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We’re probably not terrible for being less than fine.

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Back in February, I bought a new planner. The Recollections goal planner, for those out there who are planner-addicts. I was finally feeling better enough from my breakdown to return to work. I was energized, confident, and so ready to get back to normal. I set it up with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Reasonable goals, with reasonable deadlines. Re-publish my backlist titles that are no longer available? I could do that at a rate of one per month since they’re mostly novellas. Finish The Daughter by April? Of course! Plenty of time! And in the meantime, I’d even set out a plan for how to keep on schedule with Patreon and recaps here. And IDK if anyone noticed but I totally got better at working!

And then the world ended.

Of course, my world stayed roughly the same, with the exception of not having to leave the house for rehearsals or home school activities. After all, I work here all the time. I was expecting to be at home. And hey, don’t I always complain about having to go places? This should be perfect!

Obviously, this whole “shelter in place” thing has been a boon; after all, without having to do pesky things like taking a kid to play practice, I have more time to work on those goals! I could even get ahead!

Picture this: there’s a global crisis killing tens of thousands of people. Millions will be infected by this pandemic. Every news story seems to be, “perfectly healthy human being your exact same age died two days after going to the grocery store, congrats, you’re fucking doomed.” If you live in the U.S., the President of your country may be actively trying to murder you via medical neglect if you happen to live in a state whose governor won’t praise the orange bastard appropriately. Bodies are being stored in temporary morgues made out of reefer trailers and people are dying alone while their families watch them take their last breaths over Skype.

Feeling productive yet?

Now, I know I’m not unique in feeling like I, personally, should be able to weather this nightmare and turn it into a dream come true of productivity and royalties and being a beacon of distraction for readers. Everyone working from home right now seems to be having the same difficulties. These include:

  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Sleeping too much
  • Not sleeping at all
  • Sleeping at weird times
  • Drinking too much
  • Bouncing back and forth between social media platforms and news sites in a non-stop loop
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to do things that were formerly enjoyable.


  • Thinking you’re the only person who’s not handling their shit right now, despite all evidence to the contrary.

That last one is especially difficult for people with mental or chronic physical illness, as the drive to appear “normal” or “not lazy” can powerfully fuck with you. I mean, I spent months trying to claw my way up to “normal” things like, “leaving the house” and “focusing long enough to read a whole page of a book at once.” And now it’s just how we live? And I’m supposed to adapt to that?

I know I’m not the only person out there who’s been thrown a curveball by the entire world’s sudden agoraphobia and depression. All those behaviors people strive to correct or suppress are suddenly just what we’re all going through. Some of it is maddening on an, “oh, when the neurotypical, able people need accommodations it’s possible to make them,” level but it also hits a sore spot in the psyche: am I backsliding if this kind of anxiety and lack of executive function is a reasonable and expected part of life? And if it is backsliding, well, shouldn’t I, with my years of therapy and hard work, be better able to navigate this crisis? I have all the tools necessary. IDK, this feels like an excuse.

My friend Jill sometimes reminds me that there’s a difference between an excuse and a reason. If you’re identifying with this post, if you’re seeing things in here and thinking “hashtag mood,” let’s try to remember that this pandemic isn’t an excuse. It’s a reason. It’s the reason everyone is experiencing those delightful mental illness issues like insomnia or jacked up sleep patterns. It’s the reason you’re having a panic attack, not an excuse to capriciously lose it several times a week (or day). Nobody is living this out because they’re lazy and unwilling to try; they’re living it out because the Grim Reaper is gently elbowing us while we’re watching the news and leaning over to whisper, “Hey, how do you like what I did in Italy?”

But it’s still so hard to grasp that failure to function in the middle of a global pandemic is not the same as failure to function because you stopped taking your meds or going to your therapist. Hopefully, when this is all over, one of the lasting lessons for the world at large will be, “now you understand what life is like for the mentally ill and disabled, so please stop being a dick, we’re doing our best.” But for now, the lesson everyone needs to learn, myself included, is that at this particular moment in history, we do not have any power when it comes to keeping our lives normal. Because there is no normal. And that’s not an excuse. It’s a reason. Be kind to yourselves. And remember that if you struggle to function at the best of times, it’s too much to ask of yourself to be at the top of your game in the worst of times.

