MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

 

The pandemic has caused much disarray in the lives of many. But aside from physical and financial damage, the psychological and emotional toll it’s taken on everybody might be the one that impairs us in the long term. Join Whitney Lauritsen and Jason Wrobel as they dive deep and dissect the impact of COVID-19 anxiety in their personal lives. They give their perspective on the different views on the vaccine and how they manage political differences within their own social circles. They also go into the impact of the pandemic on the service industry and the toll it takes on customer service employees. The volatile times the world is living through right now are hard enough, but the division among people has its own sets of problems that need to be dealt with. Listen in and share your thoughts on what they have to say on the matter.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Lingering Emotional Toll Of The Pandemic

I wanted to make sure that you have a heads up about our upcoming shifts and something that we’re experimenting with starting in September 2021, which is dropping down to two episodes a week releasing on Mondays and Fridays. We’ve been releasing three times a week, Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Due to my travel schedule, our workload, and our curiosity, we’re going to try out doing two episodes a week.

Mondays will be a solo episode like this one and Fridays will be our guest episodes. We have some amazing guests lined up. We would love your feedback on it. If you see this new schedule coming out and you’re missing the Wednesday episodes, please let us know via social media or email. If you do enjoy two episodes a week, if you prefer that, please let us know as well. We want to make this show work for you.

We don’t get a ton of feedback aside from comments on elements of our episodes but not a lot of people tell us about frequency, length, or any of that. The length, we enjoy doing. We don’t plan to adjust that. Occasionally, we do shorter episodes. We never know how long an episode is going to be. If you have any feedback whatsoever, seriously, please send us an email. We love to hear from you, especially if you have been reading for a while and you have a bigger perspective on it. If you’re a new follower, that’s equally valuable because maybe more from an unbiased or outsider perspective would be helpful to us.

I went out and did a few things in Los Angeles. I felt a lot of anxiety coming up for me. This is something that I’ve been paying close attention to for a number of reasons. I talked about this on an episode, how I had a therapy appointment because I was curious if I had ADHD, which I still suspect. As I’ve looked into it, I have a lot of the symptoms of ADHD but not a lot of the classic symptoms, which is why I’ve never sought it out before.

When I went to the therapist, she wasn’t able to fully evaluate me. She told me she doesn’t suspect that I have ADHD. She believes that those symptoms are the result of anxiety. I’ve experienced anxiety and depression off and on. The anxiousness has been an ongoing thing for me. I feel like the more that I’ve tuned into it, it’s been a little helpful because I can do more things to support myself and I feel less judgmental of myself. In the past, before I identified what was going on with me, I would feel a lot of shame. I’m trying to craft my life more to support me.

Sometimes when I’m hyper-aware of my anxiety, it causes me some stress and that’s what happened. I’ve been reflecting on it. It’s also possible that it’s a menstrual cycle thing given where I’m at in my cycle. This is part of the reason I enjoy tracking to see exactly what’s triggering it and what’s going on that day. I’ve been using this app called Bearable. I’ve talked about it a few times. It’s been helpful every single day. I track my mood, my energy levels, and various elements of my day, any factors going on. I track my health. It’s awesome.

I was excited. I went to a coffee shop and then I went to a secondhand clothing store because I’m gearing up for my trip. I have been wanting to get some clothes that I feel good in. I noticed while I was in the store some anxiety coming out for me. I felt rushed based on my timeline for the day. That was part of it. That’s something I’m doing to work on myself. I also remembered moments of how I was picking up on the energy of people in this store. There were 1 or 2 people I noticed that almost had a selfish energy. That’s what I was noticing about them.

I’m aware of other people, for better or for worse. A lot of times, maybe as a people-pleasing technique, I try to take note of my surroundings. I never want to inconvenience anyone. I’m always trying to adjust myself based on other people even if they’re strangers. I’m in the store and I noticed the opposite of these other people. They felt like they were not purposefully getting in my way at the store but it almost felt like I was invisible and they were crowding the aisles of this clothing store. I’m trying to keep my distance from strangers because of COVID. I want to keep at least six feet in distance. Plus, I’m wearing my mask. These women in the store were standing around and acting as if I wasn’t there.

I’ve always been this way, regardless of COVID. I don’t like being around other people that are going through the same rack. These are the things that tend to line up with ADHD. For example, you have a hypersensitivity to things. Maybe it is anxiety. I don’t know. I feel physically uncomfortable when I’m going through a rack. I want a lot of space. That, plus COVID, I feel almost claustrophobic or a lot of nervous energy.

MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

Pandemic Emotional Toll: What if employees are uncomfortable with the lack of physical distancing but they don’t have a choice unless they want to quit their job.

 

I feel like a lot of people can pick up on your body language. I try to notice these things about other people. I wouldn’t get that close to somebody at a clothing rack because I don’t like that. I know people can’t read each other’s minds but these women were not picking up on my physical cues. It was irritating me a lot. It felt like they were standing in my way multiple times throughout the whole store. I was starting to feel frustrated but it wasn’t that big of a deal.

