“I broke down crying today. Life seems to be cruel sometimes. It looks beautiful from the surface, but underneath there is a viscous heart. As the world loses its balance through this pandemic and staggers forward, I can’t help but wonder if we will ever stand upright again.” (me, March 20, 2020)
(Me, today, three weeks later): grouchy, but mostly adapted to the quarantine. Bouts of happiness when the sun is out. And loads of drama to write about and ponder.
I think everyone on the planet is affected in some way by the current pandemic. And our responses run the gamut. Some people are happier and feel more secure than ever, locked in with friends and family who they love. Others are quarantined alone in apartments in cities, some with only a window to look out of. Some are perfectly fine, praising their introvert-personalities for already equipping them with the ability to deal with confinement and aloneness. Others are pulling their hair out, lonely, afraid, depressed, angry, powerless, you name it. And, some are working their asses off. One thing’s for sure. We are all in this together, whether we like it or not. Whether we’re wrapped from head to toe in PPE hurling sick people through the ICU, or whether we are huddled on our sofas, alone, scrolling through our social media newsfeeds for signs of life. At the end of the day, I can only hope, like survivors who lived through the same trauma, that we are somehow able to honor our strength, and not our weakness; celebrate what has brought us together, and not what has divided us.
That being said, I can’t help but think of love & addiction and what affect this quarantine might have on us love addicts. There have been reports out all over the globe that incidents of domestic violence, or as the New York Times quotes, “intimate terrorism,” have risen. And drug and alcohol abuse are equally on the rise. But what about love addiction? How does social isolation play into the brain of someone compelled to find a partner? Well, until someone chimes in and shares their thoughts, I can only guess…
Putting aside more serious behaviors like stalking and violence, the truth is, love addicts, by their very nature, tend to turn inward to suffer, whether they are currently with a partner or not. In that sense, I think love addicts are built for this kind of stress. We are built for isolation and aloneness. Not because we like it. Heck no! But, because we are accustomed to it. It is a pain we recognize, even if it can make us unhappy. More importantly, it’s what we typically do to soothe that pain that matters during times like these.
When I was younger, in situations of high stress my coping strategy was avoidance of reality and addiction to fantasy. I would go into my bedroom as a child or young girl, and I would hide from the outside world, which overwhelmed me. I would go into my room, write in my journal, listen to Prince and sink deeply into la la land about some unrealistic love relationship, which soothed and comforted me. At the time, I didn’t realize what I was doing was completely dysfunctional (torch-bearing, avoiding life). I only thought I was addressing the more serious issue of being in love with someone who was unavailable (hello! the more serious issue was my avoidance of life) Anyway, that created in me some pretty dysfunctional adult behavior (aka love addiction, self-avoidance). And for years, the only way I knew how to manage conflict was to bury my head in the sand, slip into my imagination, and avoid.
Now, here we are in quarantine, most of us out of work, forced to stay indoors, powerless, with nothing to do but avoid the world and rely solely on our imaginations for comfort!
Well, guess who’s prepared!!!
Quarantine is our territory. It’s our safe place. It’s where we rule. Forget that, in our fantasy minds, we’re only truly happy lying next to some completely unsuitable, unavailable partner who we imagine snapping cute little selfies of us while we’re posing in bed. Forget that we just finished crying hysterically because the very nature of lockdown is that it is forcing distance between us and the person we desperately want to be with (right now). Forget all that. And turn instead to the reality that you can’t have what you want. Yes. There. Go there. Now what’s your best defense? What does a love addict do when she can’t get the craved for relationship? Does she go and get a new career? Does she try to make peace with her single life by enriching her world with trips to the art museum, the bookstore and walks in the park? Heck no! She goes into her bedroom, locks the door, paralyzed, and cries her bloody eyes out, analyzing the relationship to death. Until! Until someone else comes a long. Or, at the very least, the thought of someone else. And then, those new thoughts of love and flirtation and hope and passion…those new dreams, whether they be healthy or unhealthy, realistic or unrealistic, carry us out of the craziness and calm us. When others are out at the gym or getting massages to healthily destress, we are watching, yet again, Bridget Jones’ Diary and every old episode of Sex in the City, ad nauseam. And when others are out and about in the world, hitting the streets and managing their way out of their troubles, we are carrying our burdens alone in the privacy of our addiction to love. That’s a love addict’s coping strategy.
And it does not work in the real world. It hinders us greatly in the real world. But…the world of quarantine? Why not? We are warriors. We can handle this like no one’s business.
But, let me be clear. This doesn’t mean I am encouraging anyone to break “no contact.” It doesn’t mean it’s OK to act out. No social media stalking. It’ll just make you miserable. In or out of quarantine. BUT! I implore you to make peace with those other, less destructive coping strategies of yours. The fantasizing, the frequent visits to la la land, the time wasting, maybe even the obsessive analyzing will help fill your free time, more than hurt your cause. Lean on them to get you through this tough time. Fantasize your brains out! Use what you’ve got. In fact, now is the perfect time for loads of dreamy self reflection, is it not? Just recognize that this strategy (except the self-reflection) won’t work as well once we’re out of quarantine. Ultimately, we will need to turn our dysfunctions into strengths. We can do that. Just not yet. Or maybe, we’ve already begun…