I am a homebody through and through.
That wasn’t so cool to say three semesters ago when I initially arrived at Lehigh. But once the pandemic hit, my affinity for my home, my bedroom and my family became an advantage.
I didn’t lament the loss of my friends and experiences and freedom just yet, thinking I’d regain all of those treasures soon enough.
I reveled in waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon in the mornings. I looked forward to snuggling up in my own bed after a day of school in my sunny dining room, traipsing through the house to see what my family members were up to and eating dinner as a family each night.
Spring soon turned into summer.
I spent the days laying in the hammock reading novel after novel and working on my tan simultaneously. Lunches were leisurely and my remote internship fit my flexible schedule perfectly. I was thriving.
By early July anxiety started setting in. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but suddenly my journal was filled with entries discussing that nervous feeling in my stomach. Those nervous feelings turned into thoughts of, what if?
What if I’m sick? What if I’m dying? What if that eye twitch means something more? What if I’m missing something? What if I don’t catch it in time?
I spent probably hours on WebMD finding an explanation for my “symptoms.” I’d put my phone face down as soon as I saw something bad and if I didn’t see something bad, I’d search until I found something that was.
This cycle continued until the beginning of fall semester. I became too busy and distracted by my classes and clubs to worry about that bump on my knee, or spot on my hand.
The stress of school oddly felt like relief.
Finals came and went and I was more than ready to do absolutely nothing for a month and a half. For a moment it felt like those first few months of COVID-19 were serene and blissful, but just before New Year’s, it all came crashing down.
The cycle started up again. Hours spent in the mirror examining myself, looking for reasons to panic. The crying would start and wouldn’t seem to stop. I finally got help with the support of my family, but the struggle was far from over.
I spent many nights awake, trembling in the bed I once felt so safe in. I completely lost my appetite, taking only a few bites of the dinners I once looked forward to. I pulled the covers over my head in the morning, feeling too exhausted to drag myself downstairs for breakfast. And I stopped wondering what the people in my house were up to.
I was entirely consumed by my own thoughts and worries.
As time went on, slowly but surely things got better.
I was finally able do the activities and routines that I knew would ease my mind.
At my first therapy session, my therapist asked me to explain how my anxiety began.
I explained to her the origins of my anxiety, and when I got to the part about how my feelings of nervousness and panic started up again during the pandemic, I completely broke down. She asked, “Why did that make you emotional?”
At first I really didn’t know why and then I realized.
“It ruined home for me,” I said.
This is the third semester I’ll be completing at home. A year ago, I would’ve never guessed that I’d be writing this in my bedroom in New Jersey instead of in a dorm in Bethlehem. And I really would’ve never guessed that I’d be grappling my strained relationship with home all at the same time.
As I come to realize the complexities of the pain that define this past year, I can foresee the difficult road to recovery that lies ahead. I have no doubt that I’ll piece this broken relationship with home back together in due time and I can only hope that our community, country and world will do the same.