Disclaimer: This article was written prior to the announcement made by Boris Johnson on Monday 23rd March.
Hi. I’m a human. I’m a student. And I’m an expat. And these are three of about a million factors causing me to live with high functioning anxiey. And unless you’ve been hiding in a submarine with a broken radio, and a general will to ignore all existential matters, then you know about the big C word hanging off eeeeeveryone’s lips, and clinging at many people’s lungs.
If you are in a similar situation of being prone to anxiety, then you know. You know what it’s like to have to explain – or choose not to – why this pandemic is really eating at you from the inside and making you feel like you went from swimming against the current to trying to run a marathon against a tsunami without a drop of coffee. It’s not just the health anxiety, the ‘what if I’m one of these young cases who will end up in intensive care?‘; it’s also everything around it. For those of you who have eco-anxiety, or get up every morning wondering how global economics are still functioning and how the hell is such a delicate balance still going on and why life and why the universe, you may be worrying about all this possibly crashing down earlier than planned. Almost expecting it, even. You might be carrying this weight around, of the possibility of believing such an apocalyptic era could start tomorrow. And even if you know deep inside that, if you fall ill with Covid-19, you will be alright, you might still be experiencing this tightness in your chest, this growing feeling of doom at the idea that maybe your family, your loved ones, won’t. I know I do.
My family is in France. You might know this land for its over four hundred cheeses (not a joke, we really need that many and no amount is enough)and its rich wines. But today, it is known as the third European country to virtually stop functioning. Schools are shut. People who can bypass presence at work are sent home. And now, restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas, everything but pharmacies, hospitals and supermarkets (and tobacco sellers, because the biggest tragedy would be having to go into quarantine without the daily cigarette… pack). It’s likely borders will be shut sometime next week. Not only is it a good occasion to jump to the conclusion that England will be in the same position within a few weeks, to think that any social life here might become non-existent and that pasta will be an extinct species, but also to just panic about every little thing that could go wrong while you’re here, and not there. And boy, does it feel lonely.
So to sum it up, it’s a fun time to be a human being. That is, even more so than usual, if you’re into that sort of weekly existential crisis.
But even though it feels – and definitely looks like it – you are not alone. And most people want it to get better, and will probably spend an insane amount of energy on getting everything back to normal once the tsunami is over. It is so easy to give advice, when in this situation any external attempt at rationalisation is either blocked by one’s mental state or perceived as something one is failing at, feels guilty about, triggering the cycle of feeling worthless. Far from not being fun, the heightened unknown caused by this situation might feel excruciating for some. But everything eventually improves for the better. It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to go in survival mode. Crises rise and fall, and life goes back to its natural flow eventually. So, in the meantime, take care of yourselves, eat that chocolate, download those meditation apps and do anything and everything you want and need to accept and integrate that part of you so that it doesn’t devour you. Focus on the little miracles that pop up from this ridiculously what the f-esque situation, and let the little joys and reliefs take more space in your head. In the end, this too shall pass.