Some animals breed successfully in captivity, some don’t. This animal hasn’t in quite some time. At the beginning of the lockdown and social distancing, the novelty of spending time with Tripp led to a sense of almost reckless sexual abandon. All the things we had wanted to do, we suddenly had time and space to do. It was probably the most passionate, sexy, kink fueled orgy of togetherness we experienced since we first started dating. But as the days turned into weeks, and then months, and the situation went from concerning to worrisome to dire, the stress levels just rose and rose and my libido completely disappeared.
Social media, a haven of connectedness in the beginning, became a solemn reminder of how abnormal things were. I went from checking several times a day to not wanting to look at all, like it was a constant reminder of what used to be. It all began fraying my nerves even more, taunting me as if things would be normal soon.
More stress piled on as I’m an essential worker and Tripp is definitely at a very high risk should he get sick. Just going out and coming home again was a massive stress. I have my car stocked with wipes and sanitizer that I use every time I head home. Then, one of our friends got sick and died. That hit me like a freight train. That’s when the shit got real, as they say.
On top of all that, the utter ineptitude of this nations response to the virus makes it virtually certain that another wave is going to hit and the economic, social, and even physical pain we all went through the past three months will have been for nothing. I have some knowledge of epidemiology, so I’m not talking out of my ass here. So I am stressed, to put it mildly.
The bodies response to stress is to produce cortisol. Trauma and crisis sap your resources. We go into flight, fight, or freeze mode. Cortisol makes us feel withdrawn, makes it hard to relax, and definitely makes it hard, if not impossible, to feel intimate. Our bodies will pull resources from anything that is not essential. The prolonged nature of this crisis is exhausting, and I am definitely feeling withdrawn. I spend much of my time alone, reading, or playing games. I’m having trouble wanting to be in the same physical space as another human being. I’m feeling depression and anxiety. I’m also furiously consuming newspapers and medical journal articles. I can’t watch television news, but written news seems somehow comforting, or at least not as frightening. I’m probably reading six newspapers a day and I am definitely getting my money’s worth from my PubMed subscription. And I am in a far better off situation than many. I can’t imagine how difficult the lives of the newly unemployed or underemployed must be. We’re luckier than most, but it still gnaws at me constantly.
So, our sex life is nil. Our social life is nil. Tripp feels it more acutely, as he is extremely extroverted. I’m okay with not seeing friends in person. That doesn’t stress me much, but the reason sure does. We’re doing okay, all things considered. I’ve even reached level 24 in Wizards Unite in just a couple of days. I’d already maxed out the Pokémon game. Also, since cortisol suppresses your appetite, I’ve lost 12 pounds, even though I haven’t been to the gym since March and I have not been particularly rigorous in maintaining a workout regimen at home. I need to be better about that. Physical activity lowers cortisol levels (so does Xanax, FYI). I need to get into some sort of normal routine. Some days, I don’t want to get out of bed or get showered and dressed. I don’t have the strength sometimes, but I try to force myself most days, giving myself a “pass” to just be a slob every so often.
There are things we can all do to keep each other safe. We all must wear masks. This virus is highly contagious. If everyone wore a mask and washed their hands, the transmission rate would drop significantly. Sadly, the virus isn’t going away until we have a vaccine. We have to accept what must be done. Those who refuse to wear a mask or who crowd into public spaces are not just a danger to themselves, they are a danger to all of us. This thing will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We’re still in the beginning, but taking steps to protect ourselves and others is one way we can get to a new normal, and get people’s lives back together. That’s what I need. I need everyone to step up and take responsibility. Once things are moving in the right direction, perhaps my stress will decrease enough that our sex life can return. I imagine that the night President Biden is inaugurated, we’ll at least make out.