My third stop of the day is I went into a grocery store. I started to feel a lot of COVID anxiety in there because people were not physically distancing themselves. Everybody was wearing a mask in the store, which was comforting for me. I started to feel a lot of anxiety about being around people because, in that store, there was little physical distancing going on. Unlike in 2020, this particular store used to monitor how many people were in the store at once. I was hyper-aware that they weren’t doing that. Coupled with the fact that people are not even paying attention, I started to feel anxious about that.

From my viewpoint on COVID in early August 2021, the numbers have gotten high. We have the Delta variant. People are starting to talk about the Lambda variant. There are all these variants going on. There’s a lot of information we don’t know. It seems like with Delta, it’s more contagious. Even if you have the vaccine like I do, you can still transmit it. You can still get COVID and that’s causing me anxiety. It’s frustrating to me that grocery stores are not regulating and encouraging physical distancing.

I felt this frustration of like, “What is going on?” At this point, after all these months we’ve been through the pandemic, I don’t understand why people, in general, aren’t more aware of their surroundings with other people. I’m used to physically distancing myself and I’m comfortable doing that. In the summer of 2021, people became relaxed about it, especially after the vaccines came out. A lot of people seem to be going back to normal.

I’m not comfortable going back to normal after what I’ve read about the Delta variant. It’s frustrating because I don’t know if I feel fully comfortable being in those environments anymore and that feels sad. I was taking note of the anxiety and the sadness I was feeling and then I saw two things on TikTok. TikTok tends to be my coping mechanism. When I’m feeling stressed, I’ll lay down in bed or on the couch and go through TikTok for a bit.

I saw one woman who was sharing about how sad she feels watching climate change and the pandemic. She’s taking a depressing viewpoint of like, “Climate change is happening and we’re living out the ‘last of our days’ in a pandemic.” I don’t have that viewpoint. I still have a lot of hope that we can work on the climate and that we will figure the pandemic out and adjust to it as necessary. Seeing her perspective gave me pause. The truth is we don’t know what’s going to happen to the planet. We don’t know how long we’re going to be in this time of the pandemic and how that’s going to affect us long term. That made me feel a little sad.

I saw another post that I wanted to bring up, too, that ties into everything that I’m sharing. It is a series of tweets that the San Francisco, @SFGate, shared which is a publication. There’s an article and they summarize the article in their tweet. The title of the tweet says, “A huge rise in people just forgetting to be human.” I read that line and it reminded me of what I was experiencing. “Since restaurants reopened, the customers have become unbearable. Since California’s June 15, 2021 reopening of the economy, customers have gotten a lot difficult.”

They quote, “I’ve been seeing a huge rise in people just forgetting to be human.” This is the founder of a bakehouse. “It may feel to customers that the pandemic is over and restaurants should be completely back to normal. In reality, many restaurants are still feeling the effects of the global crisis.” They go on to detail how at restaurants in the Bay Area, workers are encountering customers doing all sorts of intense things like standing in the doorway to yell at a server who made a small mistake. That customer’s husband comes in and starting to yell, too. They’ve noticed over and over again these experiences with customers treating them poorly.

This article goes through all of these different elements. When I see that, I feel a little bit heartbroken. If I’m feeling anxious in a store, I can’t imagine what the employees are going through. What if they feel uncomfortable with the lack of physical distancing, too, but they don’t have a choice unless they want to quit their job? The cashiers at the grocery store that I was at, the manager on the floor, or the other people there are all doing their best. I’ve seen seemingly endless amounts of stories on platforms like TikTok about how bad things are getting on airlines.

The more you’re tuned into your anxiety, the more you can do things to support yourself. Click To Tweet

There were a ton of reports about how airlines like American Airlines and Spirit had to cancel flights for days for a variety of reasons I’m not fully clear on. People that are flying are incredibly frustrated and the customer service experience has not been good. People are sitting in airports for days and they’re not getting well taken care of. I saw the other side of it from flight attendants and airport workers saying, “That’s because these people are getting paid little.”

The average flight attendant makes $30 an hour. I could be wrong with these numbers but this is what I saw from a quick glance. The people working at the airport, at the desk, were saying $12 or $15 an hour to work at the airport and being attacked over and over again by frustrated people. They’re like, “It’s not worth it.” These people are either quitting or they’re not focused on rushing through or giving the best customer service experience.

Through this, I reached out to one of my good friends who’s a flight attendant and she is one of the sweetest personalities and seems resilient. She’s been a flight attendant for many years. I asked her, “How are things on your end? Are you experiencing this, too?” She’s like, “It is horrible for all of us right now.” She says she hasn’t even experienced some of the worst things that she has been hearing about from other flight attendants.

She still feels this is one of the worst periods of time of her job ever. To hear that from her made it feel real to me because it’s not like these isolated instances. It’s constant stories on social media. With someone like me with anxiety, I already didn’t like to fly. I cannot see myself going on a plane for a long time unless I need to. Luckily, I can drive and that’s what I’m planning to do. All of this breaks my heart.

On top of all that, there are many different opinions on the pandemic. It feels chaotic and nobody knows what’s going on. We’re not all on the same page. People are constantly fighting with each other about their beliefs. Socializing is becoming harder. That breaks my heart because I’m trying to be less introverted. Now, I get so much anxiety even thinking about seeing my friends that I’m starting to become more isolated. I can’t be the only one that’s feeling this because other people are expressing it, too. That’s why I felt like it was an incredibly important topic to discuss here.

