#covid-19 #Manhattan #sb4mh

cw/tw

This post deals with life in Manhattan during the peak of the corona virus pandemic. It involves events that have been diagnosed as causing PTSD, including death, homelessness, panic attacks, and social isolation.

I got a lot of questions in recent weeks, actually months, how I managed to make it through the COVID-19 crisis in New York. A week ago, I left Manhattan and moved further south. But let me wind back a bit.

It was the first week of March, I was living on my own (basically), and we were all getting ready for spring break. My last semester before graduating from Columbia University was supposed to be the final accomplishment before heading out into the job market.

It all looked brilliant. No struggle with grades, and only a few cases of the covid-19 that seemed to be largely confined to those with underlying conditions. The possibility of a broader outbreak was more of a hypothetical discussion, but it allowed me to study the last week before spring break from home.

That came in very handy as a first-time single mother.

Over spring break, everything changed dramatically. First came the messages from the school, no more in-person classes until further notice. Classes would resume on-line in mid-March. Then the restrictions on businesses and social distancing from the governor. Shortly thereafter, we found out that there was not going to be a regular end to the academic year, no graduation. At least not in person.

Some of my friends had been away, including abroad, during spring break. The message to them was ‘do not come back’. Within a matter of days, all while the campus was empty, the world changed. I had no idea if I would ever see some of my friends again, no graduation, probably no job, and largely confined 24/7 to my apartment.

There was no time to think about how to make it through. Nobody had any clue how long this would last. We went through the motions of attending class on-line, but our minds were no longer engaged. The constant news of infections and rising death counts would not stop. With hourly updates, the entire episode was (and is) like watching the Titanic sink in slow motion.

I was scared to death. For two months, with the exception of one doctor’s appointment, I did not go outside. The support among the students was great, but the pressure each of us was under never really surfaced. Only when I read about a death in one of the buildings close to school, where I knew some of my classmates lived, did the situation become real.

Everyone had to evacuate the building, get tested, some tests came back positive. The building had to be sanitized before anyone was allowed back in. In the meantime, students stayed in hotel rooms nearby. From that moment, I was just praying that my building was virus-free.

Daily confirmation about the ease with which the virus was spreading through the city, how it had been in the subway system long before the first official cases, made me wonder if I already had the virus without knowing it. I never felt sick, though that was no longer any assurance either.

The first few weeks weren’t so bad. All classes were on-line, a bit awkward, but doable. And the logistics were easy, food was delivered, all seemed good.

Until that moment comes when the world closes in. What if I had to move out? One of my classmates saw the dead body being carried out of his building. He was diagnosed a few weeks later with PTSD after having a mental breakdown.

What if that’s me, where would I go? I didn’t think I had anyone to turn to should something happen. Posting entries here and there was a bit of a relief from the smell of sickness and death that permeated the city. Nobody knew how bad it was going to get. All we knew was that the worst was still ahead of us.

I had hoped to get a job in New York, work for a few years, and then return to Germany. That seems like a pipe dream at the moment. Overnight, hiring stopped. Interviews got canceled or began with ‘We’re really interested, but…’ Doing everything by video was not so bad, but never allowed for a sense of security.

Speaking to people, presenting myself, that’s what I’m good at. But not through a video-conference, doing a job interview. Nobody in my class had anything good to report. I don’t know of a single student in my class who had any luck since the city was going into lock-down.

And the death count was still rising. Now New York was the ‘epicenter’ of the global pandemic. Great, and I was sitting locked behind my door, right in the center of it.

I gave up caring about school about four weeks ago. I had never before lost ambition. The feeling of doing something, just to complete it, was totally alien to me. Even more so, what would come after the end of the semester, when I technically have my degree, is still not clear.

As a German citizen, I only had a student visa. That gives me technically 60 days following graduation days to find a job and stay in the US. Otherwise, my visa expires. In the past, this was often overlooked and nobody cared. But with the current administration, and the political climate, over-staying my student visa was a sure ticket to unemployment and most likely deportation.

So, the clock is ticking. With every day that passes, I’m one day closer to leaving the US behind. If I can even leave! Nobody knows how the virus unfolds over the coming weeks. I really don’t mean to be political here, but when it comes to dealing with a pandemic, the US is nothing more than 50 states (plus a few territories), ranging from semi-dysfunctional to complete insanity.

For someone who grew up with a social safety net, easy access to healthcare, and a basic social understanding across political party lines when it comes to tackling a pandemic, listening to the news was terrifying. Sure, I’m a stranger in this country, but I thought I had learned at least some things. Now what I learned was that this was no country at all. This was a game of survival of the fittest. Almost like ‘Lord of the Flies’.

I’ve finished my last exams, though don’t know my grades yet. But then, it doesn’t really matter. Everyone is being graded on a pass/fail basis. So what difference does it make? Looking for a job is just an invitation for rejection, not something I’m very good at. And with the 60-day clock starting to tick by the end of next week, my mind is thinking about going back to Germany.

What will I do? I don’t know. I may know more when this nightmare is over. All I can say is that I loved being at Columbia and now I fucking hate being trapped in this shithole.

I’m sure I’ll get some comments saying that I should leave the US if I hate it so much. Well, spare your comments. This is not the US right now. This is what the US is when everyone is scared. When too many people have died to keep track of the numbers. When nobody knows who is sick and who isn’t; when there is no immunity to a virus that nobody can see.

The way I feel is how many people feel. We just want this nightmare to be over. But it’s not going to be over just by wishing it away. So, I decided to leave New York, move to a place where I can get outside, spend some quality time, and not think about Manhattan for a while. I stopped thinking about it for a week, but nothing changed.

I still feel insecure. Tired. Unsure of what the future brings. And then I think that there are 20 million others who don’t have it any better. They have it worse. At least I can return to Germany where I have family, a place to stay, and all the support I need. Others, even in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, are dependent on food kitchens. I read about them in letters from my family just after WWII.

Keeping myself busy, trying to relax, get my mind of the immediate situation and the feeling of being trapped is all I can do. My posts lately have been weird. I can’t even think about ‘sex blogging’. My heart just isn’t in it.

I’ve been posting more on Twitter, and a bit on Instagram. I’m responding more to DMs, even stupid ones. It’s all an attempt to feel connected. To avoid falling into a sense of complete social isolation. I count statistics. How many people like my posts. It’s fucking stupid and messed up. That’s how I managed to get through COVID-19 in Manhattan. I didn’t.

9 thoughts on “#covid-19 #Manhattan #sb4mh

  1. I live in a hotspot in the Midwest due to meat packing plants, but there is low population density. Even week in NYC for the marathon was enough for me. I don’t have any easy answers for you, hope you can keep your spirits up.

    1. I think we all have to try and keep out spirits up. It’s not easy, and watching the news is not really helpful (not matter what channel of political views). It’s just not a good situation. But, I’ll do my best to keep my spirits up and hope you will do the same! xoxo

  2. Wow, you expressed your thoughts and all that you’re feeling, so well. I can feel it coming through reading this and I’m so sorry this is what has happened. It sounds truly horrifying and scary, the way the situation in manhattan is. I’ve been watching all the news and I’ve been holding my heart. I have gone through the same stages you’ve gone through since all of this started, though perhaps with less fear because of where I am, but I too, have been scared about what happens when I’m done studying and there are no jobs at all, because then I have to move back to the country I was born and I don’t want to, even though the safety net, social care etc. Is better there. So I understand why it’s not just an easy decision to make to leave right now, because once you leave it’ll be so much harder to come back because of visas and such. I hope things will figure itself out for you and that you’ll be able to connect a bit more to Hopefully take some stress of you. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks Marie! I feel that a lot of us have similar emotions right now. Not really knowing what comes next. And for those of us who have to choose between staying or going back home, it’s particularly difficult. Although I can see myself going back to Germany, it does feel like I could have just stayed there and would have ended up in the same place. Instead, I spent more money than I want to think about on an education that doesn’t seem to get me very far at the moment. There are other ways, at least for me, that I could get a visa to stay in the US, but with all the uncertainty, I just don’t know if I want to go through that process. And getting any sort of Visa in the current environment is probably going to be a long battle. Thanks for sharing your situation! xoxo

  3. My daughter was in the same situation as you – and in Manhattan. She finally couldn’t bare it any longer and came back to UK last month. She was on a work visa having graduated from the New York film school. She ended up in basement flat alone on lock down – she is only 21 bless her. This was her dream.
    Things will get better – TY for sharing this and as sex bloggers we can talk about anything we want as sex is part of life, we can blog bout life too xx

    1. Thanks, May. I so feel for your daughter. At least I finished my degree, although without graduation, it doesn’t really feel that way. I totally understanding just wanting to go back home. That’s how I feel now, although being outside of Manhattan is a relief. I’m sure your daughter will have a chance to fulfill her dream, get what she wants to do, and be amazing.
      I’m still new to the sex blogging community, so a really big thanks for your last reminder. – we can blog about life too. xoxo

  4. I feel your despair through your words, Francesca, and my heart goes out to you. This pandemic has changed so many things for so many of us, and many people had meltdowns even though they don’t yet realized they had. I wish for it to be over too, for the world to get back to normal, but I am afraid the normal we knew will never return again. And that’s a terrifying thought. I was sick the first three weeks after we returned from London, and really worried about having contracted the virus, but no one around me got sick. And then, when we went out for the first time, only to the fish monger, I had a panic attack. They have become part of my daily life, and I can’t help but think that the virus and the state of the world has more to do with it than I realized. It’s a strange world. Take care of yourself, and stay safe xox

    1. I so agree with you, Rebel. Since I’ve left Manhattan, I haven’t ventured beyond the house and garden I’m staying at. It’s perfectly quiet, safe, few people, but something in me feels like there is a world out there I don’t want to step into. This will take a while to either digest or get used to. I’m glad nobody else got sick after you got back from London. Hope it stays that way. xoxo

  5. You’ve summarized the true non-TV reality so well, Everything is very disoriented, thrown out of kilter, non-predictable, and not sexy or kinky at all…maybe just fucked up. The brokenness and vulnerabilities of this country are so clear. The stupidity, arrogance, and self-centeredness is too present in the government and on the streets. My significant other is having massive anxiety attacks throughout her body and mind in ways she has never experienced before which add a different dimension to her depression and require new medications. My last 5 years after my traumatic brain injuries and multiple concussions forced me to enter a new reality of disconnection from every one I’d ever known and affected my brain, emotion, balance, and senses which strangely prepared me for this time of isolation and estrangement. You have given voice to this craziness and this time of dreams and expectations being dashed….. While in your birthing your son and finding your way to a human-sized house and garden, you have shown your inner strength and wisdom. I’m fortunate to live overlooking the ocean and open skies, with bits of spring flowers popping up around our RI home. The ever-changing ocean, its waves and voice, take me out of my internal emotional valleys and canyons….as do your bloggings, reminiscences, photos along with the rest of this sex blogging community’s contributions to being grounded and sane. Take the time you need. Take the time you and your son need as you continue to adjust to each other. XOXO

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