The Existential Expert tackles post-lockdown social anxiety … and breakups

The Existential Expert responds to your questions. Photo: Pixabay/LEEROY Agency.

In the latest instalment of our weekly advice column, we help readers deal with problems confronting them as they return, blinking, into the light of an opened-up Sydney.

Dear EE,

Everyone wants to catch up for picnics and drink now lockdown is over but I’m not feeling it. Is there something wrong with me? 

Neil, via Twitter

Hey Neil, 

Firstly, let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with you. The last few months have thrown all of our lives off-kilter – for which there’s bound to be a little psychological fallout. Frankly, if you’re only worried about dodging a few picnics, then you’ve probably not gone as weird as a lot of other people. 

Nevertheless, you’ve obviously adjusted to life somewhat in solitary confinement. Good for you – it means you can be flexible when these sort of disruptions occur. 

That said, you’ve probably got to readjust back a little to society, unless you want to turn into Norman Bates.  

Still, be gentle on yourself. Whether you’ve been stranded on a desert island, or you’ve just been released from prison after committing a major crime, or you’ve just got off the phone after being put on hold by Telstra for several hours, returning to “normal life” takes a bit of getting used to. 

We recommend easing yourself out of lockdown gradually. This might involve simply putting your dick away and pulling on a pair of pants for the first time in three months. Or getting a haircut, whether that’s the hair on your head or elsewhere. 

Lockdown may have inspired you to completely reject social decorum – but there’s no reason why you must feel inspired to join the stampede to the pub or the beach now it’s suddenly over.

If you’ve been entirely alone and communing via Zoom, it might be worth practising socialisation without peering into your computer’s camera. Try a conversation with your dog or your goldfish or a pet rock or whatever you feel might reciprocate.

In a post-lockdown world you should no longer feel obliged to stare moodily out of windows. Image: Tumisu/Pixabay.

If it’s a question of confidence, you can build on these small steps and take heart from the fact your peers will probably be struggling similarly (as a general life hack, it always helps to take solace in other people’s discomfort).

This, of course, applies only if you’re a nice person. There’s something to be said for keeping yourself under wraps if you’ve got an antisocial personality. In other words if (for example) you are the kind of person who dislikes animals, enjoys Mumford and Sons, whistles cheerily and annoyingly for no reason or uses the word “buddy” a lot, it might be best to keep yourself in voluntary lockdown. 

All the best! 

Hey EE,

I’ve spent so much time with my GF during lockdown that I’m (there’s no easy way to put this) sick of her. It’s almost to the point where I can’t stand the sight of her. I’m thinking of asking for a break so I can sort out my feelings but worry she’ll be hurt. What would you advise?

Adam, via Twitter

Dear Adam, 

You sound pretty vehement about this – so it’s definitely time to give yourself, and your girlfriend, some space. 

Bear in mind though that lockdown’s been tough on interpersonal relations in a number of ways, not least cohabitation. 

How definitive – or longterm – do you want this break to be? Amidst the seismic events of the last few months, we kind of owe it to ourselves to make gentle emotional choices. 

Consider, for example, that you might just need to make a concerted effort to get out and socialise by yourself for a bit. Think about ways you can do things separately on a day-to-day basis, especially activities with a definite, really engaging purpose – whether that’s joining a local sport team, say, or taking a class somewhere. 

Not only does this kind of absence make the heart grow fonder, but you also have the chance to refresh the moments a little when you see your partner again. 

Unfortunately, a more definite, hurtful break might be something you have to face in time. It’s understandable you’re worried about it. One of the existential truisms is that breakups are fucking shit and there’s no use pretending otherwise. 

If there’s any consolation, it’s that – of course – neither of you are in the isolation of hard lockdown anymore. But even under these circumstances, it still feels best to take it easy on yourselves.

A panacea for uncertain times, The Existential Expert is a forum where the Sentinel will address the essential questions, you – our readers – have posed. If you have a conundrum, whether it’s spiritual, philosophical or just something that makes you break out in a rash, tweet or DM us @sydney_sentinel. New columns are published regularly on Sundays – and you can check out previous ones here!

Disclaimer: The advice provided in this column is no substitute for professional advice and should not be treated as such.