“What’s up, you beautiful bushel of nerds!” I exclaimed or something of the sort as I barged through the door on my return to my home in El Cerrito, California. I had been away from my housemates and friends in the Bay Area for a month and a half--the end of March and the month of April of 2020. With the emergence of the Corona Virus pandemic and the ensuing shelter in place orders and quarantine restrictions, I was furloughed from my job as a climbing wall route setter. With no incentive to linger around the Bay Area anymore I voyaged South on the 101 across the great expanse of California.
My journey was not a long one, however, for the place where I spent my adolescence is located in the state’s central coast: A small, simple, agricultural town called Templeton. With the apocalypse scenario looming and unfolding in front of my eyes, I figured a quiet town would be the best place to wait out the storm, to emerge at a later date to a new world order of a Mad Max type essence.
The current state of the world is that of excruciating uncertainty, what with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe. It has induced widespread panic, upended economies and businesses, and flipped any idea of normal life upside down. Quarantines and shelter in place orders started being imposed on cities across the globe, forcing billions of people to remain confined to their homes. This self isolation and confinement has been deemed as primarily a horrid endeavor of entrapment: Imprisoned in a singular building with nothing to do but be in solidarity with personal demons and thoughts. Some people have declined in this new state of existence, reinforcing and even exacerbating the bad habits, addictions, and actions they so recently tried to combat.
I was by no means some superior being that did not also succumb to some of these dark pathways at the onset of quarantine. However, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, in isolation I evolved. I have grown, improved, and changed myself during this pandemic.
Everyone has their own personal demons and vices that manifest in different outlets. In this time of quarantine, faced with nothing but those voices in my head, I was finally able to face mine. For many years I have struggled with an eating disorder coupled with depression and substance abuse. I have sought out help in the past, sticking with a therapist and trying to embody their plan to cure and aid in my recoveries. However, I never saw them all the way through or would deem myself fine enough after a few months only to relapse back into my old habits and vices.
Eating disorders and addictions are some of the hardest things for an individual to combat. While some personal struggles manifest openly and can be extinguished before they have the chance to take over, mental disorders are a whole different enemy to fight.
A human being can be depicted as a marble statue, finely chiseled, perfected by a great artist with the best type of obsessive compulsive disorder. This initial sculpture is pristine only at birth. From the second we leave the womb this once great sculpture is subject to tarnishes, cracks, and degradation. Everyday life continuously initiates the never ending suction towards entropy, the chaos, randomness, and uncontrollable reality we all face throughout our existence. Some tarnishes on this marble statue are apparent; scars, broken bones, age. They all manifest openly and inevitably degrade that once pristine statue.
Mental health disorders are different: they are hidden cracks, structural failure from the inside that can remain unnoticed until they have already destroyed the statue beyond repair. My cracks have scoured deep since late adolescence and early adulthood, creating an intricate system of bad habits and problems. Many deep cracks in my statue that remain hard to fill.
With my initial return home my mental health problems were already apparent to me, or so I thought. When my days were once filled to the brim with a continuous flow of stimulation from work and immersion in climbing, there was not much thought to anything else. It was simple, easy, and invigorating to be constantly immersed in the task at hand.
While this was beautiful for me at the time, it did lead to the ever deepening and growing system of cracks forming within that metaphorical marble. Instead of facing the issues I was experiencing, they were simply put off and ignored. Each week, Monday through Friday, everything was at ease and seemingly alright in my mind. Then, at the end of each week, on Friday evening, all the problems I had been ignoring would manifest in what I would call the Episodes. These Episodes consisted of imbibing copious amounts of alcohol and food binges. This would repeat, each week, in a purgatory that saw no end.
When I returned home to wait out the initial bombardment of the pandemic, the demons I had been able to keep at bay during my previously busy work week were glaring me dead in the face. There were no more distractions. Just myself, my mind, and my problems. The first couple weeks of quarantine were eye opening to the catastrophes that were my physical and mental well being.
The first step in overcoming any form of mental health issue is the acceptance and admittance of your problems and issues. I have recognized the cracks and tarnishes that my issues have created.Now begins the hardest part of refurbishing my statue: the filling of the cracks.
In my quarantine back in quiet Templeton, I was able to let go of these previously held mental contracts that continuously led me to deepen and lengthen the cracks. I was able to identify the root causes of the initial destruction and tarnishes to the statue and begin to patch the cracks, fill, and refurbish them. The days turned into weeks, which turned into a month back home rebuilding, redefining, and evolving myself. Where there were once empty cracks harboring grime and mold, there is now polished, fine marble, chiseled with a new path, a new mentality, and a healthier being.
Barging through the front door to my El Cerrito home after a month and a half long journey on both my mental and physical escape to Templeton, I exclaimed “What’s up you beautiful bushel of nerds!” I had returned, re-sculpted, a refurbished piece of marble. With that initial re-emergence I felt a new form of courage and confidence that the person re-entering his home was changed for the better, a new model, and equipped to begin a new life that he would be truly ecstatic about, day in and day out. My cracks and tarnishes had been filled and polished, or so I thought.
My housemates are an eclectic bunch of misfits with a range of professions, hobbies, and interests. Regardless of their occupations, they all share a common hobby of excessive video game playing and, sadly, drinking. When they are not at work, most of them can be found at any given moment in their natural habitat: Hunkered down inside, on the couch, face buried in a screen of blue light, with a drink in hand.
As I have now deduced, although they are my friends, this lifestyle is not beneficial for me, my goals, or my pursuits. This way of living sucked me in, exacerbating my already present troubles without me even realizing the consequences. It created this peculiar sense of purgatory in my home that seduced and ensnared me.
My time back in Templeton, my escape, I had hoped was enough to be the panacea to all of these vices and demons, but alas I was mistaken. As soon as I returned, the temptations were prevalent everywhere, twenty four seven, day after day. The unfortunate fact of the matter is, this previous way of living that I was trying so desperately to escape, was the common ground that my housemates and friends bonded with.
Never has a home felt more foreign. Never have I felt more alone surrounded by my friends.
The month of May went by and here I sit now, isolated, thinking, and writing this very story about returning to what I once considered a home. Overall my conditions have improved but the temptations are still there and I have succumbed to them on more than one occasion. The person that returned from quarantine is different, while his household remains the same. I have returned to a metaphorical purgatory that I was on the cusp of escaping. As I venture further from the person I once was, I look back and see my housemates still ensnared in our home, glued to their blue lit screens, drinks in hand, and trapped in these habits that they too wish so desperately to escape.
When we are all allowed to emerge from the Corona Virus pandemic, it will be a different world out there. Economies will be in ruin, governments will be in chaos, and life as we once knew it may never return. There will be a new normal. As I and billions of others have been quarantined and hunkered down for months, we will emerge to a new era. Some will be trapped deeper than ever before in their old ways, habits, and problems. Others will have grown, evolved, and metamorphosed into something more. The world will need all the help it can get in this new era. So, when everyone is allowed to return to the world which side of the line will you be on?