In a surge of excitement earlier this week, I decided I’d go get a haircut in-person for the first time in more than a year. The pandemic and my anxiety are the main reasons I haven’t done so already, and while I didn’t regret that at all, I got excited because I found a place to go that I might feel more comfortable in, that wasn’t as busy and didn’t have as much going on. But then things shifted.
On the day I was supposed to go, I started thinking about the logistics. Would I have to make an appointment? Would I just sit and wait? Would I have to talk to people? How do I make sure my mask is always on? I was immediately overwhelmed. Ultimately, I decided not to go. I used to feel extremely guilty about this sort of thing, but I’m working through it, and here’s why.
After living in a pandemic for more than a year, I think I’ve gained a good understanding of what I’m able to do versus what I’m not able to do. Large crowds were already difficult to manage, and that has grown ten times over this year.
When I see people in person, I always have hand sanitizer on me, and I’ll use it throughout my interactions with friends and family. And I’ve been much more cautious to enter situations because I didn’t think it was wise to put myself in a position to worry people when I begin to hyperventilate or have difficulty breathing from anxiety.
To be clear, I’m not embarrassed by any of this. I am doing what I do to maintain physical and mental wellness during a pandemic, and I won’t apologize for that. Do I wish that I was more comfortable walking around in public? Sure. I don’t like that I have to bring stress balls or do deep breathing before and after I do things outside my apartment, but I also know that it’s what I need in order to do those things.
I also have my limits, and the pandemic has shrunk those limits more than before. It means that a trip to the barber shop isn’t just a trip to the barber shop for me – and probably won’t be for a long time. The combination of my anxiety and the past year has left me feeling more limited than I used to be, but to be honest, I’ve always felt limited.
I’ve always had to say no to things because I wasn’t mentally able to be a person in that space. Now, there are a few more reasons why I feel this way. I hope one day this changes, but in the mean time, I can accept that this is part of my life. At the end of the day, I’m still putting my mental health first, and that’s about all I can ask for right now.