Mental health

Pandemic Life as a Pre-Existing Hermit

Pandemic life as a pre-existing herm - background of a cavern opening

Being a hermit is supposed to be a bad thing, but it’s made it a whole lot easier to adjust to COVID-19 and the social distancing restrictions.

Over the last year, I’ve really struggled with psychomotor retardation (slowing of movement) with my depression, and that made it hard to get out and do anything.  So far this year it’s been particularly bad, so I’ve gotten out for grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, and pharmacy visits, and that’s it.  So really, March 2020 in my daily activities has looked a lot like January and February.

It helps a lot that I’m very introverted.  I’ve always been very comfortable with my own company.  I know that’s not the case for everyone, and while I understand that on a cognitive level, I’ve never been entirely able to wrap my head around it.

I think locus of control matters in situations like this.  Isolation due to the pandemic is totally externally controlled; none of us have the slightest degree of control over that.  As a longer-term hermit, the control is far more internal.  Sure, my illness is only somewhat under my control, but it’s a permanent resident of Ashley-ville, not some outside intruder.

If I were inclined to beat myself up, I might feel guilty about having it so easy during this time that’s so hard for many people.  However, I’m generally not inclined that way, so I frame it as something to be thankful for.  Sure, going grocery shopping is more of a production and I can’t see my doctor, but I’m very grateful that it’s not disrupting more of my routine and activities.

I get a lot of support virtually, so that hasn’t changed.  However, the blogosphere doesn’t feel like quite the same place.  Totally aside from the fact that a lot of posts are related to the pandemic, something feels different.  Kacha of Food.for.thoughts and I were talking about this the other day; it’s there, but it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it is.

Something I’m curious about is whether this is likely to get easier or harder, not just for me, but for everyone.  And also, if it does eventually get easier, when will peak difficulty levels be?  Will this start to become a new normal?

What I am confident of, though, is that we will continue to support one another as best we can, and I’m glad we have this online space to do so.

80 thoughts on “Pandemic Life as a Pre-Existing Hermit”

  1. I’m not a hermit, but I’m very introverted and socially anxious. Neverheless, I feel very anxious about coronavirus, not least because I am trying to get out for exercise and that brings me into contact with people. I think I would feel less anxious if Mum didn’t have reduced immunity, as I’m more worried about her getting coronavirus than my getting it.

  2. There is something different about the blogosphere.. I can’t quite put my finger on it either. I know that in my case, I was beginning to phase out of blogging, and was hoping only to post on Tuesdays and Fridays. when I get the most readers or listeners. Once the virus concerns reached a certain stage, I don’t have the second person to help me with the piano pieces anymore, and I can’t make the you tubes. So that has pretty much stopped until I figure out some way to replace it. But in general, I think there’s a sense of it not being so important that one should be unrelaxed about it.

    I do admire you. You’re who you are. And hermitage can be a very beautiful thing, depending on what you do with it. I wouldn’t be reading the blog posts of just any random hermit, you know.

      1. You’re welcome. 🙂 I think I will start posting piano pieces again, but they will be only be audio pieces, and probably on my home piano (not the grand piano).

  3. I’m so honored to be mentioned! 😃 I think that everyone will experience the more inside lifestyle different. What I also think is that it forces ‘you’ to live with ‘you’. There isn’t as many distraction possible as it was when all was ‘normal’. No more shopping, no meeting with family or friends, no noticeable difference between week and weekend. A lot less movement, no fitness and no travels. All things that are important for stress relief and some people are very accustomed to them.

    I think some people will be confronted with themselves and that can be difficult in a way.
    I think we are used to know what our destiny is, people like to dream about some future or they like to make plans. If this would blow over in 2 weeks, a month I would see no problem. But living in the mere uncertainty when and if this will end, can make it hard. People like to have the illusion to be ‘master of their domain’ and that is no longer the case for now …

    As for the blogosphere I am very curious if other bloggers noticed this shift too. I’ll certainly come back to read other comments. For me, I’m making another distinction which post I read. I can’t stand so much ‘fluff’ anymore and I tend to read post of people that I’m really going to enjoy. It feels more ‘serious’ in a way, as if there is no time to lose and this is a huge contradiction to reality (I have a sea of time) and that makes me tense in a way. This small fear is always present in the back of my mind.

    1. That’s a very good point about no one being able to escape from themselves. Distractions only work for so long when you’re stuck at home.

