Living with a generalised anxiety disorder is tough on a good day, never mind when there’s a worldwide pandemic going on. I have been coping with my generalised anxiety disorder for the guts of five years and thanks to therapy, journaling and reading, I felt like I was managing my disorder reasonably well. Of course, I’ve had my fair share of mental health wobbles, but accepting that there will always be bad days is one thing that helped me a lot.
However, I wasn’t prepared for months and months of bad days. The world has been swept up in a never-ending negative news reel and sadly, it doesn’t look like it is going to end anytime soon. I’m not being negative here, I’m just being realistic.
Naturally, like millions of others, I have felt unbearably worried about the current crisis. I’m worried about my grandparents, my mam who has a heap of medical issues, my friends, my sisters and everyone in between. It is an awfully scary time and my anxious mind is excelling during it.
Anxiety thrives on fear, which makes the current pandemic and my disorder the worst duo. When Leo Varadkar addressed the nation in March, I instantly fell into a dark hole of fear, worry and distress. My mind let loose and every negative thought that had been tucked away was suddenly whizzing around, but I knew this couldn’t continue. As we enter our second month of this pandemic in Ireland, I realised that these feelings, this panic, the Covid-19 crisis is temporary. I tell myself this every single day, especially when I'm feeling more overwhelmed than usual.
One thing that has helped is Matt Haig's book Reasons To Stay Alive.
I thought of a quote by Matt Haig that has been a huge source of comfort to me, especially on the bad days.
“You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”
It helped me remember that this is temporary. The anxious feelings, the fear and the constant worrying will be a distant memory one day. The loneliness, the lack of human touch and the distance will fade into the back of our minds and be replaced by happier memories. We will be able to hug friends, kiss boyfriends, go to the cinema, breathe in the sea air, drink tea at nanny's house, meet friends for coffee, attend weddings, have pints with old college pals and live, actually live the life that we're all desperately missing.
This is a horrible chapter for the entire world, but it will end.
For now, we will stay indoors, practice social distancing and wash our hands. We will do this for the sake of our frontline workers who are risking so much more than we are. This chapter will come to an end one day and that is something we all need to hold onto during these trying times.