Pandemic and Panic: How it Felt to Move Back Home in the Face of a Global Health Crisis

On March 11, 2020, my school announced that they were taking preventative measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by moving classes online and shutting down campus for the rest of the semester. This meant that all students had to leave their dorms, their friends, and a school they loved behind. There wouldn’t be any more hockey games with friends, parties, field trips, or club meetings until the fall of 2020. As a result, a lot of students, myself included, had to put their entire lives on hold and head back to their hometowns. 

 

Minutes after I heard the news, I cleaned up my dorm and packed everything I could fit -clothes, bins, makeup, books, and binders - into my tiny Ford Fiesta. I said quick, yet painful goodbyes, shared a few last laughs with some friends, and gave the biggest hugs I could to my senior friends who would miss the rest of their last semester. After all this, I drove two and a half hours on two different highways to reach my hometown of Gorham, Maine. 

 

Throughout the entire process, I was riddled with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited to leave my university. If I’m being completely honest, my college experience has left me with a great deal of trauma, and I am still learning how to cope with it I felt like this time away from the place where it all happened, would allow me to heal, while still being able to engage in classes I was passionate about online. However, I was upset that I’d have to leave some of my closest friends behind and put opportunities on hold, just to go home to a town where I had also experienced trauma. 

 

This entire situation caused a mix of emotions for me and I was unsure how I should feel.  Not to mention this all happened during a pandemic, which added an entirely different layer of stress. Thousands of thoughts and feelings rushed through my head on the drive home. I didn’t know how bad the virus would get, if I or my immediate family would get it, or how I would handle moving back to a town where I had been bullied, outed, and told to kill myself. Nothing was certain then, and this hasn’t changed.

 

Unfortunately, I still don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that we all should be staying home and social distancing to flatten the curve. “Social distancing” is a term the CDC and other major medical organizations use to describe preventative practices related to the COVID-19 outbreak. These practices include staying six feet away from others, staying at home, frequent hand washing, and avoiding large crowds. This is an important part of reducing the spread of COVID-19, or “flattening the curve.” 

 

However, I know that social distancing can be very hard on many people and it can take a serious toll on one’s own mental health. I have been social distancing and self-isolating in my house for over a month with my immediate family, which means that I have not seen any of my friends in person since I left my university. Visiting my friends is a coping mechanism that helps me greatly, so this has been an extremely difficult adjustment to make, and as a result of this I have suffered multiple anxiety attacks and depressive episodes in recent days. Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this experience. 

 

When you find yourself feeling lonely, remember that you can still contact your friends electronically. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stop talking to your friends and family; you can use applications like Snapchat, Skype, FaceTime, and Whatsapp to directly message and even video call them! Technology certainly does not compare to the real thing, but it can nurture friendships, relationships, and mental wellness. 

Another common challenge I experienced when I moved back home was the classic quarantine-induced boredom. I get it -being locked up in your house can be extremely isolating and you begin to run out of things to do. However, there are still so many things you can do from the comfort of your own home. For example, you can play an instrument, read a book, write, or even watch a Netflix series-one of my personal favorites is “Feel Good,” with Mae Martin. 

 

In the midst of all this uncertainty, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First and most importantly, multiple resources are available to you. Check in with your parents, friends, doctors, and therapists in times of need. Technology and the internet can also provide you with valuable information and resources. Also, remember that someday people will recover from this virus and we can resume business as usual. We will move back into our dorms, go back to our club meetings, and rush sororities. Until then, hang in there! Take care of yourself, take care of the people around you, practice social distancing, and remember that we will all get through this together! 

 

If you are experiencing similar feelings, it’s important to know about the mental health resources available. For example, many therapists are available for electronic sessions, commonly referred to as tel-e-therapy. If you have a therapist, see if you can schedule a tel-e-therapy session with them! If you are looking to start therapy, you can search for therapists on psychologytoday.com

Additionally, the National Alliance on  Mental Illness (N.A.M.I) has a PDF full of resources for those who may be struggling mentally, financially, or otherwise due to the coronavirus available online. They also have a hotline you can call from Monday through Friday, from 10:00 A.M through 6:00 P.M. You can reach this hotline by dialing 800-950-6264.

 If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation because of social distancing or the coronavirus, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You matter and your life matters.