      I wonder if the lack of ability to plan affects those of us with mental illness any differently. For me, the symptom fluctuations are enough that I don’t really make future plans anyway, because I can’t predict what I will or will not be able to do at a certain point in time.

      1. I have no idea, I think of me that I’m adjusting very well (the best I can) to the situation. My mother in law would really like to go out and to do some shopping while my boyfriend works from home like nothing happend (he is very glad not to commute for a while).
        I think that when getting used to mental health ‘surprises’ we’ve built some sort of resilience about life changes, changes that make a profound impact. For me, I feel better equipped handling restrictions that I don’t have any control over. I try to make it the most comfortable for me and not to leave any sleep over it!

    2. I get it – people are having to be with themselves at the moment – and many people are just not comfortable with that. It’s a shame some of them probably don’t even know about blogging, let alone read them – it may be a virtual place but there’s lots they could learn in our blogging community.

      Like our little mental health group – we all get each other, learn from each other and share our worries, concerns, advice, hints and tips and information with one another.

      Also, like you Kacha, making distinctions about what blogs I read now – when my site was ‘unfit for purpose’ lol, I had over 900 blogs to read – I couldn’t comment or like. But going through so many posts made me realise – much of it isn’t important.

      We’ll just have to wait and see the outcome – aarrgghhh – being unable to plan things to look forward to like weekends away or holidays is really getting me down.

      1. It isn’t easy. I guess I need to find ways to break the routine. Pierre is always working, weeks and weekends so I need to find a way to make a difference for me. During the week I take a shower and a bath on Sundays. That’s all I’ve been able to come up with till now 😂
        I really like our ‘mental health group’ it is such an accepting community. I’m glad it’s still going beside the virus. We have our mental health that comes first!
        Maybe we can plan some sort of vacation week on our blogs if this isolation thing remains? We can post about the things/countries we’ve visited or want to visit and make it a theme during a specific period in time? Just a goofy idea!

  4. I just started writing about this. I, too, enjoy my solitude probably more than most, but this has forced me to see that there can be a fine line between solitude and isolation. Isolation can be a dangerous place for me but I’ve kearned to recognize when I need to make a connection with someone.

  5. You know, I feel like there’s been a shift, too. I don’t want to put it on the blogging world generally because that’s not fair, but I’ve noticed some people, quite rightly out of anger and fear, not coming across quite the same. It’s almost becoming a competition and it can bring out the worst in some people, along with the need for self-preservation and the me-first mentality. I’m going to sound horrible if I explain that point. We’ll just leave that there and I’ll back away from it..!

    I’m glad you get enough support virtually. God bless the Internet. The locus of control is such a good point and it’s weird because I was talking to my ex about this yesterday! He was so quick to always put things that had happened firmly outside of himself (when discussing the problems with jobs and career he’s had), not taking the appropriate responsibility for his own actions and choices. Now, however, the current situation is out of his control. Whether hermit life is in or out of our locus, we can still look to acknowledge that and see what we can do to better help ourselves and others, and to remember our control over our responses. Like I need to control how angry I’ve been becoming with far too much lately (government in particular!)

    I’ve gone on a ramble and totally forgot what I was trying to say, Ashley 😂Yeah, not a lot has changed here with the staying indoors thing. Stay safe & as well as possible.
    Caz xx

  6. I feel like, aside from the huge amount of virus entries, of which I’m as guilty as anyone, that a lot of people are struggling about what ELSE to write about. Like you mentioned, our lives are mostly status quo and the small disruptions are things we can mentally handle. I mean, my increasing anxiety disappeared when this virus got serious. I think it’s supposed to work the other way around. I think that a lot of people don’t know how to communicate that anxiety and it comes out in their writing style. We all have a writing voice and for many, it’s disrupted, and people like you and I, who are also professional writers, really notice it. They way you can tell someone is struggling when you see them in real life is they way you can tell they are struggling in their writing voice.

    1. You raise a really interesting point, people having anxiety but not knowing how to express it. No doubt that relates to their locus of control and likely that they can’t just write their blog posts like they normally do, there’s so much more to consider, even if you’re trying to tuck it in the back of your mind.

  7. Power to the introverts! We’ll rise up and take over… until we realize that ruling the world requires group work. Then it will be back to our books and television shows! (Alas for the introverted takeover that could never be.)

