The worst place, Dr Seuss once wrote, is what he called "the waiting place".
That's how David Wolpe, a senior rabbi, sees the current moment. He relates it to a period of his own life where he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent two neurosurgeries.
On a recent podcast, he said the worst place wasn't in the hospital bed. It wasn't even in the doctor's office, being told what they'd found growing inside his skull. The worst place was the waiting place - the time between having the brain scan and receiving the results.
It is the period in-between that tortures us. The not knowing can be worse than the knowing. It feels like in early 2020, the world went for a brain scan and were told things weren't looking good. The rest of the year has been waiting for the official prognosis. How many people will die? How bad is this going to get? And when is the treatment coming?
Has any historical moment been so defined by the act of waiting? World wars perhaps. But even then, the ordinary person was called to action. To work or to the frontline or to tend to the wounded. Some people surely felt useless. But there was fundamentally more to do than sit in your living room and watch the clock on the wall tick by, wondering how many more moments it would take for the world to return to normal.
There is not a person I know, and I imagine you are the same, who is OK right now. They are all, to varying degrees, not OK.
This past Tuesday, Lifeline's crisis line received more calls than ever in its 57 year history. Since the second lockdown in Victoria, calls from within the state have spiked by 22 per cent.
People in Victoria are really, seriously not OK.
They are living in the strictest lockdown conditions in the world right now. Just to be clear - most Victorians accept there's no better alternative. But that doesn't make their circumstances any more bearable.
It is a life with limited sunlight and no physical contact with anyone outside your household. People living alone are experiencing something that resembles solitary confinement. Babies have been born who cannot meet their grandparents, and children are forbidden from playing on the streets. There are no restaurants to dine in, or cafes to think in, or Saturday markets to stroll through. The colour and vibrancy of Melbourne has been temporarily dulled, jobs have been lost, and most critically, almost 700 people have died. Those families cannot even bury their loved ones in the company of more than 10 people. Perhaps they will hold a funeral a few months down the track when restrictions have eased. But it's not the same. It's best not to pretend anything is the same.
When people are depressed or anxious, their first instinct is often to self isolate. It's counterintuitive, like how a person dying of hypothermia strips off their clothes, exposing more bare skin to freezing temperatures. Sadness can make us do things that make us more sad, and then the downward spiral picks up momentum and it becomes increasingly difficult to claw our way out. An entire state right now is living in conditions conducive to depression. There is the backdrop of grief - local and national and global. The social isolation. No workplace or gym or sense of community. Potential job loss or financial hardship. A lack of control.
To ask anyone in Melbourne "R U OK?" today seems ludicrous.
Listen: Is staying inside all day bad for your health? Post continues after.
Twelve months ago, the concerns keeping us up at night would've been consistent with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. But now that level of anxiety is normal. Logical. An accurate reflection of the current state of things.