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  1. Katie

    I pretty much woke up screaming because of the terror of this. And all over Facebook the world is telling me to be creative and all I want to do is lean into my depression. I needed this post.

    March 30, 2020
  2. Vivacia K. Ahwen
    Vivacia K. Ahwen

    Thank you for the fix, Jenny Trout.

    ‘That last one is especially difficult for people with mental or chronic physical illness, as the drive to appear “normal” or “not lazy” can powerfully fuck with you. I mean, I spent months trying to claw my way up to “normal” things like, “leaving the house” and “focusing long enough to read a whole page of a book at once.” And now it’s just how we live? And I’m supposed to adapt to that?’

    Needed this today.

    March 30, 2020
  3. Jess


    Thanks, Jenny.

    March 30, 2020
  4. Red-handed Jill
    Red-handed Jill

    Thank you, Jenny. I have “managed” my anxiety on my own my entire life (not exactly well, but not the worst, either), but this has broken me. I have had multiple panic attacks and my typical anxiety level is heightened all the time now. I cry over everything and nothing at all. My work routine and my dance classes, which were the few things helping maintain my emotional well-being are gone now, but I have had little motivation to seek out virtual/at-home options. All of this is to say, thank you for writing this.

    March 30, 2020
    • Kate

      Hey, I just want you to know it’s okay, not a failing, to take medication. I spent 2 years “managing” my anxiety by pretending my panic attacks were normal, and turns out I (and most people) can’t bootstrap my way out of a mental illness. I therapied, I meditated, I went outside, I exercised as much as my co-morbid depression would let me, and not a bit of it solved my panic attacks. But medication did.

      I’m saying this not just for you but for everyone who might come across it: you are not a failure for needing meds to function, no more than my husband is a failure for having a non-functional pancreas.

      April 22, 2020
      • RieaMiea

        Woo! All of this. This is something I had to keep telling myself

        May 24, 2020
    • RieaMiea

      Awww hun, its okay, justtake your time and try your best. Try to find this that distract you or bring joy, even its music or a tv show. Just take it one step at a time. Sending love and light

      May 24, 2020
      • RieaMiea

        * Just take, *things

        May 24, 2020
  5. Masha

    You don’t know me, but thank you so much. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, which is a good thing, because it sure as hell beats the total stupor I’ve been in, especially today. Today was an especially low point and it just feels like a sign, stupid as this may sound, that you chose to post these exact words on this exact day. You’ve described the vortex I’m in with an eerie accuracy (well, I’m not American; but I live in Poland, where the government is as murderously incompetent if less flashy, plus I’m not insured).

    So thank you, it was needed more than I knew and while no, it didn’t help per se, I think that when I wake up next time, I just might beat myself up a little less about all of this. And that is a very good thing.

    March 30, 2020
  6. Zev J
    Zev J

    Thank you for this. I have a feeling I’ll read it a few times.

    March 30, 2020
  7. Erin

    You know, with the nightmare that was 2019 for me, {total hysterectomy, bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and an umbilical hernia repair because the hysterectomy surgeon’s PA truly thought I was an idiot who was squeamish over a little pain} I thought there was nothing 2020 could do to be a worse year for me. I hate that thinking that has been taken as a challenge.

    Other than four days of quarantine when I got tested last week because I had a lot of the symptoms, COVID itself has not upended my life as much as some. I know I’m lucky that way. I’m lucky my husband has a job he can easily do from home. I’m lucky our home is big enough I can escape and have some alone time if I need it. I’m lucky my kids are pretty good about doing their “distance learning” school work without much input (read: yelling and nagging) from me. I’m lucky that whatever I have that acts like COVID but is 100 times less miserable and isn’t COVID. I’m lucky we have food in the pantry/fridge/freezer. I’m lucky for a lot of things, but my creativity has taken a nose dive to levels I haven’t seen since I had the judgemental bitch of bitches for junior and senior year English. I’ve been beating myself up for that fact. I needed this post today, as I suspect a lot of other people do as well. It is okay to not be okay right now. There is no longer a normal, and it is okay to not be okay with that fact. Maybe I’ll write tomorrow. Maybe I’ll continue to just read. Either way, it’s okay. 🙂

    March 30, 2020
  8. Alison

    Thank you for posting this. I am really feeling this right now. I have an anxiety disorder and a sleep disorder and I find it hard to be motivated at the best of times. This whole situation is messing up my head.