I feel a lot of the things you’re feeling, Whitney, in a sense that I don’t want to leave the house that much anymore. It’s a bit concerning to me because, to your point, you brought up the example of the anxiety you feel when you are in the grocery store or retail establishments. I’ve gotten to the flow now of when I go to the grocery store, which is maybe not even once a week. I’m going out for food maybe once every 10 or 11 days. Maybe every week and a half, I’m going out.

I go at night, 45 minutes or so, before the store closes. What I found is when I go to the grocery store close to closing time, there are significantly less people in there. To manage my anxiety around being with large groups of people, I’m strategically going to the grocery store at 9:15 PM. The one down the street for me, they’re open until 12:00 AM. Sometimes I’ll walk and I’ll go there at 11:00 PM and there’s barely anybody in there.

I share that feeling that you’re describing of this intense social anxiety. I’ve seen the videos of some of the things that have been happening on flights. You sent me a TikTok and I saw the original video of this belligerent young man who was groping and sexually assaulting some of the flight attendants. They had to duct tape him to the seat. I saw the actual video of it. On one hand, I’m trying to have a deep sense of compassion and an understanding of how afraid, confused, and broken people must feel, psychologically. I feel like that a lot of the time. I feel scared, confused, and broken mentally sometimes.

It’s also watching people’s behavior, which can be belligerent, careless, selfish, and narcissistic. I find myself retreating from wanting to be around humans because I don’t want to deal with them, which is counter to another part of my personality. I miss being around people and I miss the community. Like you, I’m concerned about my increasing sense of isolation. On the one hand, there’s the concern and the confusion around what’s happening with the Coronavirus and all the variants.

MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

Pandemic Emotional Toll: Are we all just in desperate need of dopamine hits that we are willing to do reckless things?

 

I joke about this but I feel like there’s a misanthropic side coming out of me where I don’t want to be around people because I don’t trust them. There is a deep issue where I’m considering, Whitney, if I go on a flight, is there going to be some belligerent asshole causing problems? If I go to the grocery store or a restaurant, is there going to be some angry entitled shithead causing a scene? On the one hand, I do want to try and have compassion but I feel like my tolerance for people’s bullshit is low right now.

It’s almost like the duality of wanting to be around people and being concerned about isolation but also not wanting to be around people. One of the deepest sources of my confusion and a mental fracture for me is wanting seemingly and diametrically opposed things. It’s hard to sit with those feelings to think, “I want both of these things but they’re in opposition to each other.” I don’t know what the hell to do about it. I’m staying home.

It’s interesting because nobody knows how to get through this. In a lot of ways, is it causing division? Even with my friends, it’s tough. A lot of my friends are eager to socialize. I was hopeful after getting the vaccine that I could socialize again comfortably. I have heard other people say this too. It’s like, “I got two weeks of feeling more free from the vaccine.” I was fully vaccinated on the third week of June 2021. I was like, “I’m vaccinated. I don’t have to wear my mask.” The mask mandate was lifted sometime in May 2021, maybe or early June 2021. It did feel like things were getting better and back to normal.

Within those three weeks or less period, everything started to shift because of the Delta variant. The masks are going back on, social distancing is important, and all of these things. It felt like it zapped a lot of energy out of me. Not everybody is reacting that way. I know somebody who went to a conference. I saw the footage of the conference and my estimate would be 70%-plus people were not wearing masks. I could not handle that environment with my anxious perspective on these things. There are lots of people doing things like that.

Part of me feels like, “Go ahead and do what makes you feel comfortable. It’s supposed to be a free country.” There’s another part of me that’s like, “We’re not on the same page.” That’s something interesting to me about the pandemic because I see a lot of people that are pro-vaccine on TikTok. They say things like, “If only everybody had gotten vaccinated, we wouldn’t be here right now.” I don’t know if that’s true. That’s part of what makes the vaccine a confusing experience. I still believe in people’s right to choose. I want to feel understanding of different reasons.

At the same time, I feel like if you’re not going to get the vaccine, maybe be courteous and not socialize around other people without a mask. The mask thing, I feel a lot stronger on because there’s more data coming out about that. I already feel uncomfortable with being around people vaccinated and mask on. I now know multiple people firsthand that have gotten COVID despite being mindful. It’s tough, to your point, Jason. It’s not just the COVID issue that I’m concerned about, it’s the lingering emotional toll that it’s taken on people and how some people feel that deep desire to do the complete opposite and break free and they cannot handle it anymore.

One of my friends from what she has shared with me was frustrated living in Los Angeles being a single woman and feeling alone that she moved to Florida. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. My perspective is that she made that choice because Florida felt like a more open state and she felt like she could go out, socialize, not wear a mask, and do all those things. I don’t know what it’s like to be in her shoes.

To your point, Jason, I feel more comfortable staying at home. I already did. It’s not just the pandemic, that’s part of where I’ve been in this stage of my life and maybe my personality. I don’t know what it’s like for somebody who’s struggling with deep sadness, loneliness, and depression because they want to socialize. That feels challenging for them. My concern is that a selfish move that you’re doing something to relieve suffering within yourself? Does that cause physical suffering for others if you were being reckless or not mindful? That was even my thought at the grocery store.

