Ah, we live in a time of great uncertainty.
This weekend has been a challenge: for somebody who is already struggling with anxiety, I have a lot of coping techniques which I implement in order to manage my condition and therefore survive it. However, with the global pandemic of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and our government’s ‘interesting’ proposal to tackle the outbreak, it’s very hard to abate the general anxiety about what is to come.
Finding the balance between sheer paranoia and ignorance is difficult. On the one hand, we are being told to keep on carrying on, ensuing normality in the home/work/school place. The advice is to wash hands thoroughly and basically honour the common-sense rules of courtesy by not coughing directly on someone’s face or showing up, potentially carrying the virus, when you’ve spiked a crazy fever. Whilst on the other hand, we now have all news streams practically dedicated to COVID-19, a constant feed of growing fatality statistics, updated flight-bans and confirmation that countries are systematically locking themselves down.
The seriousness of this virus has transpired, we’ve seen trends of mass hysteria and panic-buying as people gear up for the inevitable period of self-isolation. Testimonials from other quarantined folks across Europe speak of heeding the warning and taking action immediately, if we are to avoid the impact that they’ve faced. Unions of teachers and a group of acclaimed researchers/scientists have written separate letters to Boris Johnson, questioning the efficacy of his current directions for the country and urging him to consider more serious actions, such as social distancing and school closures.
I have spent most of the weekend worrying about being fired, which is not particularly unusual as this has been a recurring thought-stream for a few months now. I’m a very insecure individual and there have been numerous factors behind this fixation. However, in the wake of COVID-19, I have been feeling even more anxious about taking precaution and deviating (a personal choice) from official governmental advice. As the government has not specifically advised to self-isolate, unless experiencing symptoms of the virus, I’m expected to work from the office. But isn’t my health, and the health of my loved ones, more of a priority than satisfying protocol about which seat my ass is sat on while I do my job and what I’m wearing while I do it? (Admittedly I work in my PJs or slacks when I WFH).
I don’t want to be a risk to more vulnerable should I become a carrier in the incubation period, with seemingly no symptoms. When the beast rears its ugly head, the reality is that I can handle a flu but the elderly folk I see dotted around on my commute to work can’t and immuno-compromised folk (such as my mum, with whom I live) will potentially be facing a pretty gnarly recovery. So, I’m in a moral conundrum as to whether I stay at home, where I can work efficiently (with the same capacity I do from the office) or go to work, with an above-average anxiety level as we await further advice.
All I can do is be patient. This decision is at my discretion and I should remember that numerous others are in a similar predicament, considering whether to follow current guidelines or follow suit with the examples of other earlier outbreaks across the globe. I’m still torn but I will follow my gut and be as conscientious as possible, if I’m out and about. Also, I’m planning ahead for all of the positive outcomes that may result from social distancing. There’s:
- plenty of books to be read,
- hours of yoga to be caught up on,
- many classic films I’ve neglected to watch over the years; and,
- quality family bonding time (daily domestics included) to fill the dark days ahead.
In a weird way, maybe this could be an imperative learning curve for the world, which feels as though it has literally stopped spinning as COVID-19 has obliterated every continent it’s touched.
This might be a period of time invaluable for many folk who need some space to partake in self-care and retract from the bustling pandemonium of “work-eat-sleep-repeat”. Perspective is important and I think we’d all fare better, myself included, if we were to be thankful at this time of crisis for the incredible things we have. Even in Italy, over the last few days, there have been videos of joyous dancing and singing as citizens take to their balconies to show their communal spirit. In the face of adversity, humans can break and bend and they can most certainly bounce back.
My agoraphobia last year made me very acclimated to literally living for months in the house and focusing on improving mental health with positive affirmations and routines. However, now that my mental health is generally improved, I do feel that cabin fever is more likely to make an appearance. Having gained the confidence to venture out, it will probably be uncomfortable to temporarily shut the door again but I guess I need to keep the bigger picture in mind.
We have a duty of care for each other and will only make it through this colourful shit-storm if we hold each other up, and check on our most vulnerable. We have to prop up the NHS, which was buckling long before COVID-19 made an appearance. We have to think of our neighbours, who may be struggling with the plight of isolation or getting the groceries they need. We also have a duty of care for ourselves: however, taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be at the detriment of others. Situations like this are no reason to abandon kindness. Period.
There are lots of feelings right now and all of them are valid. Fear makes us function in very different ways, often unexplainable. It’s instinctive behaviour in moments of uncertainty. As I’ve learned, just from writing this out and feeling some sort of small relief, all I can do is slow down my racing thoughts and take deep breaths. Maybe writing is the way through this all. Slowing everything down and being present, taking things day by day and each moment by moment.
As I’ve been writing, I’ve also come across this new article which basically further summarises the causes for concern with our current plan of action here in the UK. This might be of interest: