It’s OK to be Overwhelmed. Or Scared. Or Whatever You’re Feeling.

I’m freaking out right now. I don’t know about you, but this is some scary sh*t. Quite literally, the whole world is dealing with the effects of this virus situation, more so than we’ve ever had to deal with another global crisis. And it’s just the beginning. We’re in for a long road of fighting this thing and dealing with the fallout. And it’s overwhelming.

Your feelings are valid

The other day, someone posted in one of the writers groups I’m in that she’s looking for leads on freelance work, and she made an offhand remark about the current situation we’re all finding ourselves in. It was meant to be lighthearted, something about this being a “tedious party”.

And someone else commented with a bunch of pollyanna cr*p about how wonderful it was to have this opportunity to be still and quiet and blah blah blah. It was unhelpful, and not on the topic of helping the other woman find work, and it invalidated the other woman’s feelings.

It’s ok to be scared right now. It’s ok to be depressed or anxious or worried. It’s ok to be positive and see the potential good that can come out of all of this, but don’t try to convince us worriers that we should look on the bright side.

We’re allowed to feel our feelings. Hearing things like “it’ll all work out” or “think of how wonderful XYZ is” makes us feel like our emotions aren’t valid or that we’re somehow wrong for feeling this way. It makes it feel like we’re losing our minds for not being able to see things in a positive light.

So I repeat: Be scared if you need to. Be sad, depressed, freaked out, angry. Those are all reasonable and understandable feelings, and we’re all feeling them in various ways.

And if you’re one of the positive people, that’s great, I’m happy for you that you can see things in that light. But don’t deny us the chance to work through our own feelings. It’s not helpful.

Things like “I’m so sorry you’re struggling” or “Yeah, that really sucks” actually are a lot more helpful to hear because it means you’re actually hearing us and acknowledging how we’re feeling.

Berlin TV Tower sunset

We weren’t supposed to be here

Andy and I left in early January for our winter of sunshine and warmer weather. We spent a month in Malaga, where I came down with some awful sickness that, honestly, sounds similar to the covid-19 symptoms. But I’ll never know. I was sick enough that it was starting to affect my colitis, plus the fact that I was really burnt out and generally feeling like I didn’t want to be on this trip, and I decided I should go home for a bit.

After our month in Malaga, we ended up quickly traveling through southern Spain and southern Portugal for about a week before ending up in Lisbon. I did some touristy things in Lisbon with Andy, and then I hopped on a plane back to Berlin. Originally I figured I’d stay home for a few weeks, recharge, and then fly back to Lisbon where Andy still was.

Andy had planned on going to a game festival at the end of March in a town a little north of Lisbon. While he did that, I was considering going to the Azores, a destination I’ve been dreaming about for years. But things didn’t pan out.

My anxiety was high, and without really understanding the full situation yet, I was unwilling to book a flight back. I think I knew things were about to get worse, and that I should stay home.

From March 2nd forward, I only left the apartment for groceries, even though there were no measures in place telling us to stay home. But it was already getting to my anxiety.

And then as soon as Italy went on lockdown, Andy and I decided it didn’t make sense for him to stay in Portugal. We knew other countries would follow, and he could easily get trapped. He quickly booked a series of trains to get home: an overnight train from Lisbon to Hendaye, France (a small town on the border of Spain and France), then a train from Hendaye to Paris, then Paris to Mannhein, Germany where he got a hotel, and then Mannheim to Berlin.

Malaga, Spain
Malaga, Spain

Being on lockdown in Germany

Germany has been on lockdown for almost two weeks, though technically the first week or so was basically, “please, we’re begging you to stay home” and now it’s all, “you MUST stay home”. Language matters.

That first week of “please stay home” was also the first really nice, warm-ish, sunny week we’ve had after a long winter, and loads of people went out to enjoy it. I kept hearing about people having picnics in the park, and long lines at recently reopened ice cream shops that were closed all winter, and kids climbing on jungle gyms at playgrounds despite the government announcing all playgrounds were closed and off limits.

At a state and local level, some lockdowns went into place a little earlier. For example, Bavaria started a few days earlier than the national level, and has included steep fines up to 25,000 euros if you break the rules, though I’m not sure what you have to do to get that top level fine.

So now Germany is mandating that people stay in their homes unless they need to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor, or essential employment. The grocery stores are putting markers down on the floor to keep people properly spaced out in the checkout line.

We’re also allowed to go outside for a walk or exercise. Gatherings of more than two people who don’t live together are not allowed. And we have to carry ID with our address (or something that shows our address if the ID doesn’t have it) at all times when we leave our apartment.

Bars, clubs, theaters, movie theaters, museums, schools, daycare, pools, playgrounds, and many other things have been closed. Events and large gatherings are not allowed. People are working from home whenever possible. Restaurants are only allowed to be open for delivery and take-out.

I wish Germany had mandated all of this earlier. At a federal level, Germany was dragging their feet. I believe this has to do with the country’s past with WWII and the Cold War era, so it’s understandable. No one wants a repeat of the Soviet Stasi measures that were in place in East Germany.

But I’m glad the full lockdown is now in place. Not enough people were taking this seriously enough. But it’s so important to physically distance ourselves and do whatever we can to lessen the effects of this virus and lower the burden on the hospitals.

I’m scared about my income

I’ve been blogging full time for several years now, and I love this job. It allows me to travel and to write about travel, and I get to help people. All from the comfort of my own home in my comfy pants.

A few years ago I started writing about how I make money from blogging, including income reports. As my income grew, it started feeling awkward to put those numbers out there, so I stopped. But I’ll say this: I was earning more from blogging than I did at my last insurance job in the US.

At first when the virus started affecting travel, I wasn’t too worried. My income was dropping but nothing too drastic. I figured it might drop a little more, but nothing too crazy.

Oh how I was wrong. Things got much, much worse with the virus situation all around the world. My traffic fell off a cliff and took my income with it.

crisis traffic drop
That’s my traffic on Travel Made Simple dropping to almost nothing

No one is traveling or even planning future trips, so no one is coming to my site. Since no one is coming to my site, I’m not getting any commissions from Amazon or hotels or tours people might book. And since no one is traveling, tourism companies are advertising, which means the few pageviews I do get aren’t earning much from ads.

My income has dropped to almost nothing and it gets worse every day. On Tuesday, I earned $11.15, and I don’t know where the bottom is. I have enough in savings to keep me afloat, and luckily Andy’s work is still doing well, but savings will only last so long. I originally thought, maybe this will only last a couple months and then things will bounce back.

>>Want to help without having to spend a penny? Head over to Travel Made Simple, and browse around. Reading posts with your adblocker OFF, so you see the ads, is enough for me to make a little money. Read some itineraries and tour reviews to get a head start on planning a trip when travel is possible again. Or get some luggage and packing tips. I’ve also linked to a few posts at the bottom of this post. Thanks!

But it’s becoming more clear that it will take a long, long time to get the virus under control to a level where people can travel again. And even when they can, will they even have the money to travel? Maybe not since so many people aren’t able to work or earn money, and some are even losing their jobs already.

So these fears keep running through my head. What if my blog never recovers? What if the travel industry takes years to recover and it’s not fast enough for a travel blog to earn decently again? What if people who normally come to my site for information don’t have the money or ability to travel for months or even years?

I’m scared about how long this all lasts

Even aside from fears about my nonexistent income and how long it might take for that to recover, I worry about how long we might be required to stay on lockdown. The measures in place right now are mostly estimated at a few weeks to about a month. For example, schools are closed through April 19th.

Mentally I think I can handle that idea. A month is reasonable. But what if a month isn’t enough? What if we need to keep living like this for two months? Or three?

As a self-employed introvert, I didn’t think much was even going to change for me. I thought this would be relatively easy. But then I realized, despite working from home, we actually do go out a lot.

We normally go out to eat 2-5 meals a week. We go to our local wine bar once or even twice a week. We go to the local fresh market every Saturday. We go to the grocery store several times a week because we’re always forgetting something, and it’s right across the street.

best Laotian restaurant in Berlin
I miss our favorite Thai/Laotian restaurant…but they deliver, so we’ll order some soon

Now we can’t go out to eat since restaurants can only do takeout or delivery. I’m not sure if the Saturday market is still running, but seems like there would be too many people for me to be comfortable going even if it was open. The wine bar is closed. We’re trying to limit the number of times we go to the grocery store in order to limit our time in contact with other people.

Before we could easily go two or three days without leaving the apartment, but it was offset by dinners out and long walks around the neighborhood to go somewhere. But all that is gone now, and I’m feeling a little trapped.

Not knowing how long this might last is making it all so much harder to deal with. And it’s only been about two weeks.

I’m worried about the long term effects

Will our favorite restaurants survive? Will our friends still have jobs after this is all over? Will my blog survive and bounce back, or will I have to find another way to make a living?

How long will it take for the economy to recover? How many personal freedoms do we give up, even temporarily, to fight this thing, and at what point will will get those freedoms back? Which countries will abuse this time for more powers? (Because it’s already happening in some places.)

I was a senior in college when 9/11 happened, and that day certainly had long lasting effects on our lives. The difference though was that, even though we all watched the TV in horror and disbelief for a few days, after that we slowly started getting back to our normal lives.

We went back to school or work. We went back to hanging out with our friends. Travel came back, slowly, but it did happen. I can’t find it now, but I read that airlines cut flights by 40% at that time. Today many airlines are cutting almost all of their flights. Some airlines have gone down to zero flights.

And we’re living through this trauma every day for a month or two or even longer. Every one of us is affected, even if you’re not quite feeling it yet, it’s happening. This isn’t something we can watch on TV and then get back to life. Life is now confined to the walls of our apartment or house.

How will this affect all of us mentally, emotionally? And let’s face it, physically?

I keep seeing memes that say something to the effect of, “You’re being asked to sit on your couch for a few weeks. You can do this.” And while that’s true, and maybe a bit funny, it doesn’t acknowledge the trauma of what we’re living with. The situation is much bigger than that.

We can’t yet see what next week is going to look like, let alone next month, 6 months from now, next year. But it will all be greatly affected by what we’re living through right now. And while I hope there are some good, positive changes that come from all of this, I fear for the negative changes that are probably unavoidable.

I’m worried about how the US is handling things

Europe was probably a bit late about lockdown measures and border closings. But I think the US is even farther behind. I’m glad some cities and states are starting to put rules into place to try to distance people and flatten the curve, but there’s still a lot more of the country that isn’t doing enough.

College students are still going on spring break and crowding beaches. People are still having parties and going to bars and clubs. Maybe these people are still in denial and just haven’t really accepted what needs to happen, but they need to get there faster.

And why isn’t the US testing more people? This is a big panic point for me. I keep hearing stories about people, including firsthand stories from friends, who have trouble getting approved for a test because their fever isn’t high enough, or they’re missing one symptom, or they can’t pinpoint an exact person they were in contact with who has been diagnosed with the virus.

This is ridiculous. The US is so far behind on testing. It’s hard to fight a virus without knowing who has it and how many people have it.

I’m horrified at the president giving out medical advice when he should be deferring to doctors and other medical experts. I’m appalled that he, and many other politicians, seem more concerned with the economy than the lives of human beings. The economy all around the world is taking a beating. That’s unavoidable right now. But letting people suffer and die is not going to save the economy.

I’m seeing too many people convinced that two weeks is all it’ll take to fix this problem. That things can shut down for two weeks, and magically it’ll all be manageable after that. Sorry, but it’s not going to work that quickly.

Italy has just hit two weeks, and they’re only now starting to see some improvements with the statistics. Spain has extended their lockdown through mid April, and even that seems to be optimistic to the people I know there.

I also keep seeing that there are still people in the US who think this is being blown out of proportion or that it’s a hoax. THIS IS NOT A HOAX!! Please, please read stories from other countries, about what’s going on outside the borders of the US, and you’ll see that this is not a political thing or a hoax or an overreaction. The stories about doctors having to choose who gets the one remaining ventilator based on the survival chances of the patients are horrifying. No one is making this stuff up.

Here are just a few sites to check out to read about what’s going on in European countries, all in English: DW.com, The Guardian, and many country-specific versions of The Local, like thelocal.de, thelocal.it, thelocal.es, etc.

Berliner Dom
I’m so happy to be in Germany right now

Grief isn’t linear

I’ve read several references to the idea that what we’re all feeling right now is grief. And grief isn’t linear. Just because you have a day where you’re feeling very much in the “acceptance” stage doesn’t mean you can’t backtrack and feel depressed or angry the next day. And you can certainly feel several at once.

I have good days, where I’m mostly feeling normal aside from this BIG THING constantly hanging over my head, and I can get a few hours of work done.

But then I have bad days, where all I can do is eat my meals, check how much my income has dropped from the previous day, watch Netflix, and cry.

Even on good days I cry. I haven’t made it through a day of this in two weeks without crying. Because it’s all so much to deal with. It’s so much to wrap my head around. And it’s starting to feel like we’re in some sort of weird dream or alternate reality or something.

And it’s perfectly normal to feel all these feelings. It’s important to let ourselves feel them, and to not feel guilty about it.

lockdown wine
Wine…essential for being on lockdown in the middle of a global crisis

What we’re doing

It’s really hard to focus on things right now. This crisis is ever-present, and it’s not only distracting, but it’s heavy. Some days I actually feel like there’s a huge weight pushing or pulling me down. So even though we have all this time, it doesn’t mean we’re being super productive.

Andy still has plenty of work, so he’s trying to stay focused and work on his projects. At least for now, his work seems unaffected by this crisis, so hopefully it’ll continue that way.

I still have a long list of things I need to do for Travel Made Simple, but I can’t seem to scrape together any motivation to do it. It’s hard when my blog isn’t making any money, and I have no idea how long this will last or when people will be able to travel again.

But Andy and I have bought quite a few domains over the last couple of years, and we’re always slow to do anything with them. So I’m finally working on one new website, not travel related. It’s in the very beginning stages, so there’s nothing to show you yet. Even still, I’m struggling to get myself to spend more than an hour at a time on it, and not even every day.

We have more food in our kitchen than normal since we can’t eat out. And the new site is food related, so we stocked up for that. Plus we’re going through a bottle of wine almost every night. It’s stressful times.

Luckily there are some restaurants in Berlin that are doing delivery, so we started ordering a few things. It’s good to have some variety, and if we can’t go out, we can bring the out food to us. And I’m happy to support local restaurants in the hopes that they will survive all of this.

I’m also very glad we decided to get a treadmill last year. We haven’t used it nearly enough, but since we’re not leaving the house much at all, we’ve both been more motivated to walk on the treadmill, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Andy also found a good yoga app that we’re trying out. Somehow we have to keep ourselves moving.

sesame seed bagel with pastrami
My sesame seed bagel with pastrami, delivery from a local bagels and books cafe

Thanks for listening to me ramble. I’m overwhelmed by all of this, and every day is something different. I’m scared. My anxiety is through the roof. I’m panicked about so many things. But I know we’re all going through similar emotions. And even though I’m not the most positive person, I know that eventually things will normalize, though hopefully a better new-normal.

Stay home and wash your hands, everyone!

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