    March 30, 2020
  9. Pansy Petal
    Pansy Petal

    Thank you! I needed to hear this. I am sitting here, tears rolling. I am not alone. Someone understands why I feel like all the progress I had been making to get out of the house and ‘be normal’ just went up in smoke. I should be able to handle this. I have been doing it for ten years. But well, not so much. I feel like I am starting all over again as I sit her in the same jammies and robe I have been wearing for three days wishing I could sleep some more because then . . . Well, I do want to be positive but right now . . . Thank you Jenny!

    March 31, 2020
  10. Tami

    I feel you, Jenny. I had to quit Facebook, deleted the app from my phone, and removed the tab from my browser. I need to step back because, while it is my only link to the outside world and my friends and family, I can’t take the non-stop barrage of fear, negativity, anger, and angst. I am an empath and it’s torture for me. I had to stop watching Rachel Maddow, too, and she’s the only one I’ve come to trust for honest news. I just cannot do this anymore.

    I’m not burying my head in the sand or pretending none of this is happening, either. I’m practicing self-care. It’s bad enough I have spring allergies coming on me, and fibromyalgia flareups (thanks to the weather changes), all of which include symptoms similar to that of COVID-19. Then you stir in anxiety/panic attacks and weird sleep schedule (as you pointed out). I have been pretty much living in solitary confinement for ten years, rarely going out. It took me a lot of courage to start attending the writers’ group meetings once a month (because of you, but then you stopped going). I liked that I could go out whenever I needed, even late at night when there were fewer people, but now the stores are closing at 10 pm. I used to be able to go out to hit sales with my meager SSDI income to shop frugally for what I needed. Now, I’m forced to buy full price or more expensive brands because shelves have been cleared of the cheaper goods. On top of all this, I have an autoimmune disorder and a history of pneumonia that left me with weaker lung capacity (for which I carry albuterol and use a CPAP at night). So every time I leave the house, I am taking my life into my own hands.

    Then I find out that the virus can linger on cardboard. All those packages coming from Amazon (cat food, which is now delayed due to high demand; I’m rationing food for my fur-kids)…I go outside wearing gloves and wipe them down with antibacterial Spic-n-Span (it’s all I have), before opening everything and disposing of the boxes in the trash (they aren’t taking recycling anymore, now) and make sure everything is clean before I take it inside. And I wash my gloved hands and then my bare hands, and change my clothes. I shaved my head the other night because it was getting too long and falling into my eyes, which caused me to violate the “Don’t Touch Your Face” rule.

    I am trying to keep busy but like you, I can’t find it in me to write. I’ve crocheted dishcloths. I’ve been doing housework…kinda.

    I found out a few days ago that one of my oldest friends, who was living with HIV, his girlfriend and her daughter who was home from college, all tested positive. The whole household. My aunt and her daughters and grandkids are getting together daily instead of practicing social distancing. My upstairs neighbors go out every day, to hang out with friends or family. Meanwhile, I fear for my elderly parents (Dad’s a heart patient, Mom is in early-stage dementia) who are trapped in Florida, wishing they’d come home sooner (they winter there) and wonder how long it will be until I can see them again and hug them.

    And that’s it. That’s it. It’s a day-to-day thing. My therapist is seeing me via Facetime; she moved Thursday’s appointment up to tomorrow (Tuesday). My chiropractor’s office called today to ask if I’d reschedule my April 9 adjustment to Monday or Thursday next week, as those are the only days he’s going to be open. Part of me wants to support him (because he needs to be able to make money, too) but the other part is terrified of being in close contact and wondering how he’s going to be able to disinfect everything between clients.

    I will say this: your YouTube broadcasts help lift my spirits. I hope you’ll continue them.

    Oh, and one last thing — I did a two-card reading last night for April and May. The cards that came up said that a change for the better is coming next month and that in May we (the human race) has to make the decision to change as we go forward because we cannot go back; we were not prepared for this, and we should learn from that. The world has experienced a cleansing, too, as our limited mobility has allowed pollution levels to drop. This is our wake-up call. If we don’t learn from this, we’re fucked. Hopefully, we will take heed and rise up.

    March 31, 2020
    • RieaMiea

      Thats alot, sending you a virtual hug from an internet stranger(all the good that will do) Hang in there love. This is rough

      May 24, 2020
  11. Xebi

    Thanks for this Jenny. I’m trying to be kind and understanding towards myself. There are VERY GOOD reasons for not being productive.

    I’ve worked from home at my job for more than seven years, so by and large my colleagues and I are expected to carry on as normal. But it’s really not happening. For a start, I now have children aged two and four at home with me. The older one is school age and is expected to do work sent to us by her school. Because she’s so young, though, she needs constant help and supervision. Meanwhile, I’m trying to occupy a cranky and clingy toddler who’s too young to understand the prescribed school activities, or understand why we can’t go to the park or library. Plus the joys of all the usual chores plus extra to accommodate the fact that four people are in the house all the time, two of whom are committed to covering every flat surface in toys and junk.

    My husband is a critical worker, so I have to do all the childcare and teaching alone, plus cook all the children’s meals. It’s exhausting.

    And then when my husband finishes work around 5pm, I have to go and log on and work my own job for the next 7 hours. But I’m well behind because one I’m running on fumes – I normally need to be in bed by 10pm to function but have hours still to go by that point – two I’m used to working in the house alone and I can’t focus when my husband keeps walking behind me, and three I’m absolutely terrified for all the people who are less fortunate than me, less healthy, unable to work for the foreseeable future.

    (I have a friend whom I love more than I can say who is a freelance sports journalist/radio broadcaster and now has no income – plus the government aren’t really doing enough to help people in his situation. I’m able to help him out financially if he needs it, for a month or two anyway, but I’m worried about his mental health. And there are others in similar positions.)

    And yet despite all of that I still have the stupid little voice telling me I could be doing better, being more productive, making my house a better place to live in while my children are stuck in it.

    We’ll get through this, but we can only do it together. And I needed to read this.

    March 31, 2020
  12. Gretel

    I could write a few thousand words but I’ll try to stay concise as best as I can.

    First of all, thank you for writing this. As a person with mental illness and anxiety (and general complete and utter panic we are because of how bad things are going re: humans, animals, nature, Earth, I’m just…so done), these past few weeks have been…hard to describe.
    The worst thing for me, by far, has been how fucking disinterested people are in unemployed citizens. I live in Europe and the country I live in has put social distancing in place and shut down certain trades/industries. The thing is, everybody forgot about the unemployed.
    We have ridiculously high goals to achieve each month. And I do mean ridiculously hard in the sense that’s they’re nigh impossible, especially if you work in specific fields, like I do.
    And while everything’s shutting down and money is pooled to save companies and employees and the arts and sports (which I think is good!), everybody forgot about us. So we had to continue as if the work market wasn’t crashing.
    And then suddenly they were like: “Oh, we’re gonna help you!”
    I was thrilled. Finally they’d let us free from the goals or at least drop it to a reasonable difficulty?
    Nope. Everything is as before we just have to send in our proof of job searching at a later, unspecified time. Mind you, we can still send it in now, like before. Or later. Basically, nothing has changed.

    And I’m seething with rage. People are cancelling open positions. Just this month I had five who said the job was scratched and I still haven’t heard back from the others, so who the fuck knows. Companies are closing, industries are halted, jobs are being cancelled – and somehow they want us to look like everything is fine and dandy.

