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Ask Amy: The isolation of the pandemic decreased my compassion for others

4 min

Dear Amy: Do people report to you that the covid pandemic changed them? It changed me.

I thought the isolation wouldn’t bother me because I am an introverted woman. I treasure my solitude. There were times when I didn’t see another human being for a week or 10 days.

I went only to the store and the library just to see another human being and chat for a minute or two. That seemed to suffice.

I remember thinking it’s as though I am in a spaceship that keeps circling the Earth, and I can’t land. Well, now I have landed, and I find that I am less tolerant than I used to be and a lot more cynical.

My compassion for others has descended to a new low.

I have dropped a couple of long-term friendships because I couldn't bear the other person's neediness. It was as if I was for years wearing rose-colored glasses, but they fell off and now I see the world differently.

I am active again in an art group I've been a member of for 17 years and I attend a music circle where we make music for each other, so it's not that I have become totally anti-social.

What’s your take?

— E. D.

E.D.: Yes, people do report that the pandemic has changed them. In fact, I can hardly imagine passing through these recent years without being changed. Your description of feeling as if you were aboard a spaceship is memorably vivid.

During the years of the pandemic, your ever-present anxiety had an effect on you. Stress hormones flooding your body, without relief, can have a profound effect on your physical and mental health.

Some of the reactions and feelings you report having now would otherwise be seen as familiar signs of depression — or at least passing through a depressive phase. I suggest that you do some research on the long-term effect of stress and make sure you see your GP for a thorough checkup. Describe your current mental posture. Seeing a therapist could help.

My own prescription for you would be to spend as much time as possible outdoors and to double up on your art and music — both of which are extremely healing for your soul and exceptionally good for your cognitive and mental health.

[Find the latest coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.]

Dear Amy: About four days a week, I hang at a wonderful local coffee spot. I bring my laptop and have my regular spot. There is one worker, “Clara,” I’ve developed a crush on. She’s, well — a ray of sunshine.

I'd like to express my interest in her, but I have two issues: I'm a woman (I don't know if she's into women), and I don't know anything about her own dating status.

I don’t want to mess up my morning routine by overstepping, but I’m wondering if I should do more to express my interest in her, other than smile, chit chat and leave a 20 percent tip?

— Going to Decaf

Decaf: “Clara” might be receiving multiple expressions of interest from multiple sources each day. Servers sometimes report that customer come-ons are a significant problem.

Clara has frequent exposure to you. She should be the first to express interest. She can do this in a number of ways, including the now-cliche expression of writing her number or handle on the outside of your coffee cup or on your receipt.

In the meantime, enjoy the daily dose of sunshine, without getting burned.

Dear Amy:Hurtin’ for Certain” has arthritis and finds it very painful to shake hands. This brought me back to a wonderful moment in my life.

I’m a huge fan of a specific sci-fi series. At a meet-and-greet, I had the chance to meet a very famous, very accomplished actor who was part of this series and a huge hero of mine. As we went to shake hands, he stopped me and pleaded “gently, please,” and said he had arthritis. I was a young, larger guy, and he might have worried I was going to yank his arm off.

I am an occupational therapist. We ended up spending 10 minutes going over ways for him to treat his arthritis. I got to offer advice to a man who’d made such a big impact in my life and, in turn, I hope I impacted his.

— Proud

Proud: I raise my own (arthritic) hand in a Vulcan salute.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.