Right now, I expect you are either sick with Covid-19, sick of Covid-19, or both. I am certainly sick of, but haven’t shown symptoms of being sick with yet (however, I do live in the area with the highest per capita confirmed cases so time will tell).
Maybe sick isn’t the word to use; perhaps ‘crazy’ would be better. The chaos caused by Covid-19 has certainly led to some pretty cuckoo things, both on international levels and in our own lives. Social media is full of TikTok videos, shaved heads, and home workout routines.
The disease of self-fascination seems to be affecting us faster than the virus: never before have so many people at once had such brazen egotism to broadcast their dance moves to the internet. Nor has there been such a widespread massacre of hair. Seriously, the number of shaved heads and dyed and chopped hair is somewhat alarming.
The atrocity of the drastic hair changes and self-imposed humiliation via social media are just consequences of a deeper, more alarming reality. This is something that has manifested itself in my life too, though I haven’t touched my hair (I’m far too proud of it).
Changing your hairstyle often coincides with life changes, usually traumatic ones. It is symptomatic of a desire to take matters into your own hands, to hold onto some semblance of control.
Similarly, the scaremongering about gaining the ‘quarantine fifteen’ (other than society’s fat-phobia and weight stigma) is rooted in a fear of gaining weight, i.e. losing control. Consequently, many people are ramping up their exercise routines and/or dieting during this time. Fitness influencers on social media are having thousands daily tune in to live-streamed workout routines.
Specialists have warned that those struggling with mental health conditions are likely to find this time even more challenging than usual, and those who have recovered may either fall or be tempted to fall into relapse.
In previous articles I have mentioned personal struggles with an eating disorder and depression. The allure of slipping back into associated behaviours has been intensified during this time. My mind can easily spiral into dark tornados of ‘what ifs’: What if I can’t exercise? What if I can’t go outside? What if I eat all that cake? What if my flatmate hates being here with me? What if I hate being here with her?
I am struggling with the desire to expend excessive energy and time on exercise, in order to have a sense of accomplishment and mental peace. This is despite the fact I know that any sense of fulfilment will dissipate as soon as the endorphins wear off, and more so when physical exhaustion (from not allowing recovery time) sets in.
It has been hard not to get overly consumed by my consumption! I gave myself to the allure of restricting my food near the beginning of the lockdown. How did that day end? I became overwhelmed with a sensation of losing all control and panic, and ended up eating a full carton of granola in a despondent ‘what’s the point’ mindframe.
This all stemmed from the desire for control, and my fear of losing it.
Be it hair cuts or a new diet or a lockdown bucket list of books to read and languages to learn, all these are symptomatic of our desire to regain a sense of control in the midst of this chaos. Covid-19 has seen our everyday lives stripped from the usual routines that provide us with a sense of having any handle on things.
We are being forced to stay in our homes, except for one state-sanctioned outdoor exercise a day. We cannot travel. We cannot enjoy a coffee in our favourite coffee shop. That coffee shop may not even exist on the other side of this. We cannot travel to see our family and other loved ones. There’s no doubt that this is really tough on some days; forced distance can make the hardest heart homesick!
We want to control what we can so we shave our heads, or we exercise or diet in an attempt to control our weight. We indulge in compulsive behaviours.
But what good is it? What do these things give us, save for a feeling, a distraction that can only ever be fleeting. When we are freed, and a degree of control returned, will it prove enough? Or does it just mask the reality that we, really, control nothing?
That’s why this is so painful, isn’t it? Because life just doesn’t play out the way we expect, no matter our hair or weight. No part of being allowed to walk around outside more than once a day, or to meet with friends, or to travel actually protects you from the ‘what ifs’ of life. We cannot take anything for granted, not even today! Corona should be showing us that much, and point us to reevaluate our priorities and our lives.
As much as we might try to regain our grasp on this current reality, the unknown force of Covid-19 proves how limited and fleeting our ability to manage our lives is. This pandemic may lead us to just run harder to our compulsive inclinations, in the hope they will somehow ‘fix’ us, but perhaps it could do much more. It could just lead us to step back, and to reappraise what it is we’re living for.