There is no escape.
My television has only shown lighthearted shows or comedy movies, and only the stand-up comedy channels on SiriusXM are being played. I ignore the torrent of emails from news organizations that flood my inbox, and social media has been avoided.
But there is no eluding the anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
No going to shops to distract the mind with a lust for objects, no going to bars to quench a thirst for relief, no meeting up with friends for respite.
There are other ways to shut down the mind and, at least for a little while, elude the anxiety. But not when your job has been totally consumed by the pandemic.
The only words I have written in weeks are related to the COVID-19. I have heard the fear, and sometimes heartache, in the voice of business owners who face a grim future. I have listened to employees wonder how they are going to get along with no paycheck with rent payments lingering largely over their heads. I have heard from those who have contracted the virus, and the serious message they have for all the world to hear.
Sure, there are happy stories as well. The makeshift celebrations amid social distancing or those doing their part to help others. Though these strike a much different chord than articles outlining the health crisis and/or its subsequent economic crunch, there is still no relief from the coronavirus.
Truth is, though, I have it easy in so many ways.
As I write this, my family and I are all in good health. I’m still earning a paycheck. My job is not on the frontlines of the medical field, where healthcare workers witness the tragedy of this pandemic each day.
Unfortunately, anxiety does not let you see the positives for long.
Sure, no one I know has contracted COVID-19 yet, but the number of cases is rising rapidly. What if I get it? What if I spread it to my wife or daughter? What if one of us has a serious case requiring hospitalization? And hell, even if I get a mild case, the virus scares me senseless.
At the same time Georgia had its first confirmed cases, I had a sinus infection come back after a round of antibiotics. Every cough sent a rush of fear through my body, and I checked my temperature every hour. The thermometer has stayed in my pocket for three weeks now.
Even if I and those close to me stay healthy, will I still have a job in two months? My Twitter feed has been full of seeing good reporters and editors laid off, and I can’t help the thoughts that I could be the next one putting out a heartfelt string of tweets thanking this community.
This is not a “woe is me” opinion piece, nor is it me patting myself on the back for working through anxiety. Rather, I want to say it is okay to have anxiety, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around two years ago, I experienced my first anxiety attack, which was almost as surprising as it was harrowing.
I am an easy-going guy most of the time. I never have anxiety aside from the normal, day-to-day worries. I am happy. This is what I told the doctor, feeling ashamed that she was going to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication.
I have since come to accept my mental health issue.
The world is reeling from a physical health crisis, but even those who are physically well have been bombarded with worry. The past few weeks have been frightening, and the upcoming weeks and months will still be daunting.
Whether or not you have anxiety issues, it is okay to be scared. It is okay to worry. This is perhaps the most significant worldwide event of our lifetime.
Most of us will get through this unscathed physically, but we should also try and avoid the traumatization to our mental state by finding our escape where we can.