Before the pandemic, I convinced myself that I was a human being who thrived solely on the touch, sight and sound of others. Communication and connection were the grounds on which I built my whole social life and I believed this is how life was going to continue just like everybody else did. What I didn’t anticipate was the complete life change that was going to occur when the pandemic hit.
It quite literally reduced my social interaction to the four walls of my college apartment. Pretty sad, huh. I felt like a prisoner in the wrong town and when businesses started to reduce their hours and shut down temporarily, it felt like the world was ending. I had never felt more isolated, bored and alone in my entire life. When I decided I couldn’t take it anymore, I drove four hours home and stayed with my family, hoping that the human connection I remembered would revive itself with a change of scenery.
Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
COVID didn’t go away just because I drove to a new location. I felt stuck in yet another place, not even comforted by the things that were familiar to me. The only thing I remotely enjoyed was laying in my bed all day, binge-watching every possible Netflix documentary I could find. I found myself in a never-ending depressive rut until I decided to put on my shoes and run. Yes, you heard me. Run.
Now, if you’ve watched quite a few films, you might be thinking, “Wow, Danielle, this is the moment where everything changed and you got your life together.” Looking back on it now, maybe in some ways I did but, at the moment, I felt so exhausted. I was completely out of shape and had no time to think about the solitary confinement that was waiting for me back home.
I realized I might not have had my empowering “Run, Forest, Run,” moment but I did keep running until I physically couldn’t any longer.
After my post-depression workout shower, I laid down in my bed and did something that I hadn’t been able to do for weeks–deep sleep. No nightmares. No vivid dreams. No cold sweats or tossing and turning all night. Whether exhaustion or meditative clarity was the culprit, I felt more alive again. I started to run every morning and establish a healthy routine (that didn’t involve dieting, measuring weight or staring at myself in the mirror for hours).
In turn, spending time by myself made me more of an extrovert. Although that seems somewhat counterintuitive, I promise there is a reasonable explanation for why what I just said makes total sense.
When I spent enough time by myself, I realized just how much I needed to balance being with others and being by myself. Before COVID-19, I took being around others for granted. Only when I was forced to spend days by myself, in isolation, did I learn to appreciate the company of others that much more. I came out of my shell and stopped caring about the superficial things I did before. When people invited me over, I came. When I felt the need to take some space from social overload, I took that time without the weight of FOMO crushing down on me.
During my time of being a temporary introvert, it made me appreciate my extroverted tendencies as much as my introverted tendencies. I guess that technically makes me an ambivert now but all technical terms aside, I knew I loved people and there were others out there that cared about me too.
Fast forward to now, the delta variant is still rampant and the pandemic is far from over, but my pandemic depressive episode hasn’t come back. I hope that anyone who still feels or felt the same way I did realizes the importance of human interaction and how much we need each other during the hard times and the good times.