    Oh, and also everybody, especially politicians and the government, who want to clap for medical staff without changin the system that is fucking them and us over, can go fuck themselves.
    Clapping will not help or fix the broken healthcare system of understaffing, budget cutting and stopping of more social bills and laws. Yes, go clap but then also turn around and advocate for medical staff.
    This performative bullshit, especially by politicians, is infuriating.

    And let’s not forget that family members are sick of the virus, my gf works in elderly care and might get infected or might infect her patients, inadvertedly kill them.
    Oh, and also I might have to give up my career and my PhD because I’ve been stuck for four years and I have no chance due to past problems to ever get where I want to be. I’ve been burrying my hopes and dreams and it’s destroying me.

    And then I also heard this month that my asshole and abusive father died last month. No sympathies necessary, he was an abusive alcoholic. Violent and selfish. My brother and I only got a letter because of inheritance issues and the local government suggested we reject the inheritance (we would’ve anyways) because it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, which we already knew. I actually called yesterday and it’s a crazy amount of money and doesn’t even cover three bankrupcies and all of the debt he had before he disappeared twenty years ago.

    So many people are suffering and we’re screaming into the voids of other humans, begging them to help and they just don’t care. Others want us dead. I’m so tired. My only hope is that this pandemic shifts the minds of a few people to become better and help change society.

    I’m exhausted, friends. So fucking exhausted.

    March 31, 2020
    • RieaMiea

      Mannnnn, *hugs you*

      May 24, 2020
  13. Cooper

    Thank you for this. I didn’t know how much I needed to read it until I did.

    March 31, 2020
  14. Jodi

    My workplace has been deemed “essential”, but we’re basically suckling at the teat of one semiconductor customer. I barely have anything to do, so I’m lamenting not being sent home, so I could get a stocking job at the grocery store where I could actually be doing something useful (as messed up as my logic is).

    Reading ‘Watakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku’ on my Kindle at work has been a bright spot although I do NOT want anyone to ask me why I’m laughing. 🙂

    March 31, 2020
  15. Canadian Natasha
    Canadian Natasha

    Thank you for this. Coming from an evangelical christian culture I run into so much talk lately about just trusting God. But trust =/= not being affected by the trauma of this worldwide pandemic. (And let’s not even get into the whole conversation about God never promising bad stuff won’t happen to you anyway). I just want to shake people sometimes and say… ?… Basically I don’t even know what to say to them.
    What you wrote is really comforting in a strange way and I’ve shared the link so more people can get the benefit. 🙂

    March 31, 2020
  16. Tree Lady
    Tree Lady

    This is exactly what I’ve been feeling (luckily I have a therapist who can videochat.) I’m not doing as badly as some, but this is terrifying me, and overloading the anxiety circuits that get overloaded by things as somple as making phone calls. I’ve hit the “I just can’t” level multiple times.

    I am trying to avoid hearing anything but essential news. Too much info overload and I spiral into an OCD loop (actual OCD, not the “ha, ha, I’m so picky” thing). Avoiding that helps my distraction and dissociation work better.

    I strongly suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of new cases of PTSD coming out of this.

    March 31, 2020
  17. Maile


    April 1, 2020
  18. I needed this , thank you.

    April 1, 2020
  19. Avery Knight
    Avery Knight


    I still have to go to six+ hours of class a day during all of this. I spend half of those hours trying not to cry and/or hyperventilate. And then I have a couple hours of homework. I’m not unaccustomed to laying down to sleep and having my heart race from general anxiety, or the random bouts of nausea from the same, but they’ve been near-constant lately. My mind has been going to some scarier-than-usual places. And I need to remind myself or be reminded from time to time that it’s okay not to be okay, because I feel so guilty for being this fucked up about this shit when it’s not hitting me nearly as hard as it’s hitting millions of other people. But it is affecting me negatively, and it’s okay to be unhappy about it. To be unhappy about being alone. To be unhappy about looking on helplessly as countries all over the world dig mass graves. To be terrified of the uncertainty and dread what’s yet to come.

    It’s okay not to be okay. Especially right now, when nothing and no one is okay.

