Right now, all of us are doing our best to #StayAtHome, but for some of us, the home we stay in might not be our own. We are now in Week 5 of our coronavirus reality, and I can genuinely say that experiencing this global crisis across the world from my family has been the biggest challenge that I have ever faced in my life.
I’m no stranger to homesickness. When you’ve lived as far away from home as I do for as long as I have, you learn to spot the waves of homesickness when they are still out on the horizon, and for the most part let them wash over you without knocking you down. However, there is a difference between longing for home and being homesick for a place that, at the present moment, does not exist. I could get on a plane to Chicago right now, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that I won’t be able to hug my grandma, to go to a White Sox game, or to drink martinis until midnight at our favorite Italian restaurant. Still – what I would not give to be at home with my family, playing board games and watching The Birdcage and all of our other favorite ‘feel-good’ films. Quarantine would be nicer with my mom’s homemade mac and cheese and my dad’s Manhattans. What I wouldn’t give to spend the days inside teaching my baby sisters how to do their makeup, and letting them teach me how to record TikTok’s.
Currently, I am quarantined at my boyfriend’s family’s home in Lincolnshire. There’s not been a moment being here that I haven’t felt so incredibly grateful both to this family for taking me in, and to the universe for bringing them into my life at just the right time. When I think back to my life a year ago, whilst I loved my little ‘Bridget Jones’ flat, I genuinely don’t think I would have survived being quarantined there alone. Being here means having a garden to run around, dogs to walk, and a family to laugh with – all things that make a massive difference to my mental health during such challenging times. Still – nothing about this crisis comes without challenges.
For starters, I am an extremely emotional person. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I cry. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I laugh, and recently I have been crying a lot for no reason. I’m not particularly ashamed of this aspect of my personality… it’s who I am! However, it’s not something that I like to put on display for just anyone, and especially not my ‘in-law’s.’ I’d prefer that they see me as my normal, bubbly, and extremely grateful self, and I try to keep the mental breakdowns to a minimum. However, after weeks of doing this I have definitely noticed feelings of bottling up. I started losing the ability to be my usual outgoing self, and found myself spending family meals appearing incredibly quiet and anti-social. This is the ultimate burden of an extrovert: if you have branded yourself as a person who is always chatty and sociable, people take immediate concern the minute you become more shy or reserved.
It all came to a head about a week ago when I FaceTimed my parents and my mom took one look at me and said, ‘Okay, honey. That’s the sad Megan face. Why don’t you go ahead and cry… I’m guessing you haven’t been able to cry in awhile.’ What followed was an absolutely tsunami of emotions. I literally sat on FaceTime bawling my eyes out while my parents consoled me for at least an hour, and to be honest it was incredibly cathartic. There is something about crying in front of your parents as an adult that immediately makes you feel like a child again. In that moment, I swear if you had held a mirror up to me I would have seen a 6 year old, gap-toothed Megan. While it’s not the most mature feeling, it’s incredibly comforting. I was able to express all of the emotions I had been bottling up in an attempt to appear like the calmest, most collected girlfriend in the world, and by the end of the call I felt like I had gotten it all out.
So, whether you’re staying with your family or with someone else’s, if you feel like you have been putting on a brave face for too long and it’s starting to take a physical and emotional toll, I encourage you to find a way to let it out. Pick up the phone and call someone who you are comfortable being emotional with. WRITE! Watch The Notebook or Steel Magnolias or any film that will help you do some crying if that’s your thing. The reality is that we are all experiencing trauma right now. Everyone’s trauma looks a bit different, just as everyone’s means of coping will as well. However it may be manifesting itself for you, just know that you are not alone and you are not weak if you need to take time to break down every once in awhile. Knowing when to let yourself breakdown is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign that you are still fighting to be strong.