The Unaddressed Symptom of COVID-19

The state of the world can cause panic to many suffering with anxiety on a daily basis. This has only been exacerbated by the particularly unstable status of the world during the COVID-19 crisis. As a sufferer myself, my journey of intense panic-inducing hypochondriacism (yes, a made up word) began in elementary school. I remember two instances quite vividly as I am sure members of my family do as well. I was eating at Cracker Barrel with my extended family and an old woman fainted in the heat. They called the ambulance but by the time they arrived the lady was up and being fanned off. During this ordeal, I began to feel a heavy weight on my chest. I turned to my cousin and begged her to distract me. She looked at me confused and started talking about a tv show we both watched. Suddenly, my palms were sweating and my mouth was completely dry. I started to feel very faint myself and my cousin commented how my face looked very flushed. I started pacing in and out of the restroom trying to control whatever was happening. We got in the car and the stillness brought forth even more panic. My cousin waited with me in the car as I began to scream (David after the dentist style) that I needed help. She kept asking “what? What’s wrong?” but I didn’t know. I just knew I needed to stop feeling like this.

Another time I was at a lacrosse game with my family. A player had a medical emergency on the field and passed out. They called an ambulance while my chest began to feel that weight again. This time I was with my mom and I told her I felt really dizzy and sick. She said to put my head between my legs and just breathe. It didn’t help, in fact her acknowledging that something could be wrong sent me into even more fear. A great paradox of my anxiety (I am sure others can relate as well) is that I want people to understand that something is wrong, but I need them to tell me that it is okay, despite the symptoms I’m telling them. I have since learned to be that voice in my own head when my friends are unsure how to deal with me. Eventually, I went to the bathroom and started to feel better. Escaping the situation is a great way to feel better. That escape is no longer possible in this new reality we are living in. 

So, if all it took was an old lady and a lacrosse player fainting to start that stream of panic, I am sure you can imagine my mental state this past month. To be sure, years of therapy and maturing have reduced my panic attacks immensely. Yet things like this can be discouraging to those who have worked so hard to grow past these fits as they begin again due to these uncertain times. 

The thing that has helped me most is distraction. Yes, I am not facing my problems head on but hey, it works for now. Youtube, Netflix, my homework, and my family have all been great distractions as I try to forget about the world outside. Avoid the news. Honestly, the big stuff will get to you through friends or social media, but the daily news is just awful news being pummelled at you 24/7. Turn off the news. We aren’t finishing with this thing any time soon. The issue with this sort of crisis is that there are some people who take things very seriously and others who do not. Lawmakers and leaders have to continually emphasize the severity of this crisis so everyone will take it seriously. However, this constant emphasis causes unnecessary panic to those who worry about everything anyway, even a random stranger fainting. The world is not going to end, you will be okay. Odds are, you are not going to die and even if you get the illness, you will survive. These precautions need to be taken seriously, however, so we can reduce the impact and make sure we can reduce the number of cases the best we can. Fellow anxiety sufferers, take a deep breath, turn off the news and stay inside while the world figures itself out. It will, I promise.