any of us.
So, I’m opening up about how depression affects me. I hope this encourages others to do the same, whether online, to a close friend, their S.O., with a therapist, or through other healthy outlets.
In 2019 I moved to a new state and left behind a lot of what I was familiar with. I was going to use this as an excuse to be a new me, to be more outgoing and say yes to more things.
In March 2020 life changed. We were told to stay home, stay 6 feet apart from others, and more. The world grinded to a halt.
I found myself working from home, which absolutely wrecked my social life. Now, I am a rather reserved individual so I’m not going out and fraternizing with people and as such my socializing wasn’t as affected as others - I tend to head home and isolate myself after work. My social personality is an ambivert; I am quiet and closed in new and unfamiliar settings but really open up around familiar faces.
Work life gives me the social interactions I desire. Conversations about outside of work plans, new purchases we’ve made, and other personal topics arise as we huddle around the microwave before scurrying back into our offices. Conversations that are otherwise lost in instant messaging, emails, and video meetings.
I’m not going to strike up a virtual conversation with my coworker at lunch about how I tried a new pasta recipe for dinner on Sunday. Messaging that out of the blue would be weird. Or at least I perceive that to be weird.
I started gravitating towards other outlets. It started innocently enough, watching videos on YouTube of people playing games together. The community they had between themselves really resonated with me because it’s something I lost when I started working from home.
I found myself watching enough YouTube every day that I bought YouTube Premium. This was mid April.
I learned the schedules of the channels I had newly subscribed to. I devoured video after video. Watching all their prior content while waiting for new videos to be released. When videos missed deadlines I felt a sense of worry, as if something bad had happened. It’s an emotion I never expected to have over a group of people I’ve never interacted with.
By late August I started to realize the depth of my situation. I had replaced interaction with real people with reacting to voices of people. Some channels had “face cams” where you can see the faces of the people playing the games, and I did oddly find myself watching those more often; in a way I found that connecting a face, an emotion, to what’s happening on the screen really helped make me feel like one the group.
When they got killed in game, beat/lost a challenge I could see their pain, the humor, or the disbelief on their face. I don’t think I can adequately describe how much that made me feel apart of their group… I found myself learning their personalities as if they were my friends.
Sometime in September I was able to go back into the office. It was a huge relief, I once again have the interactions I love deeply but it’s not the same story when I’m at home. I come back to a home that’s empty and devoid of voices.
I bought a house this year but it feels fruitless. I can’t share the space with anyone and get-togethers are difficult. I have definitely visited with friends but the game nights, the movie nights, the nights around the campfire that I had looked forward to are gone.
When I’m home I nowfind myself tuning into the video podcasts these channels upload. Not just their games, but now these video hang outs that are upwards of two hours long, a few times a week. I turn these on and walk away, playing in the background while I cook, clean, and do chores around the house. I watch them as I eat. It satisfy’s the group of friends I can’t have over. I have waited days to do unstack my dishwasher, clean the pots and pans, and restack the dishwasher because there wasn’t a video podcast to put on.
I want things to get back to normal. I want my regular social life back.
I find myself watching reruns of shows I’ve seen because they are familiar and that familiarity is comforting.