One of the deepest sources of confusion and mental fracture is wanting seemingly diametrically opposed things. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t feel that hard to keep six feet apart from people. It seemed perfectly fine to everyone for months when they were regulating how many people were in the stores. I don’t know why we’re not doing that anymore. Those simple things that we could do to keep the cases down and to, hopefully, get to a place where it’s not as strict and severe. I don’t feel like people have that much tolerance, maybe. That’s something that maybe nobody could have predicted with this. Is it showing that humans only have a certain level of tolerance before they are like, “Screw it, I’m taking the risk?”

We had talked about the Woodstock ‘99 documentary in a previous episode. It’s not connected to COVID whatsoever. I’m curious to hear your observations after watching it and looking at it from this perspective of where we’re at. There is a tie-in because it reminded me of the crowds that I saw at the Lollapalooza concert in Chicago. A lot of people were predicting that it was going to become a super spreader event. I don’t know if the data has come out yet.

I did see a girl on TikTok saying, “I was at Lollapalooza and I got COVID.” Everybody in the comments was like, “No surprise there.” Most people at Lollapalooza were not wearing masks. I remember seeing all that footage of that concert and thinking, “These people don’t care anymore. They want to go and have fun and take the risks. Nobody’s stopping them.” When I saw the Woodstock documentary, I’m like, “All these people are just wanting to be together and experience the pleasure of a concert, their sexuality, and drugs. Are we all in desperate need of dopamine hits that we are willing to do reckless things?”

That’s a big part of it. There’s a lemming mentality or a mob rules mentality when it comes to humanity. We have these primal, reptilian, animalistic instincts for connection, sexuality, self-expression, dominance, consumption. If we look at a lot of what’s happening on the planet, our base-level instincts, if we’re not aware of them, can get out of control quickly. You brought up Woodstock ‘99. There’s a lot of layers to it. We could probably save it for another episode.

One of the big things was when human beings generally start to observe behavior in large groups of other humans, even if it goes against their conscience or their sense of ethics, some people will go, “It must be okay. There are 10,000 people over there burning down that building and throwing glass bottles at the artists and sexually assaulting women. We’re at a concert. Let’s do that. Let’s burn things, sexually assault women, and throw a broken glass at artists on stage.”

COVID, as a parallel to that Woodstock documentary, is similar in the sense that we’re still in this mob rule mentality of, “I’m going to get together and I’m only going to hang out with people that agree with me. People that are pro-vax, we’re going to blame everyone who’s unvaccinated for this.” That seems to be the mentality of pro-vax people I’m observing, they’re blaming all the unvaccinated people that this keeps going, “If only you selfish assholes had gotten vaccinated, this wouldn’t be going on.” The data is maybe showing that that’s not the case but go ahead.

Anti-vax people are like, “You’re getting the mark of Satan or the beast. It’s the Luciferase. They’re going to track you. You’re going to turn into zombies because of the prions in the spike proteins. Fuck you if you’re vaccinated. It’s the Democrats. They’re trying to molest and rape children and they’ve got a satanic cult of child trafficking. The Republicans are assholes who are polluting the Earth.” We’re all fighting and we’re all attached to our perspectives thinking we’re right and everyone else is wrong. I don’t want to be dark but I go there.

If there is going to be a mass extinction event, it’s probably going to be partially because we can’t even agree on anything. The world is burning. There are hundreds of thousands of acres on fire on the West Coast. The UK flooded. We are seeing glacial melt that is unprecedented in recorded human history. It’s a tough moment. Look at the division, Whitney. Look at the fighting, the finger-pointing, the blaming, the anger, the confusion, and the vitriol as the world is burning and flooding around us.

I don’t know if we’re going to have time to save things. We may or we may not. If we keep yelling, screaming, and fighting with each other, our chances of saving humanity and maintaining a habitable planet go down. Think about how much we’re fighting and warring with each other instead of addressing the fact that the planet is on fire. What concerns me is people are more concerned with being right. Maybe it is. Maybe people are like, “We need to solve the pandemic so we can focus on the planet.” I’ve seen people say that and I get that mentality.

MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

Pandemic Emotional Toll: Human beings generally start to observe behavior in large groups of other humans. Even if it goes against their conscience or their sense of ethics, some people will go, “it must be okay.”

 

It’s hard to save the planet if we are worried about catching a potentially life-threatening virus, I get that. It is the division, Whitney, that concerns me the most. There are some days I shake my head and I don’t know what to do other than try and not get in the middle of this infighting and not get into a mentality of needing to be right and proving my rightness to other people. It seems on all sides, that’s what a lot of people want to do. They’re more concerned with being right than saving the planet.

It’s tough. When you mentioned the word trust, the word I chose for myself this year in 2021 is trust. My trust has been tried a lot. I chose that word because I remember it coming up for me during the pandemic. I didn’t trust being around people. That also motivated me to get the vaccine. I want to feel more comfortable about socializing and trusting about the experience. There were a lot of reasons why I decided to do it.

