I used to think that my anxiety was at it’s worst in certain social situations. In large crowds, among people I didn’t know, going places I was unfamiliar with.
In the last few weeks, I have come to find that it is actually situations that are outside of my control that cause my anxiety to spike. So imagine my surprise when COVID-19 started to spread, and the world began to shut down. I watched as other countries suffered immensely, and shut down to slow the spread of disease. When the United States started to become effected, and my home state became the epicenter of the spread, my world came to a standstill. My job shifted to remote work from home. My children’s school closed, sent work home and set up online learning. All nonessential businesses closed.
And my anxiety increased to epic proportions. On top of the stress of not knowing what would happen around the world, I now had to care for my two children full time, help them with their school work, work full time, and try to keep up on the disaster that those three things turned my house into.
I felt like a giant was sitting on my chest. Like a fist was wrapped around my throat, slowly tightening to limit my air supply. It was like someone chained weights around my ankles, so heavy that it hurt to simply move about during the day.
I thought being able to stay home, away from the threat of disease and danger, would help me to feel safe. A sense of relief from the anxiety that others on the front lines would feel day in and day out as they fought this epidemic. Yet I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the fact that I still had no control over my life.
I realized that my anxiety had nothing to do with the people I was with or the places I had been in before. It’s all about feeling in control. When I can be in control of my life around me, I can keep my anxiety at bay. But when the world around me is spinning out of control, I have no way to reign in the feelings of fear.
I fear that the disease will find my family. I fear that I will not be good enough to manage my time well between my work and my family without the division of time and space. I fear that my children will resent having me as their teacher for the rest of this school year. I fear that I will let go of all of my hope. I fear that my dreams and goals will be overshadowed by tragedy.
I fear that I am letting my fear take over my life.