What I'm doing about my pandemic anxiety

Something in me has broken, and now I am cracked, open and vulnerable. For the first time yesterday, I set my armor of humor aside and sat with the fact that, as a high-risk person, I am scared. I am scared not because I think coronavirus will kill me; I am scared that it will incapacitate me for any time at all, that it will place a huge burden on my family. I am scared that I will have to be kept away from my child. I don’t think I have it, but I’m scared that if I get it, this will be the outcome.

In November 2018, I had walking pneumonia. It was miserable. If that’s what a “mild” case of pneumonia is, I don’t want to know what a moderate one feels like. My husband, W., was out of town, I was on my own with my kid, M. I don’t know why I didn’t seek out more help from my family. W. came home and we almost immediately set out for Charleston as a family; I could have stayed home with M. by myself for a few more days, but that didn’t really sound like convalescing. So with what my doctor had said was inflammation but not yet infection (this was before the walking pneumonia diagnosis), I traipsed about Charleston with my kid. Our last day there, at breakfast, my lungs actually started feeling wet and gurgly inside them. I made an appointment to see my doctor as soon as we got home. (I was past the worst of the coughing at this point, so I thought I was on the mend. Ha.)

I came home, she diagnosed me with walking pneumonia, gave me some antibiotics, and an order for an x-ray if I didn’t start improving in the next couple of days. I took ONE DAY to stay in bed all day, and then felt like I better get back to helping with my kid, since he is basically my only family responsibility and it never feels great to me to ask the person who provides 85% of our income, cleans, does laundry, does dishes, and does yardwork to take on more childcare than he normally does. (He’s basically primary caregiver on weekends, too. He is remarkable.) I don’t think it was apparent to anyone else except maybe my mom how sick I was. Including M. and W. I think they thought I was a little unwell.

I got better, though pneumonia - even walking pneumonia - takes several weeks before you get as strong as you were before. And I don’t think I ever really got close to my pre-pneumonia level of strength and energy (which itself was not that great, because chronic illness). My lungs still feel a bit wobbly whenever I get anything respiratory.

I don’t want to feel like I did then.

I also am increasingly believing that the current disruption to life which has led me to be a stay-at-home mom more and a scholar less is going to continue for longer than I originally anticipated. And it’s kind of hard to feel like cosplay research is important right now (though honestly, it’s actually information literacy research and that feels VERY important right now). So I’m re-evaluating what I want to direct my attention to right now.

I’m not doing great with combatting social isolation. My introversion combined with flare up/world state low energy makes me less likely to initiate communication, so I’ve been trying to stay connected in more passive ways. But my efforts to stay connected, which have consisted mostly of scrolling Micro.blog and Twitter, have now driven me into middle-of-the-night anxiety spirals, so I’m taking action to disrupt those. Here are the things I’m doing.

Getting my news once per day via email. I get The Skimm for national and world news, the Indy Primer for local news (though it also covers national and world news), and the Wired coronavirus update for coronavirus-specific news.

Only looking at notifications/mentions. I am not going to scroll Twitter or Micro.blog anymore, as each time I do it throws me into an anxiety spiral. I’m only looking directly at my notifications or mentions. I have pinned these pages in Firefox as top sites, so I can go to them without having to navigate timelines or feeds to get to the notifications/mentions.

Consciously connecting with communities I know will alleviate my anxiety. Mostly, this is Kim Werker’s Community of Creative Adventurers right now.

Committing to doing more with my hands and living in my body. In the middle of the night, a balm for my anxiety came over me: GARDEN. This works on a couple levels, because gardening is a soothing activity, and also because I’m in this panicked near-survivalist mindset and if I can garden, I can learn to grow my own food, and then it won’t matter if the grocery store doesn’t have strawberries. (Obviously that’s a more long-term outcome, but I’m feeling pretty dire right now.) So I got out my copy of You Grow Girl and visited Gayla Trail’s blog, where I found a blog post from her that perfectly echoed my mindset. So this is where I’m at right now.

Watching Muppets Most Wanted with my kid as many times as he wants. It’s bizarre to me that he prefers this to the 2011 The Muppets, but whatever. This song, in particular, delights me every time. (Also, Tina Fey. Tina Fey delights me as well.)

Kimberly Hirsh @kimberlyhirsh