Yes I just made up that word. Because at present there is no word to describe the fear some of us may experience when the time comes to re-enter “normal life”. When the time comes to sit on a plane, or go shopping to the mall, or host a birthday party or go to a concert.
Sure I know there are many people who even now, against all advice, are soaking up the sun in Florida, attending jam-packed funerals in New York or secretly socializing beyond their bubble. All those protesters (I much prefer the term “Yahoos”) who are so desperate for “normal” they are willing to sacrifice a few old people or health workers or even children … well you can bet they won’t be suffering from Returnaphobia.
But what about those of us playing by the rules? Staying isolated, staying safe, keeping others safe. Will this new normal gradually become THE normal, to the point that even when it’s no longer required (or mandated) we still feel immense trepidation at the prospect of gathering together with our herd?
Back in my 40s I was felled with a ruptured appendix. I mean that quite literally – felled. Thanks to an inept emerg doctor I got sent home BEFORE it ruptured (with symptoms raging) only to return the following day (in an ambulance, where it actually did rupture) screaming my bloody head off. I was in hospital for a week, hopped up on morphine, antibiotic IV drip, open wound needing a painful cleaning every day and the worst roommate you could imagine (she was a fan, and I’ll tell ya, recovering from a ruptured appendix with a not-very-sick fan in the next bed is no fun).
I really wanted to go home.
And yet I kinda didn’t. Because in the hospital I was safe (after I changed rooms). I was tended to. I was given nice drugs and peach yogurt and daily walks and visits with family. I wasn’t afraid (even though there was huge infection raging in my abdomen) because I was safe. In the hospital.
When I got home I wasn’t safe anymore. I also didn’t have morphine anymore but that’s another story. When I got home I had to be a grownup and tend to all my health complications (there were many) and look after my 4 year old son so my husband could actually get back to work and think about my own job and nobody brought me peach yogurt. There were times I desperately wanted to be back with my nurse-buddies, all safe and looked-after.
And that is why I now think about Returnaphobia.
Yes, I miss my family and my friends and yes, I long for hugs and live conversation with more than one person and yes, it’ll soon be beach weather and yes, I miss having options. But I wonder how exactly the “return” will go? At this very moment I should have just got back from a Bahamas getaway with a close friend. This was a wee junket we were both SO looking forward to. It has now been postponed until next February. But what if I still have Returnaphobia? What if my fear of airports and planes and proximity to strangers outweighs my desire to spend a few days in the sun with my girl?
I guess a vaccine would be nice. And apparently the fine folks at Oxford U may have one by the fall. Or not. I’m just wondering how our mindset may change going forward. Especially for those of us nearing the “vulnerable age”. Will our spirit of adventure be diminished now that “danger” may lurk at every turn? Will we willingly forego former pleasures and pursuits because Returnaphobia has got the better of us?
I hope not.
I read a social media post the other day purporting (with numbers) that most of the folks contracting Covid and most of the folks dying from Covid are old and in retirement homes so really, let’s try to be safe but geez, let’s get back to normal. Something like that.
Maybe it’s my age? I’m not typically a woman governed by fear. I just think we all need a little more time “in the hospital” before we venture back to “normal”. We need a little more science, a little more space, a little more safety and a lot more sense.
If not, I truly fear that I will become a victim of Returnaphobia.
Who knows … maybe I already am?