When you’re describing this whole thing turning into zombies, I had this thought, “I’m tired.” The risk was worth taking, honestly. Part of the challenge here is it’s a big mental health issue for me. I didn’t expect it to impact me as much. The timing coincided with me noticing how much anxiety I have and I’ve struggled with so much in my life. Things that cause me anxiety are tough on top of what I already have in most cases. I’ve been good at high-functioning anxiety where I can hide it and most people don’t even realize that I have anxiety. I wonder how many other people are hiding their anxiety or not even aware of it like. The more I tuned in, the more I noticed it.

From my mental health, that was a huge motivation for getting the vaccine. Unfortunately, it’s not quite what I thought it was. It didn’t give me quite the freedom that I thought it was going to and that’s disappointing. Do I regret getting it as we’ve talked about it? It’s still no. I have zero regrets about getting the vaccine. My biased media algorithm when you interact with content on platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, you tend to see a lot of similar content. What I see is a lot of pro-vaccine people, data, scientists and doctors, and people sharing why the vaccine is a smart choice. That has made me feel better.

I’ve tried to pay attention to the opposite perspectives but they make zero sense to me. None of them resonate with me at all. I cannot get on the side of the anti-vax perspective. It seems completely crazy to me. Crazy is a judgmental word. It’s not that I’m judging the individuals. I wouldn’t say crazy if I’m being conscious of my language. It doesn’t make sense to me. I have not seen any information that resonates. It reminds me of when I first learned about the flat-Earth perspective. I was curious about it. I felt open-minded to it. I tried to get in and understand where people are coming from and why did they believe these things.

I looked into the Pizzagate stuff, the QAnon. I’ve read about it and watch documentaries and listen to people talk about it. It doesn’t resonate with me. Maybe it’s having looked at a lot of those perspectives. That’s where the anti-vax perspective is now. It doesn’t make sense. It’s interesting because the anti-vax feels different than it used to. I don’t know if you feel this way, Jason. I know a few anti-vax people, personally.

I remember years ago, I was respecting a lot of the work that they were doing. I remember thinking, “Why should we get vaccines? They’re full of ingredients that look harmful or cause harm to others. What’s the point?” I would decline the flu shot. I was not someone interested in getting vaccines. It was interesting making the decision to get the COVID vaccine because due to the stress that it was causing in my life.

In a way, Jason, I can relate because everybody on some level is trying to reduce their fears. That’s where all of this is motivated. It’s like, “Where can I find comfort? Where can I find pleasure during the time where it feels scarce?” There’s so much sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, and stress going on that a lot of people are trying to cope. Perhaps getting the vaccine was part of my way of coping. Social distancing and wearing my mask feel safe to me. That gives me comfort.

Maybe for others, they feel comforted by not getting the vaccine, by not wearing their mask, by socializing, hugging, and doing the physical interactions. For that reason, I’m trying to be respectful of those choices. Just because I don’t understand them, it doesn’t mean that they’re inherently wrong. I know people that I deeply care for that have made those choices. Does that mean I don’t care for them anymore because we don’t agree on something? No.

If there is going to be a mass extinction event, it's probably going to be partially because we can't even agree on anything. Click To Tweet

This is something I’m also having anxiety about and sadness. I started planning my cross-country road trip that I’m going on. That was also motivating for getting the vaccine. When I did this trip before, I felt like I had to take many COVID precautions and it was challenging. It was especially challenging to socialize. I made some decisions that I wasn’t fully comfortable with because I lost sight of what was important to me.

Now I have a lot more clarity but I also have sadness because when I started planning this trip, I thought that COVID was going to be different and we were going to be in a much better place. I thought that my vaccine was going to protect me a lot more. It turns out that it does, at least at this point. Who knows? It’s sad planning this trip because I’m like, “I’ll be taking those same precautions again, which is draining.”

I’m nervous about seeing certain people because there are some family members that are Republican. I don’t know for sure if they are vaccinated or wearing masks or making the same decisions. I know those don’t always line up with people’s political beliefs but certain parts of the country and political beliefs seem to go hand in hand with different types of behavior. I’m nervous. I’m like, “Do I not see them at all? Do I see them and push myself out of my comfort zone?”

Another version of getting out of my comfort zone is setting boundaries. I’m afraid that some of my family members are going to think that I’m weird for wanting to stay six feet apart. I experienced that before. I also pushed myself to trust them. Right now, I don’t trust most people. I’m nervous about what it’s going to be like socially. I don’t want to be that weird family member who’s vaccinated, wearing a mask, and doing six feet distance if my other family members aren’t vaccinated, don’t wear masks, and don’t physically distance. How do you navigate that?

That’s going back to the division side of it, Jason. It’s tough. Do you agree to disagree and everybody does their own thing? It’s easier said than done. Especially if you have anxiety like me, it’s tough to navigate those things. Deep down, all I want to do is be with people I love but I also want to be respected and I want to respect them. It’s tough and it’s mostly sad. I was hoping like, “I’ll be fine because I’m vaccinated. They can do whatever they want and I’ll be protected.” Now I know that’s not true. It’s like, “Great.”

Are these family members you’re going to see? Are you physically staying in their homes with them or not?

That’s the other thing. I was planning on it but now I don’t know if I feel comfortable doing it, honestly. Who am I to say, “We all need to wear our masks indoors, in your own home?” I’m a guest and I’m going to come into their house and demand that they wear a mask around me? That sucks. It depends on your relationship. I noticed on my road trip before that the great majority of the time, I was the most strict about COVID and it was hard for me. I felt like the black sheep. I felt strange. It sucks.

