With the exception of a snarky photo I posted, I’ve written how I’ve been feeling anxious over the last few weeks, but how I knew it had very little, if anything to do with COVID-19, which I’m now using in writing, because I found out it stood for Coronavirus Disease 2019, which sounds way more official.
My last bit of anxiety was last Thursday night, when my wife came home from work and said that she heard we might want to buy a bit of extra toilet paper. She wasn’t really phased with the hype because she works at a doctor’s office and the doctor she trusts the most told her not to worry about it too much last week. Most people who visit that office have a doomsday story to tell even in the best of times, and she doesn’t follow a lot of news, so she didn’t understand the shift in a lot of people’s demeanor from “this is nothing” to “this is a very big deal” when, within minutes, the President made his first nationwide address and the NBA cancelled its season.
So she went out and purchased the toilet paper and came back telling me that she couldn’t believe how crazy things were in public. I tried to explain to her that the tone of America changed hugely in the last 24 hours, but she didn’t understand it and I actually said, “You don’t get how serious this is to everybody now.” I don’t know why, but it’s like my anxiety lifted after that.
On Friday, around lunch, she called and was audibly shaken. That same doctor who said it wouldn’t be a big deal a week earlier had changed his tune. He started talking worst case scenarios, both in Maine and the United States and the kind of lives we could potentially need to live in the next month or two, and it was bleak. It really scared the hell out of my wife. She said she’d handle grocery shopping after work but I should go buy enough pet food for a few weeks.
By that point, the grocery store was pretty empty of the large sized bags that when you have three dogs and three cats, you need to buy. So I went to the fancier pet store and paid way too much ($130) for a month’s supply of dog food, cat food, kitty litter and a few dog treats. At least if we have to resort to cannibalism, we can start with our well-fed pets.
She got home from the grocery store that night $300 lighter. What’s actually kind of funny is that we already had a month’s worth of food in the house. Her dad didn’t have a lot when he was little, so when he had a family and could finally afford it, he kept their house well-stocked and she’s always done that. But now, we have even more, and I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry although I can tell I’m going to lose my taste for Kraft Mac and Cheese if this thing goes on too long.
Since she works in a respiratory doctor’s office next door to a hospital, she’s not going to have to worry about being put off work. Even if normal patients with things like asthma and COPD stop coming in, they expect to be very busy as COVID-19 testing kits become available.
She’ll spend her days at work, my daughter’s college has gone online for the rest of the semester and today, my son’s school district called things off for at least two weeks. I have a feeling life is going to seem very, very different come Monday and its only going to get weirder as the days go on.
Ironically, I feel like I’m going to be the least-effected person I know next to my retired parents. I’ve been working from home for the last five years and my workflow doesn’t show signs that it’s going to be altered very much. Maybe that’s why my anxiety doesn’t feel as strong. For most of my readership, we’re introverted, anxiety-ridden, mentally ill, self-imposed shut-ins anyway…now the other half gets to see how we live. We’re more prepared for this than anybody! While the numbers of those who may get infected is certainly scary, I think a lot of anxiety out there is about people’s lives being disrupted. Most of the people I talk to on here? I think our lives are among the least shaken. Funny how things work out.
I can’t really say anything about COVID-19 that hasn’t already been said by that kindly gray-haired doctor who seems to be on every TV channel simultaneously. These are times when people usually step up to the challenge. Take care of each other and don’t forget the joy in life like those Italian people signing on their balconies with each other who are in quarantine. That’s true community.
And yes, I will admit that a week ago, I wasn’t taking this as seriously, like many weren’t.
I have a coping mechanism through getting through hard times aside from just detaching. It’s reframing. Try to look at these times not as scary, but interesting.
We’ve heard about these kinds of things in other places, in other times, but never thought they would happen to us, like we were too evolved with our technology and could put one over on Mother Nature. We don’t know what happens next, but we do know we’re living through history.
Whether it was 9/11, the Challenger exploding, or JFK being shot, we remember where we were when pivotal moments in history happen. This is one of those moments. Write down your thoughts, record what is happening so those after you can feel what it’s like to experience whatever we’re about to go through. Most of us live our lives with our heads down, going day-to-day with little variation. We can’t stop things like this from happening, but we can observe with fascination. Things may not be so bad, or they may get very, very bad. But we’re all about to have a unique, yet shared experience.
I hate to say this because it makes me sound more mentally ill than I am, but I think my anxiety may have been jolted by the adrenaline that things are very spontaneous and unknown right now. It’s got to be a chemical reaction and I may be singing a different tune in a few days, but for now, I have supplies, I have my family, I have multiple means of getting information. I’m ready for what’s next. Try to keep it as positive as possible.