Help! Too many contacts because of COVID

Constantly on the phone because of COVID (photo: Susan Cipriano)

About a week ago I wrote the blog "Welcome to my world!". In this blog I wrote that my life hasn't changed since the COVID regulations, for I am housebound because of my disabilities anyway. That's not entirely true: now I am phoned by friends so more often, that I don't manage to do any useful stuff. A remarkable luxury problem: I have to cut my (digital) social contacts, because it is too much!

300% more contact

Socialising costs me a lot of energy. It doesn't matter whether those contacts are in person or digitally: the interaction between the other person and me remains the same. Normally I speak one person every day, or even no one at all. Because of all COVID regulations everyone suddenly phones or videocalls much more often, and now I speak two or three persons every day. That's a big change!

Social animal

This thriving social life I like very much, because essentially I am a social person. I used to welcome my friends always, and anyone could pop by at any time. That's what happened regularly, and I just loved it.

Now, because of my chronic conditions, I can't do that anymore. Socialising costs me a lot of energy, and after every contact I need time to recover. The medical term for this is "post-exertional malaise", or simply PEM. Main feature of PEM is that the effects are disproportionately large and long lasting in relation to what the person has actually done.


If I phone someone for half an hour, then I need an hour to recover. After two "nice and light" conversations with friends of an hour each I can't do anything anymore the rest of the day. This means hanging on the couch and watching stupid TV until it is time to go to bed. On a good day I just manage to cook a meal in the evening, on a bad day I'll have to do with a simple sandwich.

Social safety net

It is very pleasing to observe that a kind of social safety net appears naturally, where people check each other regularly just to see if all is well. Of course, I do realise the caller needs these contacts badly themselves as well. For (almost) everyone sits home alone, and that may be very lonely. That doesn't detract from the warm feeling of being in the picture of friends.


Only for me personally this social safety net is disruptive. I've been housebound for years now, because I don't have the energy to do more. It is a careful but fragile balance: every day I have to plan what I am able to do and what I can't do. Every day I have to adjust my schedule if unexpected things happen. (And because life is unpredictable, that happens almost daily.)

Reducing contacts

Overall, I have to cut down these nice phone calls, otherwise I can't life my own life. Important basic things, such as cleaning, doing laundry and shopping need to be done too. And I would really like to be able to do something for myself occasionally! Such as knitting or doing a crossword puzzle. That is difficult in normal life already, but now I don't manage to do that altogether.

New balance

In short, it is ironic that my social life suddenly takes an enormous run, thanks to the COVID regulations. It pains me that I will have to cut these, because I love all these social contacts. As of today only one phone of video call a day, in the hope to have energy left for my own life.


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