I’ve experienced a lot of gaslighting during COVID, too, of people being like, “You don’t need to worry about it.” At this stage, I’m a little bit defensive. I’m like, “No. Who are you to say I shouldn’t be worried? I am not making this stuff up. This is based on data that I’m seeing. You may be seeing different data and that’s okay. Don’t tell me that your data is more important or more valid than mine unless you can show it to me unless we’re going to sit down and review things side by side for hours. Let me trust that what I’m researching is enough for me to feel concerned.”

Maybe that seems extreme. It’s at different levels. It’s not that I’m close-minded, it’s that I need to trust that my feelings are valid because they’re not coming from nowhere. They’re coming out of my comfort zone. It takes a while to intellectually drive yourself in a different direction. I would rather be as right as possible if that exists about COVID. Our big point here is that there doesn’t seem to be a singular right perspective. That’s what I mean to gaslight someone and try to convince them of your perspective unless you’re going to sit down and focus on the data. That would be okay.

MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

Pandemic Emotional Toll: There’s so much sadness, depression, fear, anxiety, stress going on in the past year and a half, and a lot of people are just trying to cope.

 

I’m an intellectually-focused person. I want to see the scientific back stuff. Most people can’t do that. What am I going to say? “I’ve read enough articles, watched enough TikTok videos, and listened to enough talks and news reports.” I don’t have that all documented. I haven’t cross-checked everything. I don’t even have all of the supposed data to back it up. I do have my comfort zone and intuition. It’s tough though, when you’re in a social situation.

As a people pleaser, I feel uncomfortable standing up for myself in those situations. Another reason why I’d rather stay at home is I don’t want to fight with people and debate. Send me your research papers and I’ll read them. I don’t want to sit there and debate when I’m there to come and visit you. I’m probably going to have to contact each family member and friend that I was scheduled to see and be like, “Can we talk about this?” I’ll tell them where I’m at and we’ll make a decision together. Hopefully, we can make a decision where everybody feels comfortable and honored.

I’m anticipating it’s not going to be easy or straightforward. I’m anticipating some judgment, which is tough for me to receive. It sucks. I hate feeling made fun of or judged or shamed by people. It’s such a huge trigger for me. I’ve experienced so much of that during COVID. It ties into this whole experience. That’s why seeing this title of the humanity side of things, it’s like, “Why can’t we be kind to people even if we don’t agree with them?”

One of my family members that I visited, she and her husband are Republican. I visited them right before the election. It was a tense time in the country, plus COVID. I was grateful because she and her husband decided before I visited that we were not going to talk politics at all and we are going to just focus on our family experience. That was great. It didn’t come up. They were more lax about COVID. I was trusting them and I ended up being fine.

I’m at a different place now. First of all, I’m trying not to have politics anything to do with this because even Republican people have gotten the vaccines and have different perspectives. I don’t think that you can make decisions around who somebody is based on their political viewpoints. I don’t think that’s fair at all. It’s like religion. As we’ve talked about, just because you’re a Christian, it doesn’t mean that you fall into all these specific categories and stereotypes. I’m only bringing that up because of the associations with politics.

My point is it’s tricky for me to be around people that are more relaxed about COVID. In order for me to feel safe, I have to either have them respect my boundaries or have them back up their boundaries. Most people aren’t willing to do that. Most people make up their minds and that’s where they’re at and they don’t want to discuss it. As an anxious person and a questioner, if I’m going to do something outside of my comfort zone, you have to explain the why to me. If I don’t get the why, I’m probably not going to come out of my comfort zone. I’m probably going to feel anxious about it and uncomfortable. It’s a frustrating part of myself that is a barrier in social situations. That’s the way it is. I have to navigate that.

First of all, you’re going to the East Coast. We both live in LA. In New York, they’re calling it the key to the city. In the city of New York, in order to go into a nail salon, barbershop, gym, sporting event, concert, or restaurant, you have to show proof of vaccination digitally. You have to go through one of their digital portals. In early August 2021, the Los Angeles City Council put a measure on the table to mirror, in a similar way, this key to the city that they’ve already passed in New York.

With what you’re describing in your emotional life, Whitney, around this anxiety, going to the East Coast on this road trip and coming back to LA at the end of it, does something like this “key to the city” in New York City and LA make you feel more or less anxious? Does it not matter to you if retail establishments and venues are requiring proof of vaccination to enter? How does that hit you emotionally? How does that affect you?

A friend of mine told me about the key to the city changes. This friend not being vaccinated will likely not go to this trade show that’s supposedly happening. First of all, who knows? I’m supposed to go to two trade shows, one in Philadelphia and one in New York City. At this point, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go with my anxiety. I would like to go but they’re big commitments, time-wise and energy-wise. I don’t want to get there and feel uncomfortable after I’ve committed to it. There’s a lot involved. I’m going to have to play it by ear.

