Right now, the Corona Virus outbreak is causing most people a lot of anxiety. It’s taken me back to times when I felt like I couldn’t get away from my anxiety for even a moment; that feeling of being a caged animal or of being backed tightly into a corner with no escape route yet desperately needing to flee. I don’t doubt that I’m not alone in feeling like this.
One thing that I’ve learned and tried to hold onto since those times is that anxiety has to have somewhere to go, the energy has to be released somewhere because when you have an anxiety disorder there’s always more anxious energy building up. Right now, it’s building up on overtime.
Quick note here – I’m not a medical professional. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and sometimes write about my experiences as a way to process what’s going on for me and since I’ve found reading other people’s stories helpful in the past, I try to pay it forward by sharing mine too.
Keeping track of the news has been difficult. On the one hand I want to know what’s going on but on the other I want to keep my anxiety in check. At times, social media has become news by proxy with people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds announcing the news that the news outlets have already announced. All this serves to do is ramp up my anxiety. It feels as if there is no longer any room to gain perspective or for escape to get a moment’s peace. Every story seems to add to the collective panic.
I’ve had to take an honest approach with myself in this regard. It’s been tough balancing things between anxiety rising because I don’t know what’s happening or because different types of media are feeding my disorder’s ability to jump straight to worst-case scenario. I’ve found that getting perspective has been made easier by enforcing longer breaks than usual from my phone and putting it on do not disturb mode.
In order to shut down from worrying and get somewhere towards relaxing, I’ve had to make sure my anxious energy has somewhere to go and that my mind has somewhere to escape to for short periods. These are coping skills I use in normal times, but it’s been harder to manage because it’s so easy to get obsessed with the details of the virus or to feel like there’s no point in carrying on anything as normal. It’s easy to feel like nothing else deserves attention but I know how ill that kind of thinking made me in the past.
For me, having an anxiety disorder means that, to some degree, there’s always a background level of anxiety/vigilance. Currently, I feel a constant build-up of low-level panic and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to its cause. Despite this, there are glimmers of hope that I didn’t experience the last time I felt like I couldn’t escape my anxiety on a large scale. I’m finding some comfort in routine, light exercise and activities that provide distraction. They seem to help ground me, offer little moments of peace and allow me to regain perspective.
The Soundtrack to My Anxiety
Trigger Warning: Mention of singer who died by suicide.
Recently, one song keeps coming to mind: ‘Crawling’ by Linkin Park. I find it expresses perfectly that feeling of being trapped with your anxiety (although I don’t think this is what the song is actually about). There’s a mixture of melancholy and desperation in Chester Bennington’s haunting vocals but it also reminds me of a time when I realised that I wasn’t alone with how I felt. In my mid to late teens few people at my school seemed to connect with any of my experiences or feelings yet through music I came to realise that someone else out there, perhaps for different reasons, understood how I felt and that was a big relief.
We’re all in slightly different situations across the globe right now, but perhaps this idea of shared compassion for the emotions we’re all dealing with because of the Corona Virus can help to bring our communities together – in spirit – in these times of social distancing.
Alicia writes about a variety of topics including mental illness, languages, education and cats. She also loves writing poetry and fiction. Alicia lives in Rutland, England with her partner, cat and dog.
Find her on Twitter: @aliciabrunskill