    I think it’s great to frame it as gratitude. I too can’t intuitively understand extraversion except that it’s, like, you have to be around others to get charged. On the one hand, society worships this extraversion. On the other hand, introverts can be alone whenever they want to, whereas extroverts need other people to get that charge. One thing I wonder about introversion/extraversion is if internet interacting gives extraverts that charge, or if it has to be in person. I’m quite curious about that. Personally, I love interacting online because I don’t lose energy from it, as I do when I interact in person.

    I think it’s okay to stay happy about this, so that we introverts can finally be useful in consoling the extraverts who party among us. We’re happy. Life is great. We can bring them good cheer, right?

    1. Hm great points here. Do extroverts get a charge from internet interaction? I would like yes but only a little. I’m not an extrovert, I’m more of a mix between intro & extro. When I’m with people I talk talk talk and I’m the kind of person who cannot stand in an elevator with you without at least asking how your day has been. But I get so anxious when I’m around people, inside I might be a little mess and sweaty and all that. That said I do love to be on my own. I like to reflect and read and write and beadweave and and and… While I don’t get sweaty interacting on the internet, there’s a lack of connection there that changes communication. This is, IMHO, obviously why so many people become armchair warriors. There’s space and time between responses much of the time, less instinct involved, no body language (not counting video chats), no direct feedback. I believe extroverts need a lot of those things

  8. My biggest fear, and I don’t feel that it’s unfounded, is that it will continue to be something we are dealing for some time to come. Especially in the U.S., we are such arrogant asses over here. Damn, I hope this adjusts our attitudes (eventually)!

        1. You are not alone, none of you, in fighting the need/desire to rant politics. I find myself (drama queen) half-wanting someone to rant, and then I think high five to you for exercising self-control. Well done! I hope this helps get out the vote…

          1. Yeah, I’ve just burned some bridges with family and friends on my personal social media. Living in the Midwest, people are not politically smart imo. So, I’m officially taking to the polls! Thank you.

  9. T-3 acknowledged weekends are when we struggle most, and this is one ongoing weekend—with both kids home. We need to be alone to recharge, and it ain’t happening. So we stopped working with T-4 entirely and are cutting down on T-3. If we focus on supporting Spouse and kids, we can make the situation bearable. And when we notice they are creating suffering, we can check in to how we are/aren’t doing the same thing. We’ll support us when we support them. This is our current plan

    Locus of control is important. Spouse is an extravert and said this lack of social contact is taking a toll

    We are getting to know our boundaries and have been trying for internal locus

    We are at-risk for illness, and so we feel guilty that our family is being careful and isolating to keep us safe.

    We feel the collective fear, see the faint line that separates “compliance in law and order” with violence. Are some poised on the compliance edge of that line? That is our fear. People who cling to life are capable of many atrocities. We are trying to keep open to the possibility of Love

    1. That sounds like a good plan for the weekend. And I would guess that any added challenges for your family from being careful about isolation come at a far lower mental/emotional cost than if you were to get sick. ❤️

    2. It does sound like you have a good plan. And heck, good for you for having a plan! I’m sorry you’re at risk, I have a number of family who are at risk and it is quite scary. I feel bad isolating myself from them to keep them safe but in the end I will be glad to still have them around. I try to keep up with them, texts, calls, online messages, to remind them I’m thinking of them and praying for them (and us all).

      Interesting point about people on the edge. I hope we don’t come to that point. Such thoughts (about people becoming violent) ride the edge of my mind but I try to hold them back so I don’t get anymore anxious.

      1. Sounds like you are trying to keep people safe.

        Yah, staying grounded in what is true is helpful. And spreading love so that Love is available helps people be compassionate to one another. Love to you 💕

  10. It is fascinating how people are affected differently by this whole situation. I am still going to work on some days and have a lot of contact because of work. Whilst that is happening I’m in ‘doing’ mode. At the weekend, when I stopped, the anxiety and then depression happened. I think there are a huge number of factors that can impact. Anxiety about getting ill, about potentially losing people we know, sudden loss of purpose and routine, lack of control, isolation and so on …
    I suspect many people who have never experienced anxiety or depression will be introduced to it for the first time.
    I’m also interested that your depression is part of you. I’m wondering if I try to accept it as part of me, whether that would actually help me deal with it more positively. Given me food for thought. X

    1. I think you’re right that a lot more people will be experiencing these things. I have compassion for them and feel bad that this is the case though I do hope that maybe good will come from this. Maybe people will come out with a different perspective on a variety of things like mental illness, mental wellness, physical illness and wellness, appreciating our contacts, etc.

