Processing a Pandemic

Just three weeks ago, I was daydreaming of tanning on the sandy beaches at home in South Florida and then flying to Canada to visit my boyfriend. We planned on playing sports together, going out for a romantic dinner, and spending quality time with his family. However, that all came to a screeching halt. In a matter of days, Florida State University switched to online learning, Canada and the United States shut down their borders, and every local place, including the sandy beaches, closed. Like everyone else, I am now staying at home for at least a month. 

As someone with diagnosed anxiety and OCD, I deal with constant health anxiety (ask my roommate how many times I have asked her to check if I have a fever and she will laugh), and so naturally, I was constantly updating myself on COVID-19. I understood the severity of the coronavirus; I bought a bottle of hand sanitizer long before they sold out and I was cleaning surfaces with my Clorox wipes constantly. When you have anxiety, it causes your brain to prepare for every possible outcome. In my head, I already prepared myself for contracting the virus, for loved ones to die and for a lockdown. Now that the virus is in my home state, alive and well, I am at least prepared. But despite my anxiety causing me to prepare, it still does not make the current situation any easier. 

Every day, we are bombarded with news sources reminding us we are in some sort of apocalypse, where millions of people are going to die because of our flawed healthcare system. While it is important to pay attention to the news, watching the news too often can be detrimental to anxiety sufferers. It’s as if everything going on in your head is finally happening to the rest of the world too. To the people behaving frantically (I’m talking to you, toilet paper hoarders), worrying about their older loved ones and cleaning every inch of their hands: welcome to my brain. If you are curious about what it is like in an anxiety/OCD sufferer’s brain, now you know. It is important to check up on your anxiety-suffering loved ones right now because chances are they are panicking even more than usual. During the past two weeks, I have dealt with my heart uncontrollably racing, not being able to sleep, and ongoing tension headaches. I try not to discuss it too much because I know there are much more serious issues going on in the world, but it affects me a lot. 

person washing hands

Nonetheless, we are all suffering in some shape or form amid this pandemic. I have family members that have lost their jobs, friends that cannot see their family members because they are stuck in Europe, and of course, I now know people that have the coronavirus. It is a lot to process. But it’s important to remind ourselves to be patient and empathetic. Humans are at their best when they perform acts of kindness for others. Let’s reach out to our mentally ill friends and family and make sure they are okay. Let’s follow guidelines to protect the elderly and immunocompromised. Now is not the time to have an individualistic attitude - it is the time to be there for each other. 

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