I’m Afraid of Going Back to My 'Old Life' After the Lockdown

My life before was frantic, and I don't want to go back. Why?
24 May 2020, 12:39am
Man standing on a falling Jenga tower with coronavirus particles floating around.
Illustration: MATTEO DANG MINH.

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

Question: It might sound weird, but I’m really scared about going back to my life before the pandemic. This new normal obviously sucks, but it also opened my eyes in many ways. I feel like my old routine was frantic, sometimes for no reason. Taking this break made me realise it for the first time.

I'm upset at the idea of spending money on a dinner with someone I don’t like, or working late to meet a deadline that won’t matter, or even to be looked at and judged by people again. But I’m also worried that all these superficial things could change radically and forever.

Is it a valid concern? Or am I just making up excuses to avoid facing this new reality that might change again? I’m confused. I don’t know who I will be or what I will want. I keep thinking I should start saving some money. Everything is so uncertain. Will it pass? Help.

Laura Guaglio, psychologist and psychotherapist specialised in managing and overcoming trauma and emotionally-stressful events:

At the start, the quarantine was hard for lots of people – we felt frustrated, angry, empty – but slowly, we found a new, more personal routine. We discovered new rhythms, which might not be perfect but that we might prefer to our old lives. That’s because we were forced to. As humans, we're good at adapting and at carving out a piece of the world for ourselves, even in hostile situations and at a great emotional cost.

The truth is, we won’t live like this forever. We don’t know if things will get better or worse or if we’ll get a break. But one thing is clear: we won’t go back to our old lives anytime soon – there is no such thing as life before coronavirus anymore. That’s why it’s totally valid to completely re-evaluate your life and to feel full of emotions and contradictions. At the moment, your new worries are combining with other issues from before the pandemic. It’s very stressful.

You’re not wrong for trying to figure out your new priorities while looking back on your old life. Maybe you wasted time with friendships that didn’t make you happy, so it’s fine to wonder whether you should see those people again. If you worked much harder than you should have out of pride or for your reputation, it’s OK to ask yourself what the point of continuing as before is. The pandemic could be a great opportunity to re-evaluate your situation and not waste any more time. This won’t prevent doubts about the future. You should try to face them as rationally as possible, while coping with anxieties like being infected or losing your job, for example.

Your fear of being judged is different. For lots of people, this lonely period has exacerbated confidence issues. Or the opposite – after months in your sweatpants, you could be feeling like you don’t care at all about what people think.

In general, it's very common to have anxiety or difficulties leaving the house at the moment. Most people will find this less intense once they get back to a routine. Others, especially those who've experienced the virus, could have flashbacks, nightmares or feel like they're reliving the traumatic event. Everyday occurrences might trigger extreme reactions. That’s what we call post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD; if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek help.

In any case, “Who am I?” or “Who will I become?” are questions people will ask themselves for the rest of their lives.

Read the other articles in the Lockdown Blues series here.

This article originally appeared on VICE IT.