    Stay safe, everyone. Please know that you’re not alone. We’re in this together, for better or worse. <3

    April 4, 2020
  20. KR

    That’s the reason why I stay away from the news for the most part. Every time I turn on the tv, check my email, etc. I come across the doom and gloom of the Coronavirus. I get it, these are some difficult times, but I don’t want to be entrenched in the darkness. I guess since I know my triggers, I try to avoid them.
    And before this even started, I was laid off, so I’ve been wallowing at home for 2 months and no matter how productive I’ve been trying to be, I feel like I’ve done jack $hit.
    I’m better now, but that first weekend when I went to the store and found I had to make a line to enter Walmart, Aldi was ransacked, as well as the dollar tree, and everywhere else I went that day was a mess, I felt like the apocalypse had come and it was not a good feeling.
    I’ve been trying stay just minimally informed, just enough to know I should not go out or I should wear a face mask, but I don’t want to know how the future looks gloomy or the elite.

    April 7, 2020
  21. Rhiannon

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and had surgery in February. Thankfully before all this kicked off, and thankfully that shit is gone and I don’t need chemo, just radiation. They haven’t started it yet though as I have The Boob Wot Won’t Heal, although it’s a lot better than it was. So yeah, not doing the best right now either, but I know it could be worse.

    April 8, 2020
  22. Ranari

    I really, really needed to read this. I needed to be reminded that freaking out and having anxiety (again, I managed to kick it back the past months and the situation is making all my achievements slip away, it seems) doesn’t make me unproductive, awful, lazy.

    Thank you for reminding me that it is human to be afraid and it is okay to not be okay. You have no idea how much this helps.

    April 9, 2020
  23. Andy

    I love you Jenny. I needed this today.

    April 15, 2020
  24. Dove

    I feel so weird. I’m mostly doing fine since I’m rather asocial and when I need people, my household is right here. ATM we’re financially ok though the future could be dicey since three out of four adults are unemployed, with one working from home, but we’ll see how that goes. Also, well, any outing could be the last.

    It’s really the lack of routine that is a blessing and a curse. I’ve had a history of depression but some days have made me wonder if I’m also manic-depressive and the lack of regular exercise is what’s getting to me too; trying to at least walk around now and then and make sure I don’t sit at my desk too long. I’m not gaining weight in spite of my sweet tooth and all the snacks in the house because in between home-cooked meals and scrounging up whatever, I’ve been eating a lot less. It’s frustrating because I wanted to lose weight… at least I’m maintaining but it’s not healthy what I’m doing because I’ll just periodically get so obsessed with whatever that I forget to eat if I’m left to my own devices. I feel so bad and yet proud and it’s troubling? I want to cry a bit.

    I’m trying to finish some fanfiction and flailing because I keep spreading myself thin by trying to work on more than one at a time (they’re all old ones I went back to and I do want to finish them someday. I figured I have time and I love writing… I may be burning out without much result though. Story of my life.)

    Thanks for discussing this stuff! You’re wonderful and I’m grateful for your reassurance. It’s especially good to remember that I need to be understanding with myself, which is something I’d been getting a better grasp on this past year. It’s always good to hear it from someone else though and sometimes keeps me from spiraling too deep. 🙂

    (Also, I decided to take the dive and dabble in some Patreons, including yours. <3)

    Btw, for anyone at home and looking for another cartoon series to watch, I highly recommend the new She-Ra reboot. It's something for the whole family! (Although, just a heads up, it portrays the cycle of abuse in a very frank and serious manner which I consider useful for exploring these issues and their ramifications with a younger audience.)

    April 20, 2020
  25. Monica Cameron
    Monica Cameron

    Hi, Jenny,
    I didn’t see your post before my previous comment; I didn’t intentionally ignore you.

    I’ve been reading some of the older posts and happen to come across the one regarding your pen name.
    I felt like a double scoop of stupid and wanted to hide it.

    Thank you for your kind words. And again, myapologies.

    May 2, 2020
  26. RieaMiea

    Thanks Jen, I needed this. Be safe and hang in there, we are all in this together.

    May 24, 2020

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