Jesska Denise is an Irish beauty, fashion and lifestyle blog

16.3.20

Remaining Calm When the World Has Begun to Panic

jesskadenise anxiety

My biggest fear in life (after spiders), is the end of the world as we know it. Irrational. I know. Trust me. I have been over this multiple times in my life. When I was younger and I was convinced we were all going to die because it rained a little harder than usual. When I watched The Day After Tomorrow and Contagion and was without a doubt certain that either would be our faith in life. When I heard the old age tale about 2012 and how we were all to meet our impending doom that one faithful day in December 2012. To more recently, two and a half years ago when I became sick with fear. I was convinced, no matter how many people told me otherwise, that life was ending. I was watching the news and scrolling through Twitter and reading various news articles, and my irrational long term anxious mind made a connection between all these very separate events. The world was ending and I was certain of it. The earthquake in Mexico in September 2017, the ridiculous number of hurricanes in September. Everything. I was so wired into the world that for whatever reason, this all made sense to me. The world was ending and I didn't know what to do about it. The signs were there. Everyone was ignoring it. I thought my friends and family were all going to perish in some nightmarish disaster and that I couldn't leave them. I didn't want to be away from them in case something did happen. So many thoughts entered my mind and it was so unbelievably exhausting.

This took over my life for the guts of three weeks. Three weeks of hysterical phone calls to my friends. Texts to my cousin. Crying in work. Unsettled. Hypersensitive to every noise. I was a nightmare to be around. I admire my friends for putting up with me at the time. I was so driven by fear. Something was coming. I could feel it. I spent half my days internally freaking out. Shaking. I couldn't eat out of fear. I kept it to myself other than the calls and texts. Tried to hold myself together. I became afraid to leave the house, other than for work. How I made it to work is a miracle in itself. My anxiety stepped up to another level that resulted in me having to take medication to come back to myself. Two years of medication to get me functioning again minus anxiety. Anorexia isn't a character in this story but it's certainly an accomplice. I'm still unwinding myself from it to this very day.

This is why now, that we're in the midst of this Coronavirus outbreak that I feel like I am living through the motions of my own irrational fear. Only, now it isn't irrational. It is very real and unavoidable. I have dreaded this since the start of January when I read that first innocent article on the DM about two people in Wuhan and their connection to the market in December. At the time I thought it was interesting, I bookmarked it to my brain. Keep an eye on this. This could be something you need to worry about. Normally when I read things like that, nothing comes of it. But then more articles came. And then the noise around Wuhan increased, and then the talk seeped into normal conversation and suddenly this was no longer an innocent DM article that my anxious brain bookmarked for just incase. This was a very real problem. This was the stuff from my worst nightmares. Yet now I'm not the only one panicking. Everyone is.

Up until the virus hit Ireland I was more panicked. I went to Copenhagen and it was on my mind. Going through the airport. Being surrounded by so many people from all over the world. In Longford, I was safe, but Copenhagen and the airports were new territories. I dealt with it. I always deal with it. Because in my head, I'm being irrational, illogical, driven by anxiety and unwarranted fear. We laughed about it sitting in the airport when a child coughed right on top of us. It was easier to wipe it off as a joke. The Irish attitude of sure it will be grand very much in force. And then Italy happened. And then Coronavirus invited itself into our country alongside an unsuspecting individual and things got a little more serious. Work got a little more serious. We had procedures. More hand sanitizer than physically necessary, but they wanted to protect us. This panicked me slightly. I've always considered work a safe place from the goings-on of the world, but this threw me. But we joked. It was fine. If anything the virus coming into the country terrified me less, because then I knew. It was no longer a what-if scenario. The enemy was here and we just needed to deal with it.

Then everyone started panicking, the people in my life who are normally so calm and collected, no longer so calm and collected. I wasn't allowing myself to freak out too much, because, to me, this sort of thing until recently was a very real, albeit illogical, fear. I had always been reassured that I was overthinking things too much, nothing like my worst fears would ever happen. I was being stupid. Overreacting. I needed to calm down. Yet here we are. The world is erupting in panic. Life 7 days ago is still within reach but now it feels like a lifetime ago. My worst fear a week ago was eating Wagamama's. Can you imagine how much of a luxury that feels like now? That my worst fear was anorexia driven. Can't eat out twice in 48hrs Jess! If only I knew what was around the corner. I might not be allowed to leave my house for two weeks never mind being subjected to eating out with two separate people on two separate occasions. I crave the simplicity of those worries because now I'm worried about my family and friends, my neighbors. Myself. Food is still a worry but God, does it seem so miniature now. Not to belittle my own illness, because it is still a massive struggle.

