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I'm Fully Vaccinated. Now What Do I Do?

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Now that I am free to go out of my home and mask free I find myself debilitated with fear. I still fear the virus and other people since I have not been around them for so long. This has been a long 14 months. I realized that I spent the last year scared to death of dying if I left my home. What a state of being to be in for so long.

I stayed away from friends. I cancelled a trip to see my elderly aunt. I missed out on conferences and meetings, delayed medical treatments, all in the name of staying safe, staying alive. I became fully vaccinated about three weeks ago. Honestly, I did not know how to act.

Do I get naked and run around town? Some part of me felt that way but I mainly felt petrified. I feared my fellow humans. I was being careful, but were they?

I waited through the pandemic with a broken bed frame. I did not want to shop online since I had too many questions that could not be answered by googling. Anyway, some things must be purchased in person. Two days after I was cleared for leaving my house, I went to a furniture outlet. I had not been on an interstate in 14 months (my anxiety was through the roof but that is a story for another article). I got there 10 minutes after opening. I wore two masks. I kept having to remember to stay six feet away from my service man (since I stayed home all the time, I was not used to practicing this precaution). The store was expansive, so it was not crowded. I shopped unabated for one hour and purchased a mattress and headboard. I was out and I could finally take off my masks and breathe.

I got home feeling successful with my first outing. I went on with my day dealing with the delivery of the bed and the arrival of an out-of-town guest.

It was not until I got ready for bed that it all hit me like a truck. I just started hyperventilating and having an ominous feeling come over me. I was having a panic attack. That night I suffered with panic and could not put my finger on it as to what caused it. I did not sleep all night. I felt somewhat better in the morning, but the ominous feeling kept bothering me.

It was not until I went to therapy the following week did I identify that panic attack was a direct response to my fear of being exposed to others. I had been so careful for about 14 months that the act of being out and about scared me. I felt that I was going to catch the virus and die.

I am also finding it hard to be around others. I think I have forgotten how to engage and feel safe with others. I have been told for so long that others are dangerous and that they can harm me that I am having trouble adjusting.

Recently the CDC lifted the mask mandate in most circumstances for vaccinated people. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I know these irresponsible people will claim to be vaccinated to get around the mask mandate that is still in place for them and they will expose vulnerable people who cannot get the vaccine. The other had it has showed me how powerful these vaccines are and that I have done the best thing I can to stay safe and the chances of getting sick, at least seriously, is nearly none.

What do I do with this newfound freedom? I can go back to pre-pandemic behavior. I am not sure I know how to do that. I am scared. This is like when I learned as an adult that everyone was not out to abuse me, like when I was a child, and that I could operate in the world from that perspective. I am not vulnerable anymore. Everyone is not out to get me.

It is liberating but scary all in the same. I will take my time and reacclimate to society. I will venture out slowly and begin to socialize with the vaccinated. I may still stay out of restaurants and other high-risk environments, but I am looking forward to getting back to normal. Whatever that is.

I feel I will never be the same. I may never shake another hand or have a cold without using a face covering. I will also not look at those who did not comply the same way again.

We all were called upon to do our part. Some of us did and some of us did not. I did my part and am proud of that. I am due a walk in the park unmasked and to hug a friend.

This common trauma will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Lead image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: May 17, 2021
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