I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would worry about everything and was afraid of almost everything. My mother, a trained child psychologist, tried to give me a form of cognitive therapy by pointing out to me every time I was ‘awfullizing’ or ‘what iffing.’ She tried to make me realize that my anxieties were irrational and always told me “Don’t bleed until you’re cut!” It actually helped me and by my teen years, I had managed to control the worst and most paralyzing aspects of my daily anxieties, for the most part.
Prozac was the first commonly used anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to burst onto the market in 1989. I was 40 and my psyche and my life changed dramatically as my anxiety and depression miraculously receded into the background. I still have flare-ups of anxiety and some ongoing anxiety issues, but they usually don’t keep me from being a basically upbeat, positive and relaxed person.
However, I would have thought that the Coronavirus crisis would have triggered my anxieties and thrown them into overdrive. I should have been in the first wave of panic buyers and I should have a closet full of toilet paper, paper towels and pasta. But I don’t. When the first stories came out early on about possible food shortages, a friend convinced me to order 40 cans of Progresso soup. I felt silly afterward and regretted that I had let my anxieties overtake me, but now I’m glad I have several cartons of canned goods in the basement – just in case.
Since then, I’ve been relatively calm in the face of the horrific health crisis that is getting worse day by day – and I am only 50 miles from the epicenter in NYC. At 70, I’m also in the higher risk population but I still go out once a week to shop and once a week to get mail at the post office. But that’s it for my forays into the potential virus-infected world.
I’m being careful and ‘sheltering in place’. Surprisingly, I’m not kept up at night by visions of worst-case scenarios swirling around uncontrollably in my head.
I’ve wondered why I’m not more anxiety-riddled than I am and I think the answer is that I’m only consumed with anxiety that reflects my irrational fears. I’m actually pretty good at dealing with real-world crises. I’m better dealing with a scary reality than with my inner demons.
My method of coping is staying up to date with what’s going on and acting accordingly to protect myself and my husband. I’ve read studies that show that people who read and listen to Coronavirus news regularly tend to be more agitated than those who don’t check the news as much. I find that the more I know, the safer I feel. Knowledge is power. So I’m keeping track of cases in my immediate area so when that number goes up dramatically, I can reassess my strategy and maybe place orders for pick up at the supermarket and get my prescriptions delivered by mail.
I believe that I’m doing what’s needed to limit my exposure so I feel relatively safe. I’m healthy and rarely get colds or flu so chances are good if I get it, it will be mild. I’m not consumed with worry that my husband or I will get seriously ill – or that I’ll run out of toilet paper before the stores can restock. Just in case, we also have a bidet!
If one of us gets sick, I’ll deal with it as best I can. I won’t bleed until I’m cut.
So, despite my propensity for anxiety, I seem to be dealing pretty well, psychologically speaking, with this very real, worldwide pandemic.