Hey, Bonita…: Anxiety and Loneliness Are the Hidden Epidemic | Flagpole Magazine

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Hi Bonita,

I’m like so many people in Athens right now, struggling to find the next dollar because the restaurant I work at is closed and unemployment benefits aren’t enough to get by. Fortunately, I’m a good and thrifty cook, so feeding myself isn’t a problem, but I’m increasingly worried about the backlog of bills that I can’t pay.

Even more troubling is the sheer loneliness. I live alone and—although I talk to friends and family via phone, take walks daily and do art projects—the feeling of isolation is often overwhelming. I’m a fairly introverted person and don’t need a lot of social contact, but these past weeks have been challenging, making me realize how much I actually do need contact with other people. This time has also made me aware of how much I depend on my job to give structure and purpose to my life.

Lastly, anxiety and depression are things that I struggle with even under normal circumstances. Social distancing, sheltering at home, being jobless and the uncertainty of the future just exacerbate the mental health problems that I have. A friend said to me that this is the hidden epidemic that’s going along with the pandemic, and I think that observation is spot on.

Bonita, could you offer some suggestions for how we in the service biz (or anyone, really) can handle this? Surely there are resources to turn to, but I have no idea where to look.

Thank you,

Lonely, broke and struggling

Hey there LBS,

I’m no longer a service industry worker, but I was for a long time, so I absolutely empathize with the way you feel. In a way, I’m going through pretty much the same thing even though I’m working from home: the boredom, the loneliness, the huge swathes of empty time that allow my own mental health to go astray here and there. I am not, however, dealing with joblessness right now, and I do not envy anyone out there doing this while having no idea where the next paycheck comes from. Many utility companies are asking customers to “reach out” to them if they are having issues paying a bill, but who knows what that even means. I assume that they’re offering payment plans or bill deferment, but I can’t imagine that the offerings will be as generous as what people really need when they have no income. But yeah, call your utility companies before things pile up to the point that you’re getting disconnect notices.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any plentiful work-from-home opportunities, but if any readers do, please email me. I also recommend you find the Athens Virtual Tip Jar and have yourself added, if you haven’t already. 

I also live alone, and I loved it very much up until isolation started. Jeez, what I would give to smell anyone but myself right now. Human touch: What is that? I’ve noticed that people have begun throwing caution to the wind, but I really don’t recommend trying to have in-person dates or hangouts until we know COVID-19 is on the decline. I think this is the perfect time to hop on Tinder or OKCupid in search of a similarly minded babe to flirt and possibly sext with until dates are back on the menu. 

You got money trouble; you’re lonely; and you seem to be staring into a future that resembles a void. That’s a pretty bad hand, but you’re not the only one out there with these cards, and soon it’ll be time to deal again. This will end. Take heart, but understand that it will take work. None of us can wish away the pandemic or the changes it’s created in our lives, but we can find ways to thrive while we ride this out. And this will end, y’all. The most powerful motivation I have for keeping my head up is the fact that I know that this can’t go on forever. You’ll get your life back, and it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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