[Trigger warning: this post is coming at you directly from the brain of someone with severe health anxiety. It’s likely to contain moderate catastrophizing, combined with a generous dose of total hysteria. Please look after your own mental health and give it a swerve if you suspect it’s likely to be triggering…]
When it comes to the Coronavirus outbreak, most people I know (or see online) seem to fall into one of two distinct groups:
01. People who are just too cool to be worried about it, and are wandering around insisting that, “It’s just the flu!”, almost as if the flu isn’t a horrible disease that kills thousands of people each year anyway.
02. Those of us who are basically Rex from Toy Story right now:
In my case … well, I think you all know me well enough by now to know that I am NOT “cool”, right? Like, that’s not a word that’s EVER been used to describe me. You also know that I haveand can be kind of an asshole sometimes, so it’ll come as no surprise to hear that I’ve basically spent the last few weeks desperately trying to convince my family that the end of the world is nigh, and we should be stockpiling resources as fast as we can right now. In doing this, I’ve had the best of intentions, obviously, but, ALSO like Rex from Toy Story…
(Actually, now I come to think about it, I guess there’s also a third group: those who are using humour to try to hide the fact that they’re ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED.)
So, yes, I’m Rex: pleased to meet you. Actually, I’m pretty much always Rex, but never more so than now, when every day – and sometimes every hour – seems to bring a terrifying new development in the spread of COVID-19 – or “The Killer Virus!” as the UK’s media insist on calling it: a development that’s hugely comforting to those of us already freaking the hell out, obviously.
I have four things to report here:
01. I really wish I hadn’t read The Stand as a teenager.
02. Or watched the movie Contagion.
03. I know Coronavirus doesn’t seem to involve zombies (SO FAR), but also kind of regretting all of those hours I devoted to The Walking Dead, tbh: I mean, I’d like to think it’s taught us something about how the world will be once the virus has done its worst (Again, probably – although not necessarily – minus the zombies…), but, time and time again, it’s been proven to me that, so maybe not?
04. I’m joking about this purely to ease you into the absolute hysteria that the rest of this post will contain. Because, make no mistake, people: I am scared witless right now. And I didn’t have too many wits to start with, so…
Seriously, though: there’s a LOT I could write about how the last few weeks have played out inside my head, but suffice it to say that I am NOT OK. In fact, I am very much Rex right now. It’s a tricky thing, though, trying to keep health anxiety in check while the world teeters on the edge of a pandemic. Unlike many of the other health-related things I’ve worried about, no one can assure me that this is all in my head, or that there’s absolutely no risk: in fact, every time I switch on the TV (Which automatically comes on to a news station) or look at social media, I’m practically guaranteed to see something to confirm my impression that THE END IS NIGH.
Today, for instance, BBC news carries the headlines, “What are the chances of dying from Coronavirus?” “What’s the risk to your baby?”and “Unexplained Coronavirus cases raise fears in US.” (Also the headline, “I’ve never seen a snake eating a towel.” That has absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic, btw, I just couldn’t not mention it…) It’s almost as if the media is ALSO currently suffering from health anxiety, and as it’s not particularity realistic to expect those of us who are triggered by it to avoid it all completely (I’ve dialled back my news consumption to just BBC and Sky News, but I can’t totally close myself off from the world. Or not yet, anyway…) it’s …. well, it’s a tough time to be suffering from anxiety, basically.
So while you’ve been happily going about your business as usual, I’ve been quietly preparing myself for the End Times: mourning the loss of life as we know it, and buying jars of peanut butter – because you could survive on that stuff for a long time, apparently.
While you’ve been sleeping soundly at night, I’ve been lying awake worrying about what will happen to my toddler if his parents and grandparents all end up sick and/or hospitalised at the same time; and while you’ve been assuring yourself that it’s OK, because “It only kills people who are sick or elderly!” I’ve been having panic attacks at the thought that my husband and parents all fall into those groups (And, OK, my husband is immunocompromised rather than “sick”, and my parents would kill me faster than the coronavirus would if I dared to describe them as “elderly”, but you get what I mean…), and what if I’m the last one standing?
The only thing helping with all of this relentless anxiety?
HAHA, JOKE. Of COURSE it’s not freaking yoga, I mean, seriously,?
No, it’s simply being prepared – or as prepared as you can be in this kind of situation, which is to say, not very.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m pretty far from being. (No shade, though: I’m pretty sure this guy really WILL be the last one standing…). For the past few weeks, though, we have been adding a few essentials to our regular shop every week – mostly in the form of tinned/dry goods that we’ll use up anyway if this whole thing comes to nothing, but which would be handy to have in a situation where we have to self-isolate/The End comes. We’ve not gone crazy with it, because, with limited space and budget (Our freezer, for instance, has just two drawers, both of which are usually filled with ice cream…), we just can’t afford to, but I’ve learned from bitter experience that the only thing that ever really helps with my health anxiety is actually doing something to make me feel a bit more prepared for whatever it is I’m worrying about – and, in this situation, it’s all I really CAN do.
As well as some extra food, I’ve also stocked up on hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial screen wipes (Clean your phones, people! There’s no point in washing your hands constantly if you then just go and pick up your germ-ridden phone, is there?), plus other essentials like nappies, Calpol, medications, etc. It sounds absolutely nuts when you write it down, but … ooh! Nuts! That’s another one to add to the list! BRB…
Anyway, because I know the “It’s just the flu!” brigade have been having lots of fun mocking those of us who are scared out of our wits at the moment, I’m going to wind this one up for now. I’d really like to know, though: which of those two groups I talked about at the start of this post do YOU fall into? Are you just muttering “Keep Calm and Carry On,” under your breath, while telling everyone you don’t understand the fuss… or are you Rex?
If you’re in the second group, come and talk to me: we can all be anxious together.
If you’re in the first group, meanwhile, BE MORE REX. Now, I’m not telling you to panic here, obviously – just that I worry that it’s the people who are completely unconcerned who’ll end up spreading it, and I really don’t want to have to say, “I told you so,” here. So, wash your hands, folks: or the anxious really will end up inheriting the earth – and if that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will…