      1. I really hope that too. There’s a lot to be learnt from this whole situation. Some people will never learn or understand but there will be plenty that do. That can only be a good thing.

  11. The blogosphere is definitely a great support, and especially during this time. I’m still friends with bloggers I met on WordPress seven years ago.
    I’m introverted and socially anxious so I welcomed the quiet, but have found I am more social now than ever as a lot of people are reaching out. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve actually gotten to know my colleagues and friends much better, ironically.

  12. Nicely put Ashley… I was/am a introvert-ambivert so it’s not too different for me except it will make it harder to get out again once we can, whenever that is.

    It’s like you almost get psychologically used to “staying at home means safety” and therefore I may get a bit institutionalised if that makes sense.

    Also the fact that we are getting used to hearing and seeing these large numbers of people die every day and it is hard to get your head around it all.

    I don’t want to become desensitized to it all because each person is a huge loss, and has loved ones who are now grieving, many not being able to even say goodbye to them.

    It’s kinda sobering and awfully heartbreaking to think of.

    The challenge for me is getting a balance between being and feeling compassion in this very sad situation and yet not getting overwhelmed by it all at the same time and trying to keep my own emotional and mental head above water if you like.

      1. I can understand that, as we need to to a certain degree to be able to deal with it. It’s a lot easier if you don’t care. I know it’s not because you don’t care it’s just not something we can do anything about or have any control over.

    1. You raise a good point, relevant to something I’ve been thinking about. If we spend a month or two or three more isolated than not, how will people respond to getting back to life as usual? I hope this will have instilled better habits, healthier habits, in us all that we will want to continue. But what of people who never got to be home so much and now they don’t want to go back?

      It is very difficult to hear of all the deaths, especially stats like over 700 dead in one day, each day. I feel particular compassion for people who are sick or know someone who is and are constantly hearing about how deadly this is. One minute people are saying only a certain group seems to die the next you’re hearing stories across the whole spectrum.

      I hope those who do not care, who think this is no big deal, learn from this as well. Hopefully that won’t require something bad happening in their life to do so.

  13. I’ve been forced to become a hermit myself, although by nature, am an extrovert. It has only been in the last year that I joined the blogging world and I couldn’t agree more. There’s so much care and support in our community. It’s a really tough transition in the beginning to be forced into a life of solitude. It’s no wonder some people are struggling so much. I just read yesterday that the Los Angeles suicide prevention hotline had an increase of 75 times the amount of calls as last month……

  14. This is a beautiful share Ashley, thank you. I too already live something of a hermit life. As I said in a comment I’m something of a mix of intro/extro, which side I lean towards depends on the day and circumstances. Even as I socialize I get really anxious & nervous.

    I’ve bounced around from feeling guilty that this isn’t all that different for me and being grateful this isn’t all that different for me. I feel blessed and fortunate that being bored is almost impossible because I’m writing my first novel, I love to read and have a backlog, I blog & follow blogs, my house really needs attention, my birds need me to make new toys, I sell stuff online, like to exercise at home (including a return to yoga practice, highly recommend), and I keep swearing I’m going to spend more time beadweaving. Now please don’t think I’m bragging here or trying to rub any of this in, I rather hope to find those who relate to these activities and maybe inspire those of you who don’t know what to do to try something different. My mother is an extrovert. She’s been doing everything she can think of in her already clean and pretty well organized house. I just hope she doesn’t get it all done too soon and then not know what to do, that makes her come up with a store list, swearing she’ll be careful. She is trying to play piano again.

    It makes sense to me to focus on my gratitude and not my guilt. I will get more done if I do that. I think I would feel more guilty if after all this isolation I don’t have a lot to show for myself. Why can’t I really get into spring cleaning and make my environment healthier for me? Why can’t I make hella progress on my first draft, maybe finish it? I’m using this time, and looking forward to it, to improve my life so that when things get back to “normal” I can look back 20/20 and smile at what I achieved.

