Some days I don't feel ready to face my new pandemic reality, so I hide safely under my blankets, my two dogs curled up around me. I zone out, desperate to escape my panic, clutching my phone as I devour celebrity Instagram videos instead of getting up and starting my day. Entertainers with jobs on pause, who are trying to make everything seem normal, trying to prove that they, too, are just like me.
But that's just it. There is no actual escape.
At some point, I have to come out from under those blankets and face the day. I take a good look at myself, at my family and at the surreal situation unfolding before us. I realize how easy it would be to slip away into some dark crevasse of my mind, submitting to the fear the word "quarantine" brings with it.
Instead, I pull myself together and I stand up. In the face of darkness, I turn toward the light and find the positive side of this situation. This is a rare opportunity that we have as parents—the opportunity to slow down and take it one day at a time.
My mind is usually inundated with daily tasks and appointments. Information is typically downloading into my overworked brain at lightning speed. Mornings, filled with "hurry ups" and "get your shoes on," flew by effortlessly as I hurried two boys out the door for school.
At work, I watched the clock, wondering why an hour moved so slowly. My kids came and went. School, track, band, outside, dinner, shower, bed. The little time I actually had with them was short and forgettable.
Now I can pause to ask myself: Is this the life I want to live? Is this the example I want to set for my kids? That life needs to be so busy that we don't even have time for each other? That quality family time is only allowed to happen on the weekend?
In the past few weeks of quarantine, I have spent more quality time with my boys than I have in months. Suddenly, there is time for board games and walks together. A 1,000-piece puzzle graces our countertop as we get lost in its magic. We talk and we laugh. We watch movies and listen to music. It's perfect. There is no clock on our back telling us it's time to go. There is no "hurry up." We have no place to be, no place to go.
We have slowed down; we have all the time in the world.
Don't get me wrong, though. It's definitely no walk in the park. The first several days were excruciating. Depression plus isolation creates a unique combination of triggers; triggers that, if left unchecked, can produce a quick spiral into that crevasse of darkness. This quarantine continually tests me mentally.
The boys bicker and fight, poke and prod each other until I hit my limit. I banish them to their bedrooms and try to compose myself. The minutes tick by and my body screams at me to get out of the house. My skin crawls with agitation. My heart races. There must be an errand to run, there must be someplace to go.
In a time where I have felt trapped inside my own house, I have realized that self-care is a priority for me. It has to be. No more excuses for why I can't take time to do what I love, to do what relaxes me. My mental health depends on it more than ever so I can re-center and re-focus on what is important. So I can take a bath and my brain can decompress and let go of the stress and worry that surrounds me. So I can read and write and process.
As of right now, the end of this quarantine is uncertain. My family is adapting to our new normal as best we can. I am grateful to have this opportunity to slow down, to have no place to be and nowhere to go. When depression lurks around the corner, I stop to take time to address it directly.
Trying times create everlasting bonds that can't be broken. And I'm finding that this quarantine is the bonding time my family and I desperately needed.