In early to mid March 2020, I was trying very hard not to panic about coronavirus spreading around the world. Yes, there were a few cases in the UK, but I told myself that they were being monitored and isolated. It would surely come to nothing more.
Then the news that Italy had gone into lockdown sent me into a tailspin. I was almost hyperactive, constantly smiling, laughing and pretending I wasn’t at all worried about coronavirus, but panicking inside.
In 2017, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. I knew that coronavirus was going to test me on all I had learnt since then.
A deep anxiety continued as the UK entered a national lockdown, then began to emerge on the other side. With the UK nations now setting different rules to each other, anxiety ramped up another notch. What was right for the country? Plus, what was right for me?
Everyone had an opinion on the right thing to do; attitudes seemed to vary from “coronavirus is gone” to “we are still shielding”. “You need to live your life and support the economy, more people die in traffic accidents!” versus “it’s dangerous out there and you don’t want to harm vulnerable people”.
The community spirit created when we volunteered to do our neighbours’ shopping and clapped for the NHS seemed to evaporate. Now it was all about blaming others for spreading the virus and judging people for staying in or going out too much.
Don’t even get me started on the emotions I felt when I thought of the deaths caused by the virus, and the thousands of families left bereaved.
At my worst, I have woken up in the middle of the night, restless with worry and gasping back sobs. I spoke to my doctor a couple of times.
On top of this tumult, when case numbers began to rise again, was it any wonder that my anxiety did too? I wondered, should we have stayed home for longer? We were told to support the economy, but if we did that then someone was there to say we didn’t care about human lives. I agonised back and forth in my mind. Did having a meal in a pub make me a bad person?
With no end in sight to the pandemic amidst several local lockdowns, I have found a routine of some kind. What I long for though are the days where I don’t question, did I put enough hand gel on? What if the mask makes me panic? Did I stand too close to that man earlier?
My mind isn’t a tap that can be turned off.
Perhaps most of all, I wish we wouldn’t be so judgemental of others’ choices as we all navigate these strange times.
Conflicting emotions, new rules to follow, stressing over the rules, questioning my actions and feeling guilty about them… These aren’t on the coronavirus symptom list, but they’ve definitely been caused by it.