It was when quarantine hit 63 days that I crawled out onto the fire escape and sat for hours, staring out into the distance, and waited for the sun to rise. It was hot, I was crying, and I had never felt so lonely in my entire life.
It was day 45 of being alone.
Now, let me be real, I have never liked being around people. I have such severe social anxiety that being around large groups of people terrifies me. I grew up extremely overweight and bullied and all I have ever thought about was just how much people judge me and my hardened exterior.
But day 45 of being alone almost broke me.
New York is this weird space – it’s this place that makes you feel alive and strangled at times. It’s this place that you thrive in, you find yourself in, and you realize who you want to be in.
But in March, April and May it was a scary place. It was a place where I watched mobile morgues in city streets, bodies being moved into them. It was a place where they blocked off my street because I lived next to a hospital and the line of people to get checked daily was sometimes in the streets.
It was a place where I would wait 2-3 hours to get into the store. It was a place where I heard ambulance sirens over everything. It was a place where I couldn’t even get my medication when I needed it, because I could not wait in line that long because I couldn’t find masks.
Day 45 of being alone in quarantine in New York City almost broke me.
By day 45 of being alone, I had developed my routine – breakfast, work, government briefings, work, pacing around my living room, curling up in a ball on my bed, watching TV and crying. I didn’t want anyone to know I was suffering.
Because I needed to be strong. Only I didn’t realize that strong wasn’t about not breaking. Not until day 45. Loneliness hit me like a truck.
I crawled back through the window after crying for what seemed like hours. I felt a weight free from my heart, because at least I had gotten feelings out. I felt a sense of relief and a sense that I needed to talk to someone. To tell someone how I was feeling.
On Day 45 of being alone, at 8:12am, I called my therapist for an emergency session. I told her exactly how I was feeling, what I had done, and how sometimes I wished that I wasn’t here. I was dealing with the pandemic, but also with health issues, and my own mental illness. I was overwhelmed.
I was alone.
And I was scared.
Have you talked to any of your friends and told them how you feel,” she asked me.
And then she asked me something so simple that I couldn’t really answer.
I’d lived through a lot of things in my life and a lot of things I am open about them. But when it comes to talking about how I felt, it was a lot harder than I had ever thought it could be. Because when I talked about the things that had happened to me, I could state the facts. But when I talked about how I felt – I had always been taught that things I felt could be changed and I had control over.
But this isn’t a time that you can change. This is unprecedented times.
I spoke to my therapist for almost an hour trying to examine the why. She told me that she didn’t have the answers, but she could tell me that we were living through a new time and we all had to find the answers together.
And so, she asked me if I was a danger to myself and I said no. But the truth was, I had been having suicidal ideations. I had been terrified of what was happening to me and what I was feeling.
And I sat down on my bed, meaning to sit there for a second, when I ended up falling asleep. I woke up face down on my phone and it vibrating under my cheek.
Incoming video call.
Day 45 of having no one with me.
I slid my finger across the screen and saw a familiar face pop up on the screen. She sat there smiling, her hair messy on top of her head, and a look on her face that was genuine concern.
“I just wanted to check and see how you are.” she said.
And I told her that I wasn’t okay. And for 34 minutes she sat there and spoke to me, before I had to go.
And every single day she’s checked on me since. Everyday for over 170 days, she’s checked on me in some way to make sure I was okay.
And Lizzie never knew that on day 45, one call and 10 words saved my life.
The biggest thing that you can do and is be there for others. Pick up a phone – call, message, and check on others. You don’t know what words of kindness can do.