I’ve written this post to describe what anxiety is like for me. Everyone is completely unique, anxiety affects everyone differently as well and this is my own experience and isn’t representative of all sufferers. I have written this post firstly to process my emotions for myself but also to share what it can be like for me to do seemingly simple things that can easily spiral out of control.
We are currently experiencing something that I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined and life as we know it has changed, maybe forever and it’s very daunting for us all. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this, you may want to cry, shout, be angry or happy and that is all OK. You might be using time in isolation or distancing to self improve, learn to meditate, exercise, get crafty, write a novel or read. Or (like me) you might have days where you don’t want to get up or get dressed and just stay on the sofa watching daytime TV. All of that is OK!
I have been self isolating now for four weeks as because I have asthma and am classed as vulnerable I’m going to be isolating for 12 weeks. My finance is also currently working from home so I have his company as well as our little dog which I am grateful for. We are both very lucky in that our jobs are protected, we are still earning an income but are able to stay home and stay safe. We are incredibly lucky to be in the situation we are and I am thankful everyday for that.
I’ve always been very open and honest about having anxiety and with what is happening in the world, I am having some really bad days. I get anxious about an awful lot of things but health anxiety is a big thing I suffer with. I can’t even feel slightly queasy without getting into a panic and following a strict ritual of safety behaviors so that (in my mind) the situation doesn’t get worse and worse. Worrying about getting this virus is keeping me awake at night, stopping me from leaving the house for a walk and even making me scared to go into my garden. My anxiety sadly doesn’t just affect me but also my fiance. I panic about him going for a run or walking the dog and if he harmlessly coughs my mind goes into a spiral and I struggle to cope.
Because of all of this, we have had all of our food shopping delivered to our house. The drivers are fantastic doing what they are doing, putting everything on our doorstep and stepping to the bottom of the drive way before we open the door. Seemingly it’s easy enough to take everything into the house and put it all away in the cupboards, wash our hands and carry on with our day. Sadly not.
In the hour before the delivery is due, I start by prepping our kitchen (our house is open plan and the front door leads straight into the kitchen) ready for the food. I have a bottle of diluted disinfectant and a cloth ready to wipe everything down, a clear table for ‘processing’ and a bin bag for any rubbish. I also spend a good 10 to 15 minutes briefing my fiance on how everything will go and what each of us will do. It takes less organisation to plan a holiday! (Lets dream of that in the future). It may seem easier to let J do the unpacking as he isn’t anxious about it all and will be able to stay calm however, with my anxiety comes a need for control. If I do it, I know exactly how it has been done, what’s been wiped and how thoroughly and that makes me feel more calm that letting go of the control. J is amazing and listens, helps and does what I need to keep me calm even though it is way overboard.
The driver arrives, everything is on our doorstep and he retreats back before I start to take it all in. I put everything just inside the front door for stage one, unpacking. I take everything out of the carrier bags and unpack any outer packaging I can such as cereal boxes or packaged fruit and vegetables. (I am a bit advocate for reducing waste and using plastic free but right now protecting food is taking over in my mind.) I open the box and J takes the item out without touching the outer packaging or me and it goes on the table. Once all the packaging is removed, I spray my cloth and wipe everything so it is damp and disinfected and it goes onto the table. Next, J opens the back door and I take the rubbish out, we both wash our hands then I hoover the floor where the shopping was and spray it with disinfectant as well and leave to dry. Once the disinfectant is dry on the shopping, everything gets put away into the cupboards, fridge and freezer and I disinfect the table, put the cloths and towels on to wash and we wash our hands again.
Seems long winded and maybe unnecessarily thorough but mentally I’m still not done. My mind is still racing thinking about disinfecting the kitchen, wiping down the benches, cupboards, table and floor. Have I cleaned everything properly? Did I miss anything when I unpacked or not wash my hands well enough? Was the virus on something and has is floated into the air or landed on my hand? I go upstairs (followed by J as he can see I’m on edge) and wash my hands again. I stand in the bathroom and ask him if he thinks I need to shower or change my clothes or if I’ve cleaned anything properly. He says I should do anything I need to make myself feel calm but to try not to go to excess. I can feel panic sweeping my body, I start to feel flushed and shaky and my eyes fill with tears. I end up cleaning my legs where I had been kneeling on the floor unpacking everything, changing my clothes and washing my hands two more times. My mind settles slightly but I still go over everything I’ve done for the next hour.
I will keep going over everything for probably the next week, thinking about it in my head and trying to work out if I have done enough. One of the benefits about my anxiety is that I have a need to know all the information I can about a situation. As a result, I have read and learned as much as I can about this virus, how it spreads, behaves and how it can be killed. A lot of the things I think and do, I know aren’t in line with how the virus behaves, for example it can’t rise up and float into the air from a surface. But part of my brain still thinks it can. Over time, I will feel more and more calm about the delivery until the next time we need food.
I also wanted to share this because I don’t want anyone to feel alone if they are in the same situation and feeling similar things or worse. Please talk to someone, make sure you have support because this is an awful thing to try and fight alone. Ring someone, text someone and make the most of any charities that can help if you don’t have anyone to talk to or you don’t feel you can open up to people you know.
Above all, please stay safe and look after yourselves.