Everybody, on some level, is trying to reduce their fears. Click To Tweet

To answer your question, Jason, it’s sad to me that people who choose not to get vaccinated won’t be able to do the same things as me. Does it make me feel more comfortable? Slightly. Honestly, I’m concerned from what I’m hearing that unvaccinated people are at huge risks for the effects of COVID. It’s in their best interest to not do those things if they choose not to get vaccinated. It’s in their best interest to not socialize or to at least be physically distant and wear masks because they’re at much greater risk. Whether or not that’s true, we still don’t fully know.

Statistically, if you get the vaccine and if you get COVID, your symptoms will be lessened. I know people that have been vaccinated and had COVID. That seemed to be the case. I’m concerned for unvaccinated people simply because there’s a higher chance of hospitalization. At this time, the hospitals are overloaded. We’re seeing a lot of the things that happened in 2020. That’s scary to me.

The only way it affects me, Jason, is knowing that because I’m vaccinated and other people are vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that we’re 100% protected. Does that change how comfortable I am in stores or restaurants? Not a ton. Overall, it’s a smart choice. It’s not saying, “You have to get vaccinated.” It’s saying, “This is a way for us to remind you how serious this is.” If you’re not vaccinated, it’s probably in your best interest to avoid being in crowds.

Politicians, for the most part, seem to be set on encouraging people to get vaccinated, at least Democratic politicians. Even Republicans are now speaking out. Donald Trump got vaccinated. I also saw a few people talking about how some Republicans privately got vaccinated but they didn’t publicly announce it. They’re not overly promoting the vaccines. Behind the scenes, they got it to protect themselves. To me, it’s a bizarre thing. Didn’t I send you something, Jason, about how some people are getting vaccinated in private? Other people won’t find out that they’re vaccinated because they’re ashamed to admit it, given their beliefs. It’s chaotic.

It’s exhausting on many levels. It’s almost difficult day-to-day to anchor ourselves in any sense of certainty or any sense of clarity. That’s how I feel. Day-to-day, I feel like it is challenging for me to anchor in certainty or clarity around any of it. The data keeps changing, the recommendations keep changing, the restrictions keep changing. The restrictions get lifted and the restrictions get put back. It’s maddening. Dear reader, if you also feel anxiety, stress, confusion, and feel like you’re losing your mind, you’re not alone. At some point every day, I feel like I’m losing my mind around all of it.

The other part of this key to the city that is in New York City and that they may or may not pass in Los Angeles is we have spent a lot of time in this show talking about inclusivity and diversity. Also, making sure that we are focused on understanding the challenges and the plight of people in different economic classes, people of different color and sexual orientations. In Los Angeles, something was posted about the vaccination rate of people of color, people of Black and Latinx heritage, and how that’s the lowest vaccination rate in the city.

There are some people who believe that implementing something like the key to the city and LA is a discriminatory practice because it will prevent the people that are unvaccinated, which it’s the highest rate of people of color here, from going to work, going to get groceries, and going to retail establishments. People have said that this is another aspect of colonization. It’s like, “We’re going to take advantage of the disenfranchised people and prevent them from doing things.” I don’t know if that’s true but it is a fascinating perspective to consider.

It goes deeper into the hesitancy and the unwillingness. Is it a lack of access? Is it that people and communities of color are anti-vax? I don’t have any data to support the underlying low percentage of why people of color in LA are not vaccinated. It is an interesting take to think about. I’m not saying that those restrictions are intended to prevent people of color from accessing retail establishments and groceries but it is an interesting thing to ponder. I’m curious if this does get implemented, Whitney, in the city we live in. Are people going to protest? Are they going to organize in a way and oppose it? I’m curious to see how people are going to react if it does go through.

You and I don’t live in New York City. I haven’t seen any videos of people protesting in New York. I have seen people protesting in Paris and France, hundreds of thousands of people being like, “Fuck you. We’re not doing this vaccine passport.” People in Europe are pissed. It’ll be interesting to see if this does go through how people in LA are going to react. When you and I were texting about it, in my anger, I was like, “If they do this in LA, I’m leaving.” There’s a part of me that still feels that way, to be honest, because I’m not vaccinated. There’s a part of me that’s like, “Okay.”

MGU 268 | Pandemic Emotional Toll

Pandemic Emotional Toll: We have to consider all these different sides and hopefully these rules are being put in place for the greater good not to control.

 

I think about it logically, too. There’s a part of me that’s like, “Am I planning on going to any massive concerts or festivals right now? I’m not. Am I planning on going to the gym right now? No. Am I planning on going to the museum or any giant theaters? I’m not.” The line that I draw is if they include grocery stores and they’re like, “You can’t go get groceries.” I’m going to be protesting. “If you don’t let me go get food, fuck you.” That’s my line. It’s important for everyone to know their line.

Some people have said, “This sets a dangerous precedent. If they start to restrict our freedom to buy food and get groceries, where does it end? What else are they going to restrict?” Bluntly, there’s a part of me that also feels that way, too. I understand the safety and the mentality of keeping people safe. If you are restricting people from feeding themselves and getting water and food, that’s a precarious thing to do.

To be fair, there are many ways to acquire groceries without going into a store. They offer curbside pickup and delivery. There are outdoor markets. I see what you’re saying, certainly. It restricts you and changes things. Is New York preventing people from going into grocery stores?

No, New York has not.

