Today is a year of pandemic, a year of anxiety. A year ago today, I told my husband that he needed to plan to work from home and not go back to the office because frankly “this shit is about to get real”. He came home that day and has not returned to his office since, other than to collect some things, in the early autumn. He and I planned for him to “work from home” for a few weeks until the “worst was over”. We had no idea of what really was to come.
What we know now…
You see, I had been watching Covid19 since last December 2019, when it was just rumours on the news, then as it started to creep into headlines, then it arrived on our doorsteps.
I have health anxiety. A pandemic that is killing people is pretty much my worst nightmare, right?
Yes, and no.
Yes, because it is the thing we all fear. A virus spreading and killing people. The thought of people I love getting it or dying, or me getting it and dying and leaving my children motherless – the stuff that keeps me awake, sweating at night.
But also no. Because this is what people with anxiety prepare for. The worst thing. The thing that everyone else tells us we are being ridiculous for worrying about. We are ready for this kind of thing because it’s what we expect to happen. The worst thing
In January last year, I knew. I bought face masks and hand gel. I started to plan grocery shops to be delivered and I started to put things aside that I knew we might need. Pain medication, and other things. People laughed at me. My work colleagues thought it was just my anxiety talking, I am very open with them, they know my struggles. My husband was mildly amused and slightly concerned but didn’t challenge me.
And then it all went crazy and the world realised that the thing that all us crazy people with anxiety had been worried about was a thing.
I hate that I was right.
But for the most part, I have been ok in all of this because for me, the worry of something happening is the thing. The fear of the unknown, of the really scary, of the WORST that can happen, is what fills my mind.
When it actually happens, I slide into ok.
It’s hard to explain. But basically, the anticipation of the most awful is where I struggle. When I am actually in it, I cope. Mostly. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s awful. That’s the story of my life and the anxiety path I walk.
That’s not to say that it’s all been fine. The first lockdown, shielding our daughter, being isolated for 13 weeks then coming out of that, the second lockdown, then a third, have impacted my mental health. It’s been incredibly challenging to live a year without proper human contact. Worrying about our health, worrying about family abroad who are impacted, and we cant be with. Worrying about managing life at home. Health anxiety and a pandemic is no picnic but it’s kind of what those of us with health anxiety are prepared for.
It’s almost a bit “I told you so”. We were in Singapore when Covid19’s cousin, the original SARS virus was doing its thing. We had seen how it made people sick. In my head, I knew that if this virus was spreading more easily than that, then we were in trouble. I knew we had a problem, I said as much to my own father who lives in SE Asia via message and to the husband as we watched the news. I was filled with anxiety. For a period of three months, as the pandemic loomed, then hit, and we battened down the hatches and lived in lockdown, I wasn’t in good shape. I shut myself off from most of social media, I cut off people who were saying things that made the anxiety issues worse, and I struggled hard with dark thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia, and some thoughts of self-harm. I probably won’t ever share what really want in my head during that time, because it was a very dark place, and as bad as I can remember, since my mother died, and we and I had very little help either professionally or personally. Everyone was fighting their own battle, and there were few people who I could trust with what I was dealing with. I came out of it, and I don’t think I will ever go back to that place but it was dark and hard at the time.
Most of the time, I battle anxiety alone.
People don’t understand what goes on in my head, or why I am the way I am. This past year has given me better knowledge of how my own mind works, and it’s almost made me equal with others who have had to live out one of my worst fears.
It’s neen a long, hard year. It’s been that way for most people. Those of us with mental health issues have faced extra challegnes as we lived with Covid19 affectng us directly or indirectly.
A year ago today, I knew it was coming.
I am stronger today than I was then. I am also still broken in many ways, but fighting to get better. One day, I will look back at all of this and I suspect I will realise how strong I actually am. For now, we carry on. It’s not over yet. The pandemic hasn’t gone. I still have health anxiety and generalised anxiety.
One day at a time. Face the fear. It almost always isn’t as bad as I think…