Mason Witzler: How quarantine during COVID-19 pandemic changed my perspective

I consider my quarantine experience, a set of deeper revelations  I found out about myself and the pandemics effect on society that were only realized through my struggle. I had no idea how badly quarantine was going to affect me. Surely there is way worse I could of faced. There is far worse suffering experienced by other people in the world. The fact that it affected me so badly just proves how inexperienced I am in the face of true suffering. Although , it was an important struggle nonetheless.

 If you have ever read Dr.Viktor Frankl’s book,  “Man’s Search For Meaning” it entails his personal account of the physical, mental, and spiritual suffering the holocaust victims had faced in the labor camos. One section explained how suffering is a subjective experience: “A man’s suffering Is similar to the behavior of gas … it will fill the chamber completely and evenly no matter how big the chamber. Thus, suffering completely fills the soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefor the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.” This quote explains the theory that suffering is relative. Everyone is capable of experiencing suffering no matter how big or small that suffering is, or in what context.  Suffering can challenge you in endless ways: physically, mentally, spiritually, financially…personally. You can experience it partially or fully. It pushes you to a threshold,  challenges you on your present existence and helps you grow.  

Mason Witzler and a group of young professionals  out on a pre-pandemic event night at The Charles Baltimore in Federal Hill, Baltimore , Maryland on October 3rd,  2019. 
Mason Witzler and a group of young professionals out on a pre-pandemic event night at The Charles Baltimore in Federal Hill, Baltimore , Maryland on October 3rd, 2019.

In order to understand my quarantine experience, it’s important to lay down some context. I was 23 at the time, having enjoyed 5 years of college up until that point. I spent my undergrad at UMBC, and continued towards a Masters degree abroad in the U.K., having received lacrosse scholarships for both universities. Overall, I had an amazing experience; the  unwavering support of a good family both financially and in the form of a ‘life coach’ , a good lacrosse career, decent performance in school, a solid network of friends, popularity, plenty of social life opportunities both abroad and in the U.S, a variety of traveling experiences, and many important lessons learned along the way. A few months prior to quarantine, I had just returned from England and had been living in the upbeat young professional enclave of Federal Hill, Baltimore. This area was a massive social scene; tons of bars and restaurants, a  young community that “lived for the weekend”.  I had been bartending at one of the most popular bars and just recently been asked to become manager. I was loving life, living on my own, making decent money, socializing a ton, having fun, partying and living freely in the moment. A couple months later COVID 19 had hit, things begin to progress rapidly. While visiting my parents, I was forced to quarantine there. I stayed 4 months there without leaving the walls of my parents house.  Bars  and restaurants had shut down, and after a while I had no income coming in as I patiently waited for pandemic unemployment to come through. I had student loans and a car payment to pay. Life was coming at me at a bad time. So began my quarantine experience, which had taught me a variety of revelations from highly irritable, depressed, and anxious states. The revelations were as follows.

My dependence on Socializing: I was a highly  extroverted person. I loved the social scene and very much lived in the moment.. Partying, having fun, doing drugs on occasion. Hanging out with friends and continuously on the move. I never relaxed and was dependent on that social stimulus. When I knew that pandemic was under way, I decided to challenge myself and go sober. I went sober for 3 months  during quarantine. Up until the pandemic began ,I had never gone longer than 2 weeks without getting heavily intoxicated for the past 6 years. Getting drunk all weekend was my weekly routine. I also turned to drinking anytime I was anxious or wanted to take the edge off. I wasn’t an alcoholic but I definitely had a dependence on drinking and socializing. “Addicted to fun” my friend and I called it.  Having removed drinking and socializing, I could no longer depend on it. I became highly anxious, depressed, and irritable and it made me vulnerable to other factors that added to my struggle.  I had to morph my extroverted nature into that of an introvert. It happened slowly, and it was a difficult transition My state of mind had changed into a deep thinking state. No external stimulus forced my attention internally on myself. I began to read for the first time in a long time, Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life. Its deep knowledge on life entered my deep thinking states and amplified my anxious thought processes.

Anxiety: I  realized I had anxiety and was diagnosed with it while in quarantine. My mom had always had it her whole life and I never connected the dots. My anxiety levels went through the roof given the circumstances. I became a completely different person. I was overthinking, creating worries and negatively ruminating constantly. I was stuck in negative rumination, a core cognitive behavior branching from my anxiety. All of my negative memories from my past were revealed. I forcefully relived experiences that I hadn’t thought of in many months or years. I couldn’t even listen to music without it being triggering. I broke down crying every couple days, with forced memories and negative thoughts entering my head uncontrollably. I even began to realize that I had anxiety, and connected issues from my past to the fact I was dealing with anxiety at the time but wasn’t aware of it. These anxious and depressed states forced me to look within at the deepest level of my being and reveal truths about myself that I didn’t know were there. It revealed the failures and flaws of my decision making and value structure. Each one providing a lesson.

Grateful : I began to realize that there is much I have to be thankful for and many things  we all may take for granted. These include having a “good life”, a supportive family, friends, a home, access to food, education,  and employment . The ability to socialize freely : drinking, going out to eat, concerts, events, genuine human contact, connection, nature, friendships…freedom. Some of the things we considered to be “normal” were taken away from us. In doing so, it through the collective psyche of the world off.

I think overall the pandemic has forced us to look within ourselves and acknowledge that we take normal society for granted. Many people are struggling or have struggled without that sense of socialization and normalcy. We are instead being forced to look within ourselves, and in doing so reveal a truth. Whether that be good, or bad, or lifechanging. Who are you when you are forced to look within? Who are you when you take away the things you depend on the most? The fact that there is a universal struggle during this pandemic just proves how truly connected we all are, and how genuinely human it is to be social.   

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