If you these last few months stuck in coronavirus quarantine have felt a little weird, you're not alone. For me, March absolutely dragged on, while April seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye. Now, in May, I can't remember what day it is half the time. I'm regularly shocked by the number I see on the clock — is it really 4 pm? I'm starting to feel like I'm enduring a perpetual time loop, reliving the same day over and over. Bleak, right? But I'm not alone.
Helen Rosner, a writer for The New Yorker, Tweeted that her therapist described this weird time in our lives as "an infinite present," which feels pretty accurate. Rosner says, "[There are] no future plans, no anticipation of travel or shows or events or celebrations. It's an endless today, never tomorrow."
There's a name this phenomenon: temporal disintegration, according to E Alison Holman, PhD, a psychologist and an associate professor with the UC Irvine Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. And, she says, they're a direct result of trauma.
"People lose track of time when the future is in question,” Dr Holman told the University of California. “The continuity from the past to the future is gone. That’s what they are experiencing right now."
In a different interview with USA Today, Dr Holman elaborated, "For people who are staying in all the time, the days meld in all together. There’s no distinction between the work week and weekend and you lose sense of time and what time it is."
The coronavirus pandemic has been thoroughly disrupting. Beyond making us fear for our lives, our livelihoods, and that of our loved ones, it has obliterated any sense of schedule and structure any sense of schedule and structure we once had. What's more, there's no end in sight.
All this destabilisation and stress can create a sensation of "time dragging by," Ruth Ogden, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher at the school of psychology at Liverpool John Moores University in England, also told USA Today.
"This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform," Dr Ogden said. In normal life, practically every hour has some sort of marker — now is when I run for the train, now is when I buy my afternoon coffee. Post-coronavirus, that's all gone. It's no wonder our sense of time has gone all wonky.
For now, my sense of time remains shaken. But I'm slowly building a new schedule, which is supposed to help: getting up at the same time each morning, getting dressed (I know), exercising every day. Slowly, I'll build boundaries around my days that will allow me to stop asking myself terrifying questions like, "Is time real?" Yes, it's real (?). Today is Friday. I think.