Dreaming of Christmas as Stay-At-Home Orders Go Into Effect


Erin Holve

Graphic made by Erin Holve

A new stay-at-home order revealed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will enforce additional restrictions to five regions — Northern California, the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. These restrictions will remain unless the regions can maintain an ICU unit with a 15% open bed capacity or higher. 

“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” said Newsom on Dec. 3 during a virtual news conference. “And if we don’t act now, the death rate will continue to climb and we’ll see more lives lost.” This new order resembles the initial shelter-in-place order which took place in California earlier this year in the spring. Anyone who does not need to travel out of necessity is to stay home and continue following COVID-19 guidelines. 

Once the order takes effect, it is to remain in place for at least three weeks. After the initial three weeks, individual counties will be reassigned tiers with hopes of opening up businesses and the community as a whole as long as they can maintain at least a  15% open bed capacity. 

After reading all that data, I need to take a breath. Breath in 1, 2, 3, and out 1, 2, 3. This year has taxed my mental stability in ways I didn’t know were possible. I feel like I’m in a constant state of being overwhelmed, exhausted and lonely. 

As we move into the end of this semester I’m realizing how bad this new type of pandemic depression is affecting me. Earlier this year I realized I might be depressed and I’ve only felt my suspicions continue to grow. Now my body is showing signs of my depression which only serves to beat down my mental stability some more. 

My motivation is nearly nonexistent and I’m finding it increasingly hard to care about anything. A state of being I’m not usually found in as a student. I like excelling in my academics because it helps boost my confidence and shut down my low self-esteem that’s constantly clawing up my back to whisper cruel thoughts in my ears. 

Even writing feels like a struggle. 

My mental state seems to fall in line with the National Center for Health Statistics survey. They’ve found that nearly 30% of people are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression. Just last year that number was at 6%, now it is five times higher and likely to increase. The same jump in numbers has happened with anxiety from 8% last year to 36% this year.

I’ve seen my mental state jump up and down as if I were trapped on a continuous roller coaster that won’t let me off. When I have a good mental day I feel social and refreshed. Then I have the days where my mind goes to darker spaces, the ones where you question the whole point of existing at all. 

Loneliness and continuous death make me wonder what all of it is for? Why am I working so hard for a degree when it feels so unimportant in the grand scheme of things? I let the thoughts cross my mind, but I tell myself not to let them fester in my mind.  

I just keep trying to look forward and keep moving even if it’s at an ungodly slow pace. All I want to do once this semester ends is visit my family during the holidays. I want to be surrounded by things that help to keep my thoughts from the dark recesses of my mind. 

Christmas music playing while I bake cookies with my mom and niece. Sprinkles spread across the counter like a Jackson Pollock painting made of sugar. Cookie dough stuck to the kitchen counters and our fingers, tempting us to eat just a little bit of it to make sure it tastes good. 

Christmas music would be playing in the background and we would sing along like the world’s worst acapella group. Later I would snuggle up under a warm, thick cozy blanket with my niece while we watch a Christmas movie and shovel popcorn into our mouths. 

When my niece is finally tucked into bed with dreams dancing through her head, I’ll sit with my mom, dad and brother to talk. Political, economic and social problems will be babbled from our lips and more and more alcohol is consumed. Laughter will be heard as we wrap some last minute gifts with whatever scraps of wrapping paper we have left. 

These images are what keep me trudging along when I feel no motivation to do so. Now with the new stay-at-home orders I’m feeling my last clutches on sanity slipping. I’ve spent many holidays apart from my family but this one feels so incredibly important.

I want to not feel so lonely and wrong-footed in my own life. Every morning you wake up and say okay, I will get through this. I do my best to participate in class and act like everything is normal even though I don’t feel that way at all. 

I’ve been following all the COVID-19 rules since this pandemic started. I stay at home as much as I can, leaving for food and necessities when needed. I diligently follow the mask protocol at work and when I’m out at other establishments.

I’ve abided by these rules because I care about my family’s safety and the safety of others. Depression and anxiety have been let rampant in my head, making it harder and harder to care about finishing my upcoming last semester.

I don’t blame Newsom or health officials who are making the right decision for the people of this state. We have to keep caring for those most greatly affected by this pandemic, but I’m noticing my compassion is beginning to wane and that bothers me.

Now I feel a strange kind of betrayal by my fellow Americans. That I may not be able to have this moment with my family because of people’s selfishness. Or am I selfish for having that thought knowing that there are plenty of people who will never get to celebrate a holiday with their loved one ever again? 

I feel trapped in an ethical dilemma. Guilty for wanting to spend time with my family when I feel so unmoored from my sanity and angry for having to feel that way. Another part of me denies feeling guilty because I’ve done my part for society, letting my mental state decline for the betterment of others. 

Why should I be punished for the lack of human decency that others have shown throughout this pandemic? I feel like a child, pent up with emotions that I don’t know where to place. They just keep building and building until I finally explode. 

For now I’ll keep following the state and government orders. I’ll try to talk to my family as often as possible so my mental state will rise from the depths to see the light. I’ll finish this semester like I have the last and just keep pushing to finish what I started here in Chico. 

Erin Holve can be reached at [email protected] and @Erin_Holve on Twitter.