To me, I see what you’re saying. That would seem extreme. Hopefully, they would offer the option to show a negative COVID test. Some places are one or the other. I see the freedom side of it. We also have to consider the people that are working at these stores and the trauma that they’re going through working there with not knowing the condition in which people are shopping. As we started this episode, I don’t know how anybody in the service industry is making it through, truly, from a physical and a psychological level. Their safety needs to be a priority. They have been put at risk in a lot of ways.

I’ve also seen countless stories of how bad things have gotten for delivery drivers. Speaking of getting groceries delivered, DoorDash looks like a complete mess. It’s horrific. The amount of delivery service workers that I’ve seen talk about these things, the lack of tips that they’re getting, the crazy distances that they have to drive, the amount of things they have to deliver to people. Also, people are canceling their orders.

Even in that San Francisco article I read, one of the workers was saying that somebody would cancel their order last minute after they’ve made 10 to 15 items for the order. Now they’re stuck with all this food that they wasted time and money-making. People that go and pick up deliveries or food and then that gets canceled, sometimes they have to go return it. The stories of the service industry are disturbing. We have to look at them, too, Jason. Their freedom has already been compromised in a lot of ways.

I’m glad that you brought up the colonization part of it. We have to consider all these different sides. Hopefully, these rules are being put in place for the greater good and not to control. That’s my viewpoint. I could be wrong. It does not feel to me like we’re trying to be controlled and manipulated. I trust a lot of these decisions. Are they limiting and restricting? Yes. Are they going to have an impact on people? Yes. Maybe they’re in a place to encourage people to work through their vaccine hesitancy. I’m coming from that perspective.

I was hesitant about getting the vaccine. Through enough conversations and research, I decided to do it and I’m grateful that I did. Maybe there are other people out there who could come to the same conclusion but wouldn’t unless they were restricted in some way. I imagine that is why these things are happening. I don’t know for sure but I’m not at a perspective at this point that it’s being done to take control over us.

If we keep yelling and screaming and fighting with each other, our chances of saving humanity and maintaining a habitable planet go down. Click To Tweet

Don’t forget that the pandemic started while Trump was in office. The government has gone through a huge transformation during COVID. We can look at the decisions that were made in 2020. Even now, Jason, that opposite perspective, it took way too long for them to encourage us to wear masks. If we looked at the beginning of the pandemic, it was incredibly reckless how the government was handling COVID. Nobody knew what was going on. How many people could have been more protected if they had been more in the know? Now we’re going in the opposite perspective. Hopefully, that’s to save lives and not to make people suffer. We have a long way to go.

Maybe to our big point here, in order to get people on the same page, we have to get strict about things. As we saw in the Woodstock documentary, that was a great example of what it’s like when there aren’t a lot of rules and they set it themselves. They had poor security at Woodstock. People can do whatever the hell they want. When given the opportunity, they will cause a lot of destruction. From my perspective, sometimes even a temporary experience of strictness can help people come together to make a difference and it’s not always going to be pleasant. If it’s for the greater good, I’m okay with it. It’s tricky. It’s not simple. I’m hoping that it’s for the greater good.

It’s difficult to assess, honestly. This whole thing is bringing up so much for people and it’s bringing up so much in terms of our privilege, biases, anger, fear, control issues, and anxiety. If you look at this entire situation, it feels overwhelming because of everything it’s bringing up. It’s stirring up so much in humanity right now on so many levels. It’s a difficult thing. I don’t know that we have a conclusion for this episode. Like so many topics we discussed, we are trying to stay sane, healthy, and aware, and share our perspectives with you even if they’re not fully thought out because they change day-to-day.

The other thing too, Whitney that I want to say is I am trying my best to stay open and not be locked down to a crystallized perspective with anything. Some people might say, “You need to pick a side.” I don’t know that I do. I feel like operating in the middle or the gray area and understanding things, trying to read things and figure things out. Where I feel most secure amidst the chaos, confusion, and calamity is being in that middle space of going to stay open, “Try to stay open. Do your best to stay open.” That’s where I’m at, at this moment with all of it.

We’re curious where you’re at with it. As a reader of this show, you can always shoot Whitney and me a direct email. It’s [email protected]. You can shoot us a direct message on any of the social media platforms. We’re on all the biggies, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok. We are curious how you feel. We know how some of you feel. We’ve gotten a few messages from people with very crystallized perspectives on the vaccine conversation. We’re open in the sense that we do want to know what’s going on in your heart and mind because we know this is not easy. This is not, at least to us, a clear-cut conversation. There’s a lot of nuances. Things are changing all the time.

Shoot us an email or a DM. We always love hearing from you. We also have more resources on our website, which is Wellevatr.com. We have blogs that we post every week. We have a newsletter that goes out every Friday with blogs, our latest episodes, and resources we like to share with you for your mental and physical well-being. We encourage you to sign up for that newsletter and read our blog posts. It’s all at Wellevatr.com.

With that, we will catch you with another episode. This was a pretty uncomfortable conversation in many ways but that’s what’s going on on planet Earth. From COVID to climate collapse, it’s intense to be a human being on Planet Earth. We’re sending you love and compassion. I hope that we can find a way to make it all through this together. Until next time, we love you and appreciate you. Thanks for reading!

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