I am going to be one hundred and fifty three percent honest; living through a pandemic is hard but living through a pandemic with a brain riddled with anxiety adds a little more weight to the existential doom that is already hanging over all of us. This is not an essay on how to deal with anxiety through a pandemic or some sort of lesson that I learned through this most recent anxiety attack. This is just a writing to reach out to all my fellow nervous people and let them know that they are not the only ones having an extra rough time this year.
I believe healing begins with understanding each other, so here is a back story about myself. Since I can remember I have had anxiety raging in the ventricles of my brain, like a river through a small canyon. Everyday I have some instance where the river rages and tells me that I have screwed up in some way or another. This usually is a case where I have said or done something that I feel is wrong and my brain lets me know that everyone that was involved in that situation hates me immediately and I am going to be alone forever. I have in my thirty-two years found techniques to help myself through these thoughts of hatred that “others have toward me.” However some days, like yesterday, it can be harder to shake off the worry.
I woke up deliciously spooning with my partner, on a property two miles away from Yosemite. We got up, prepared ourselves for the day, and went to Starbucks to get some peppermint mochas. The day was looking great. Then, out of nowhere the river broke through the small canyon from my amygdala and flooded my cognitive conscious brain. The entire day was filled with unrelenting worry, regret, shame, and of course my ever present friend, anxiety. I could not hang on to a positive thought to save my life and every interaction that I had with anyone was an epic poem of hate and tragedy.
My anxiety really started to take off when I was in the passenger seat, talking to a masked park ranger at Yosemite. When we pulled up to the booth where she was working my partner threw her mask on and I fumbled to get mine on. Anxiety dug in deeper. It wasn’t like I did anything horrible such as cough in the park ranger’s mouth, plus we were way more than six feet away and she was protected by a plastic barrier. Also I put my mask on as we stopped to talk to her, so I was not putting her at risk and my anxiety brain still told me that I gave her COVID.
When my anxiety lies to me like this I tend to climb into myself and over analyze everything about the situation. I can feel my body temperature rise, I call it the nervous sweats. Then I’m flooded by “what if” questions and demoralizing statements. Why didn’t I remember to just put my mask on as we were approaching the booth? What would have happened if she had come around to my side of the car and I wasn’t ready with a mask on? I could have given her a deadly virus without knowing it. I hear it doesn’t take long to infect someone with the virus. I could have murdered a person with one simple unmasked “Hello.” I fucked up. I fucked up. I’m a fuck up.
My wonderful partner hung in there and listened to me rant about my anxiety on the drive. Having an open ear to listen to my nervous, sweaty antics always helps me get out of my own head and realize that I am not being logical about my self worth. (I do not know if she knows how much she helped me that day.) If she hadn’t been there I would have word vomited all of my worries onto a piece of paper and read them back to myself. If I wasn’t able to find merit to any of those worries, I would have thrown the piece of paper away. That, plus finding a dirt road and driving it as fast as safely possible while listening to my favorite band. The last part won’t always work but it did for me that night. Also if you try that and crash I will deny that this was ever written.
So to anyone that has ever had any thoughts like this, you are not alone and you are not crazy. Talking to someone that gives you an open loving ear helps immensely. So if you see me at Costco and recognize me, I will listen to you. I will let you get out everything you need to and let you know you have a very special brain that is stronger than a “normal” brain. If you are anything like me, you have a brain that has to work just a little harder which in turn makes us Superheroes!!!! So let's band together and use our new found super powers to fight off anxiety. By rerouting the speed and strength our brains omit on a daily basis towards finding self worth, I believe that anxiety will have less to hold onto. This is not a problem that will completely go away but with intention and repetition, I know we all can find peace.