I’ve hardly seen a soul for months, but in a way I’ve never felt less alone | Nadine Cohen

In the past, self-consciousness has seen me decline all video calls, but I’ve faced my fears in lockdown – and it’s opened up a new world

Just as we all finally get the hang of social distancing, Australia has started relaxing public and social restrictions born of Covid-19. To nobody’s surprise more than mine, my pandemic experience so far has been fine. More than fine.

As someone who has lived alone and worked from home for years, I expected that in some ways self-isolation would be easier for me than for others. However, as someone with major depression, the lack of human contact and a sharp decline in work also spelled potential disaster. But disaster never came. Or hasn’t come (I shouldn’t count my chickens).

I mean, I’m anxious about money, worried about the refugees I advocate for and terrified for all humankind, but that’s all in a normal day for me. Compared with the utter trainwreck forecast by my mental health history, I’m going well. Killing it, even.

The question is: why?

Part of the answer is that I’ve continued seeing my sister and her family on limited, socially distanced occasions throughout lockdown. As boring and entitled as it sounds, daily yoga and exercise help too. But perhaps the biggest reason for my shockingly stable mood is increased contact with my friends, near and far.

Before coronavirus (BC) I only saw a handful of friends with even semi-regularity. With jobs, kids, sea-changes and sheer laziness, phone calls are hard. One-on-one catch-ups harder, and group events near impossible. And though I’m super close to my family, when I’m not dating someone I can feel quite isolated. Even when I am dating someone. The virus has changed that. Even though I’ve hardly seen a soul in-person for months, in a way I’ve never felt less alone.

Ever since this collective nightmare started, I’ve barely gone a day without a video call or two. There’s no way to say that without sounding like I’m bragging about having friends – so just know, I know.

In the past, self-consciousness has seen me decline all video calls, personal and professional. It’s seen me decline a lot of things, actually – I barely let anyone take my photo. I’d make excuses about my laptop camera being broken or the wifi being too unreliable, or I’d just flat out say no. But, through self-administered immersion therapy, I faced my fears and it’s opened up a whole new world.

Hanging out with mates without having to leave the house or wear pants is amazing. And it only took a global pandemic for me to realise this.

Now seeing my phone light up with an incoming FaceTime call no longer paralyses me with dread. I’m having regular Zooms with friends all over the world. I’ve had cocktail parties, we’ve done trivia and group yoga together and taken live dance classes. I’ve advised on outfits, read bedtime stories and had Passover with my extended family.

Embracing video-telephony has enabled me to be there for my friends in a more present and meaningful way. When a friend was having relationship problems, we had a video call. I felt a thousand times more helpful than I would have had we just texted, which is what we would have done before.

When another friend lost her job, an all-too-familiar tale right now, a group of us were able to cheer her up, at least briefly, by being silly on Zoom. It’s a strange comfort to know that if I break – still a very real possibility – they’ll watch me cry and do stupid dances in their underwear for me too.

Of course, there’s no substitute for spending time with your favourite people in the same place. And as the rules relax, I’m excited to see my friends without the NBN causing their faces to freeze mid-sentence. I’m excited about hugs. I’m excited about patting dogs, playing with my godsons and sharing meals.

If I could go back in time and reverse the decisions that got us into, worsened and prolonged this horrific mess, I would. Especially all the ones to do with cruise ships, the sick bays of the sea.

But if I can pinpoint even the faintest of silver linings on this gigantic black dot, it’s the lesson that I really do get by with a little help from my friends, and a lot of help from telecommunications technology.


Nadine von Cohen

The GuardianTramp

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