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What's Helping Me Get Through a Two-Week Quarantine

Struggling to move and running a 101.4 degree temperature, I pleaded with my family to call an ambulance.

I was having acute lower respiratory symptoms, which, given how many people I had come into contact with at political rallies, could have conceivably been COVID-19. When the fire department arrived, clad in masks, they explained that I could either self-quarantine at home, or descend upon Harborview Hospital in Seattle, where I would be evaluated for several days. While my condition improved with antibiotics, and I likely was suffering from a bad case of bronchitis or pneumonia, the reality was that I was still not permitted to leave the confines of my home. Whether I liked it or not, I had to learn to cope with a situation where I had no choice but to remain housebound for at least two weeks.

While I am an inveterate introvert, learning to withstand a two-week quarantine was a cumbersome process. I tend toward emotional distancing as a modus operandi, so one might assume that social distancing would just be an extension of my personality.

The reality is that on top of my medical symptoms, passing two weeks in the confines of my home was a tough task. Even though I had the luxury of shopping online for groceries and other necessities — at least when the stores weren’t sold out — I still yearned for human connection. I desperately desired to frequent my favorite Thai restaurant, and even my regularly-scheduled doctor’s appointments seemed like bliss compared to confinement with my cats. While I do cherish my feline companions, I yearned for the routine that characterized my normal week.

Ultimately, I learned how to cope by appreciating the beauty inside my home.

The art that I have cordoned off in cases in the den aided me immeasurably in preserving my mental state; a photorealistic puppet of myself that a friend crafted for my 34th birthday in 2019 gave me particular pleasure. As I glanced at my own contented countenance crafted in wool, I could feel my shoulders relax, as I exhaled a deep breath. Seeing myself happy meant the world to me, and helped me pass the time where I was clearly anything but.

Giving me repose was another objet d’ art, namely, a crocheted copper wire train that I had commissioned last year. The passengers were squirrels, my favorite animal, while the carriages were acorns, and each bushy-tailed critter represented a family member who had passed. I was on the train, too, holding a squirrel puppet, as puppetry amounts to a particular obsession of mine. Having one’s deceased kin nearby, even representationally, aided in allaying the anxiety and inertia I felt during my two-week confinement.

As companion animals, my cats are especially talented at discerning my emotions; thus, it was natural that they should help me in coping with my confinement. Nelson, one of my twin gray Korats, would stare into my eyes and kiss me, reminding me that even though I could not go out in public, that I am still of value. On other occasions, he would press his forehead into my chin, imbuing me with the love of another caring and compassionate being. I was hardly alone in the world, and here was a critter who stressed that I had meaning. My other feline companion, Freddy, would snuggle up to me with regularity, and I would wake up to his presence atop my chest. I normally allow my cats free reign while I type on the computer, but staying present with my kitties and being mindful of their existence provided me relief from both my physical symptoms and the sensation of being trapped.

Phone calls and video chats provided another balm that aided in my surviving the two-week quarantine. People sometimes underestimate the power of actually hearing someone’s voice, but it makes a world of difference. I felt like the people I was talking to were there in phenomenological terms, instead of just present in the back-and-forth netherworld of text messages. Even though I don’t have a ton of compatriots who would be open to a phone call or Google Hangout, the ones who were made a world of difference in my well-being. I definitely could feel the love in people’s voices, not to mention their caring and compassion, and it made all the difference in my ability to cope in a time where the world was a very lonely place.

While no one wants to endure a two-week solitary quarantine, I would encourage those who have to go through the same fate as I to bring whatever makes them happy in the outside world into their home. Whether that means books, art, poetry, fiction or anything else, the company of astounding art and titillating titles may make all the difference in one’s recovery. Isolation is not a pleasant thing for anyone to have to endure, but loneliness may be ameliorated by things like paying more attention to companion animals, getting more enjoyment out of art and making more voice-to-voice contact with people with whom it would be soothing to talk.

Although I would have never chosen isolation due to possible coronavirus, that doesn’t necessitate doom and depression for anyone who is forced to make the same decision I did. In my case, on top of the litany of inhalers at my disposal, I found that surviving my quarantine mostly involved being mindful of objects and sentient beings that were already in my home. In sum, safety doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s sanity, and joy may be discovered in places one takes for granted.

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Getty image via nadia_bormotova