A month ago we were throwing a baby shower, and now I'm face timing my niece because her safety and my unborn nephew's safety comes first. Work is closed. My mental health appointments canceled. Regular service has been interrupted, please do not go about your daily life is the message. And yet, this terrifies me more than getting coronavirus. I'm scared to be trapped in my house. I'm scared that I'll slip back into something I clawed my way out of. I'm scared that my eating disorder will latch onto this, see it as an excuse to reduce my intake due to lack of activity. I was finally beginning to be more spontaneous in my life. I was you could say, living, for the first time in years and as pathetic as it seems, I'm angry that it's being taken away from me. I know so many people are lapping up staying at home, self-isolating, again, the Irish course of action of sure it's grand. But it's not? It's like that crazy limbo between Christmas and New Year. A limbo, I despise. I know it's all for safety, to protect us all. But this interruption from usual life is making me feel sick. I ache for routine. I am my own worst enemy. I find it hard to stay at home. I like to be run ragged. I like to be busy to the point I'm giving out about it. I'm addicted to the chaos of my routine. Much better than I used to be, though I still need that certainty.

Though the most surprising thing? I am prepared for this. I know how to survive the panic and impending doom we're all feeling right now because I've felt this before. I've lived this fear. I've battled this fight when the opponent didn't exist, now it does. Everyone has said to me, you're surprisingly calm. Surprisingly calm for me that is. I am still anxious. I am not sleeping. But I am in control right now and that's because I know my triggers. I know what to avoid.

Those of you right now panicking? This is new. You've never experienced this mass hysteria, although mine has always been a solo hysteria, I get it. It's consuming. We live in a world that is so disgustingly connected. Which is a fantastic thing, but right now it isn't. It's detrimental to our mental health to be this clued into the crisis. It's overwhelming. We refresh our feeds and there's something new. There will always be something new because that is the world we live in. If you're reading this you want to know how to remain calm. That's a question I had for my therapist last week which inspired me to write this 'How can I stay calm when everyone else is panicking?'. The basis for my question? It's usually only me panicking, it's easy to get sucked into what everyone else is feeling but it doesn't have to be a reality for you. He had no definitive answer, to be fair, Thursday afternoon I was pretty wired with anxiety. I was hopping.

What I do know is things that have helped me before, two years ago when it suffocated me, things I started reimplementing last week after a tricky day.

  • Log off social media - no seriously. Social media has its benefits but its also the biggest spreader of fake news, and scaremongering. Everyone is freaking out so they're airing it on the internet. It is difficult to just logout. We rely on it for so much, but at this point in time, if you are struggling with all this info and talk of Coronavirus. Log the hell out. It will be the best thing you do for yourself. Given the way algorithm works, Facebook and the likes are going to think this is what you want to see if you've clicked on a few stories. It's honestly so freeing to just not enter that room.
  • Stop accessing the news - yes, some news is important. Clicking onto 7 different news sites within an hour and refreshing constantly for some sort of update is not important. Stick to the RTÉ news if you're Irish. 30mins of news. 5mins slot on Coronavirus. Everything you need to know will be there. You don't need to know every snippet of information from around the world. You're protecting yourself. If you're concerned you'll miss out on something you absolutely need to know, ask a friend to pass it on. That's what I did, and then when the schools shut on Thursday I found that out from a reliable source.
  • Develop a new routine - life is going to be different for the next few weeks. Let's face it. It is what it is. Get up in the morning. Get dressed. Read a book. Plan how you'll spend your day. Any chores that need doing. I think its important to get up and get dressed, I know we're not going anywhere, but it will help you still feel normal. I don't know about you but I despise sitting about in PJs all day so I know if I did that it would just make me feel more off.
  • Spend time wisely - We have been given a gift. That's how I'm trying to approach it. Time off from our usually busy lives. That room you've been thinking of decluttering? The table you want to upcycle? Now is the time. You have no reason to put it off. You're not going to be going anywhere else, they're closed. I know its easy to sit and think of all the things you could be doing but think of how rewarding it will feel to know you've finally cracked that to-do list.
  • Talk to friends - it sucks that we can't physically hang out but hey, at least we got WhatsApp and Facetime. If you're feeling isolated and lonely, chances are your friends are too. Better yet, watch something together. My cousin and I used to do this all the time when she lived in Malta. We watched Riverdale weekly together. We set up Netlfix, called each other and then tried our absolute best to hit play at the same time. It's nice.
  • Mind your mental health - take a bath Chandler Bing would envy. Listen to a jamming playlist on spotify. Paint your nails. Write down how you're feeling. Go for a walk away from others to follow social distancing guidelines. Be kind to yourself. For those who take medication, make sure you're taking it as prescribed. Reach out if you need to. A lot of services aren't allowing face to face appointments, but there are great services you can access online. If you have an Eating Disorder, Bodywhys have online support services here.
I absolutely cannot wait for life to go back to normal, I'm the type of person who goes crazy being off work sick. So I am weary of all this supposed free time ahead of me. But it's important we follow what the HSE recommend so we not only protect ourselves but those around us who are vulnerable. It isn't forever, I know you're thinking but how do I know that? and well, I don't but that's something I have to keep telling myself right now because I cant dare think of any alternative. Feel free to email me or contact me on Instagram if you need @JesskaDenise .x



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