My anxiety is giving me a hard time.
It doesn’t show, even to me, because my coping mechanism of choice is avoidance. I push my fear of the unknown deep down into a tiny pocket. That doesn’t mean it disappears. That means it can reemerge at any time – usually with the force of a jack-in-the-box.
If I am taking care of myself, then it’s manageable. The blow is a little lighter. But if I am watching the news on a loop or scrolling endlessly through social media, then it sneaks up and gets me. My heart tightens and I can become paralyzed, unable to make decisions or accomplish simple tasks. It’s too overwhelming.
So I attempt to cope with my anxiety.
I try to go for a walk every day to see the sunlight. I try to be productive in some way. That helps stifle the anxiety. But it’s still there. Still running through my mind…
What if I get Covid-19? What if my partner gets it? What if I need to go to the hospital? What if they run out of ventilators? What if I die alone?
What if I don’t wipe down my groceries? What if I run out of hand sanitizer? What if I cross contaminate my only face mask? What if I get take-out?
What if my kid touches an abandoned soccer ball in the street? What if she never goes back to school? What if she misses everyone? What if she feels scared?
What if 100,00 Americans die? What if the living are left traumatized? What if we could have lessened the suffering? What if this could have been prevented? What if it comes back in the fall?
The anxiety spiral is real, and that is what mine looks like.
So I stop. I breathe. I reframe.
What if I remember to call my loved ones more often? What if I take an online class? What if I tackle a neglected home-repair project?
What if I take a few more walks around the neighborhood? What if I wave to total strangers? What if I smile and nod toward the person who has graciously maintained six feet of social distance?
What if my family spends more time together? What if mom guilt doesn’t exist? What if I make cereal for dinner?
What if I never had control? What if my anxiety takes a break – just like everything else?
And there it is. I try to let go of my anxiety and our collective heartache.
It’s going to be a long time before I feel safe again – before we feel safe again – and until we can all be together again. I could let my anxiety get the better of me. I could spiral and let my thoughts control my minutes and hours and days.
Or I can stop, breathe, and reframe. I can work on managing the things I can and letting go of the things I cannot. I can turn my focus to that wonderful future. Because when we are allowed to hug, to dance, to sing together, we will feel something bigger than fear. We will feel joy.
I’m counting on it.
If you are having difficulty managing your mental health, especially during the pandemic, please find help. You can find resources at any of the following: