Lets just come out and say it.
This sucks. All positive social media posts and celebraty love messages don’t change the fact that this really sucks. Quarantine, social isolation, the constant stream of ever growing case numbers, and the constant fear of the unknown. It really sucks.
This is a really hard time for everyone. Humans have evolved to be social creatures, and that sense of social connection is built into our mental well being. We develop physical symptoms when cut off from the group. We derive self identity, value, and purpose by our place within that group.
Social isolation is painful for humans to endure. It affects us deep down in the ancient part of our brain that developed when we were huddled in caves and scraping together necessities for survival among much larger and terrifying predators. Our sense of community is what helped us build family structure and evolve a sense of belonging to the tribe. Hell, it probably developed when we were small mammals scurrying around dinosaurs, huddling under rocks.
Our social evolution is what allowed us to build communities, towns, cities, countries. This modern world has evolved to cater to our need for social bonding and community. We connect to people around the world at the speed of light, over radio, fiber, copper and even paper for the intimate touch.
This is why our current world is scary and alien to us. It’s robbing us of something so fundamental to our species we forget about it when its here and cant explain the problem when we’re gone. We take our sense of community for granted, so much so that we dont even realize how important it is. How deep the wiring in our brains goes. We biologically need other humans, our small tribes and families. Coronavirus is slowing eating away at that community, forcing us to isolate, to break up the binds. I don’t think its COVID that scares us, or the possibility of getting sick, even severely. I think its the isolation that is fundamentally hurting us, deep where we’ve forgotten it, in the core of what makes us human.
Don’t get me wrong. I fear for my children’s health, my wife’s, my parents and my friends. I take every step possible to keep my loved ones safe. But I’m starting to feel the psychological damage isolation causes us. It’s like a cancer, it attacks us where we’re most vulnerable in a slow and insidious way.
I’m very fortunate right now. I’m with my children and my wife. My tribe is with me and we’re safe. That’s important. But there are those out there cut off from their tribe, isolated alone. It’s a difficult position for humans to be in. We need others, even strangers. So please, reach out to those in your circle who may not have others with them. A phone call, a web meeting, even a letter if you’re the romantic type can help dispel sense of being alone and adrift at sea.
Our world is not the world we evolved in. The community may be damaged but it doesn’t have to be broken. Use the tools we have to keep it together during this period. Who’s the one person in your circle who lives alone, maybe hasn’t seen or heard another voice in a while. Call them. Let them know they’re still part of your tribe.
I don’t talk about this publicly, and only some of my tribe knows. But I struggle with sever depression that I manage through medication and the support of my family. I can tell you from my personal experience that this isolation is very difficult one those of us with mental health battles. I cant speak for everyone obviously, but it anxiety and panic episodes have led to many sleepless nights. I’m not expressing this for sympathy or likes. I am sharing this to help people understand how vulnerable some of us are to the erosion of our social community. So please, be patient with those of us who suffer quietly and may be affected in different ways.
We will get through this, together as a community and as a world. The world may be different on the other side, but we’ll have our tribes and our community back. Help each other. Be kind to each other. We’re in this together.