Hello there. In these unprecedented times…
Just kidding. I would never.
Greetings Quaranteam! What a shit show 2020 has turned out to be. I have been avoiding a blog post because I have never been so sick of staring at a computer screen in my entire life, and also, I’m scared someone is going to try to FaceTime me unscheduled. And also because every time I publicly write about my anxiety and let people read it I want to throw up. But mostly the FaceTime thing. However, it is now May and May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If there is one thing this virus has made very clear, it is that mental health is something that needs to be talked about ALWAYS, but especially right now.
Are you having trouble sleeping but also struggling to get out of bed? Can’t stop eating? Or maybe you can’t eat at all. Nightmares? Tight chest? Headaches? Can’t concentrate? Irritable? Do you cry when you can’t find that matching sock? Do you have a constant lump in your throat? Can’t take a deep breath? Feeling crushed by the weight of existential dread? Are people telling you to calm down a lot? Welcome to the dark side my friends, there’s more of us here than you realize.
I have had several friends reach out and ask me how I’m doing, because it is assumed that having an anxiety disorder and also being in the middle of a global pandemic is probably not a cake walk. First off, the fact that people feel comfortable talking to me about this is pretty awesome. My plan is working. But I think I’m doing as well as anyone else. I know, I was surprised too! My anxiety typically kicks in at times that make absolutely no sense and for reasons I don’t understand. I can be comfy cozy lying on the couch, watching New Girl with absolutely nothing to worry about and BOOM panic attack. But when there’s a new virus that’s killing people in a way that doesn’t make sense and shutting down the entire world and absolutely everything is uncertain and we’re not allowed to hug each other and no one knows what to do or when this will end? Meh. It’s quite rude of my brain actually. If I told people I felt anxious right now, they’d be like, YES GIRL, SAME. But when I feel anxious for reasons that don’t add up, the ‘have you tried not being anxious’ people feel like they should throw me a parade. I hate parades.
I have thought a lot about this, and what I have decided is that this all comes down to control. I can’t speak for my fellow anxious humans, but my anxiety stems from having a lack of control. (or a perceived lack, if you want to dive deep into the psyche) What’s happening in the world right now is so completely out of my control that it’s weirdly freeing. I can control my own actions and that’s about it. I am being forced to go with the flow. Now, I wouldn’t say I am not anxious. Of course I am. I’m very anxious and paranoid. In fact, I might be 1000% more paranoid than many people. Like the people who just go for casual jogs in a crowded park without masks on. Do you hate your grandpa? Are you just cooler than a global pandemic? Which is it? Please explain because I do not understand you! I’m just saying I really don’t feel any more anxious than I usually do, because this is my norm.
This is a lot of people’s norm. If there can be one takeaway from all of this, I hope that people can be more empathetic towards one another and their struggles. Every time you can’t sleep, or your chest is tight, or you feel really scared, or you can’t seem to feel happy or sad or anything at all—remember that for so many people, this is their constant inner experience even when their outer life seems to be going along just perfectly. You don’t need to fix it, or even understand it, but I hope that you can sit with them, hold their hand, and agree that sometimes things just suck. And this pandemic? It SUCKS.
I am absolutely, without-a-doubt, one of the lucky ones. I still have a paycheck. I am physically healthy. I am not quarantined alone. I do not have to fear for my safety in my own home. I have food and water. My loved ones are safe. I have a subscription to Disney+, wine exists, and most important of all, I do not have a child to judge me for being much, much, worse at math than they are.
But this still sucks. And this strange guilty feeling I have for being in a relatively good situation while many people’s entire lives are crashing and burning is something I have been really struggling with. Like I’m not allowed to feel upset because there are other people who have it so much worse.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I did not know there was a name for this. The badass woman that is Brené Brown calls this, Comparative Suffering. I love when there are names for the things I feel! Essentially, it is the notion that if we allow ourselves to have empathy for our own suffering, there won’t be any of it left for others. How could we possibly acknowledge and honor our own feelings, as insignificant as we think they are, and also acknowledge our friend that just lost their job? How….SELFISH, right?!
Nope. It’s not. You can feel grateful for all that you still have, extend gratitude to those fighting on the front lines, show empathy and kindness towards those who are experiencing devastating loss right now, and acknowledge that all of this STILL SUCKS. This can all exist at once, and frankly, I’m getting real sick and tired of feeling like it can’t.
That being said, in no particular order, here is a list of all the semi-petty, nonessential things that make life fun that I hereby refuse to feel guilty about missing:
- Hockey. The Avs. PLAYOFF hockey. We could smell the Stanley Cup. I’m not ready to talk about it yet.
- Baseball. Not knowing if I needed to wear my ski clothes or shorts to Rockies Opening Day was a tradition that I’m very disappointed I didn’t get to participate in this year.
- Not caring about basketball.
- Spending money at breweries, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, rooftops and then feeling debilitatingly guilty about it. That is, until Saturday rolls around again and I forget about the guilty thing. Rather, rinse, repeat. Fun!
- Being unable to see anything at concerts because apparently, only 6’10’’ people and I go to concerts.
- Driving to a destination. I mean, I can still drive, but aimlessly driving to nowhere while I sob to myself about no playoff hockey just doesn’t have quite the same appeal.
- The gym. Doing burpees in my hallway while my husband hypes me up and Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass,” blares in the background sounds fun, but it’s not that fun. General human interaction. I miss when I couldn’t fall asleep cause I kept thinking about how awkward I was to the front desk guy that morning. Him: “Hi Sarah, what are you working out today?” Me: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
- Social distancing because I wanted to. Remember avoiding people and places because of being introverted and really needing alone time? HAHAHAHAHAHA I’m so sorry please hang out with me.
- Shopping for things in person. I hate shopping for things in person
- The noise of a real life happy hour. Virtual happy hours seemed fun and innovative at first, but if there is more than 4 people I don’t know where to look, I don’t know how to interject, what if someone is just staring right at me, what if there’s awkward silence and I do the happy birthday thing, am I supposed to get ready for this, how do we know when we can leave?! It’s too much.
Don’t apologize for missing the little things. The little things are what makes life lovely and you’re allowed to feel sad about them being gone. They will be back. Maybe a little differently than before, but they will be back. Until then, I hope that you are able to find new little things to make life lovely, and that through all of this, at the very least, you can keep laughing.