To the University of Wisconsin-Madison Community:
I am exhausted. I imagine you are too. If you are like me, your thoughts have been consumed with the safety of family, friends and yourself. You have been checking in with these loved ones. Trying to figure out how to feel. How to take care of yourself. How to take care of others. Maybe you’ve managed to find a way to do this. I hope you have. However, I have not.
As someone who is immunocompromised due to a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease five years ago, I don’t know how to be with this ‘new normal.’ I had only just begun to understand how to take care of myself without a pandemic to cause further restriction.
What I have learned over the years from my illness is that anxiety and depression can easily creep into your life. The stress leaves you susceptible to both a physical flare and mental illness.
It is a time when you are already overwhelmed and having to shift your life from one you understood to one you do not. It’s exhausting.
Your energy is split between keeping your body somewhat healthy and anticipating all the future concerns. From the conversations I’ve been seeing, this is what so many of you are going through now.
But there is more to it as well. The restrictions that have been put in place to help stem the pandemic mean some of us are not with our family or we didn’t get to say goodbye to friends. We may be in situations where our thoughts are not just anticipating the future, but trying to make sense of the present. I cannot be on social media without being bombarded by the latest devastating update.
I understand the want to maintain a semblance of normalcy in order to provide stability through routine, but it must occur in smaller ways. This situation is not normal.
There are many students who are unable to work anymore. For those students, the primary focus is finding ways to live. The rent in this city is already steep, causing stress even when students did have jobs. It is taxing to look for work in this climate – both physically and emotionally. Many students who were in the middle of job hunting prior to this situation do not know what is happening anymore. None of us feel able to give a firm answer about where we will be come May or June.
The grief about such a rapid change is still taking hold. For many of us, we are coming to terms with the likelihood we will not have a graduation. That many of the friendships we forged were left without a proper goodbye.
I ask that you please understand, my work and involvement with class will be minimal. The assignments we had can no longer precede as planned. Access has become limited — to resource materials like books, but also people. I will be putting myself first. Because the ground is constantly shifting right now. It is taking all my energy to remain upright.
Alexis is completing her Masters of Library Information Science and has a B.A. in English. How are you adjusting to this 'new normal'? Send all comments and letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.