    Where I’m struggling is with my anxiety around staying safe, staying informed but not saturated, and not getting wrapped up in my worry. My partner isn’t as worried as I am, he has a super positive attitude about how things will be better when this is over, how we need to draw from the good when things are bad and vice versa. I love him even more for this attitude and I’m trying to stay in such a space. But I get super pissed and/or irritable when I wipe down groceries, debate wearing a mask, worry what I didn’t but should have cleaned or wiped. I’ve been trying to manage my anxiety and worry less, now the pandemic requires me to go back to that kind of thinking. Do I need to disinfect my groceries? Did I do an adequate job? Is it okay if I don’t wash my fleece after leaving a store? Can I help my family in their 80s on their farm because they need it? Will I get them sick? I cannot keep thinking like this or I will freeze up and get nothing done. It’s a strange balance.

    And as if this isn’t long enough I’m going to make a quick comment on the blogosphere. I haven’t been around as much as I’d like though I’m doing some catching up now. I think I feel something different and I’m wondering if it’s the fact that we’re all so present, that we’re all going through this together. When I get online I feel like you guys really are over there. I feel, I guess, more connected.

    Done. Thanks for reading guys if you made it this far. Thanks for this post and this chance to reflect Ashley.

  15. I’ve always enjoyed my own company, I learned a long time ago that I’m the only person I can’t get away from so I better start liking myself 🙂 Love your posts

  16. I’m also introverted. On weekends and days off I find I’m ok but it’s the working from home I think is making me the most anxious because I’m limited on what I can do. It feels like I’m pretending to work.

  17. I also enjoy being alone for some me-time. However, this situation is scary and like you, I wonder if this will reach a peak, then go back to the way it was, or if it will be the new normal! This is unreal!

    I sincerely hope it will get better at some point.

  18. I enjoy my me-time. And like you, I wonder if things will eventually go back to normal or its this the new normal. I hope things eventually go back to normal.

    The scary part is the uncertainty of it!

    1. Absolutely. And I also hope things will get back to normal.

      Sorry for the delayed response – WordPress has been flagging a lot of legit comments as spam lately.

  19. I also stay at home a lot due to anxiety and have no job. I miss being with my friends and family though. I’m happy to have my parents. For me not much has changed either. Stay safe ❤️

  20. This is an excellent post topic Ashley, provocatively expressed – l was l suppose in the eyes of many a hermit between the years of 2009 – 2012 due to the living in the caravan … what many people didn’t realise is that despite the isolation of the location, l enjoyed that exclusion from society. I had been backing off from interaction in truth long before living in the middle of nowhere. When l worked with my animals, l spent most days just by myself with my four dogs from 6am – many a time 6am, on the odd occasion l had to go home back to my married life l began to resent it but that was more to do with our marriage rather than purely social exclusion but the cap fitted both ways.

    I started to retreat from society from 1997 and l was living the life of the quiet man [even when married] from then till 2013.

    Suze and l got together is 2013 but neither of us are socialites anyway and prefer our own company but with selective socialising and l can handle that even with my Asperger’s in addition to a healthy online community.

    Now – the blogging community in my eyes started to change last year and became unbalanced – all the 19 has done is exacerbate the already changing community into what many people are seeing today. There is a lot of anxiety and something that Melanie touched on in her post here https://sparksfromacombustiblemind.com/2020/04/01/fandangos-provocative-3/ is that is set to rise even more as the overall uncertainty continues to rise.

    I am enjoying my social exclusion but then like you, my own company has never bothered me … my only issue concerning sociality is something l will try and look at today or this weekend for sure in a new 24 Hour question and l sit here with your blog post in my mind wonder if that is the tie in that you write of?

    Once more, a quality topic 🙂

  21. Ps: Sorry just realised that what l talk of wasn’t mentioned – will connect your post here to my question when l eventually ask it – if that is okay? That way you’ll be in the loop.

  22. I can relate to you in this post almost entirely.
    The thing that bothers me the a bit in the current situation is that the media and many people see only the current situation and don’t talk much else besides that. We still have other issues which are being somehow avoided/forgotten.

  23. I have never tried video calls throughout my whole life. Not even video conferencing. When I was told about online teaching, I was taken aback. However, to fulfill my teacher’s role, I have been trying my best to make our online teaching work. My kindergarten students attend our online classes with their parents. It feels intimidating as the parents are observing our online classes. However, the introvert me has been forced to be an extrovert by using a voice of interesting intonation and clear gesture. They are young kids so I have to be an extrovert to make them understand the language which is not their first language. Throughout the lesson, only the language is used. So I have to be very clear and interesting with my facial expression, gesture and intonation. It actually helps me in terms of my oral skills. I think I wasn’t this extrovert during face-to-face classes:)

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