Living Through a Pandemic With Anxiety
To say that the past year and 4 months has been filled with anxiety doesn't even explain in the slightest what it's been like for me and many others that face the battle with anxiety daily. I'm just starting to share openly with others about how I've coped with anxiety my whole life. It's not something I've ever been open about, but I've dealt with each day silently, while in my room, in a bathroom, or privately writing in my journals. In the past year with COVID changing every aspect of our lives and the fear it has created for people it's only increased the feelings of anxiety for those of us that battle it. I know others are living through the same feelings and which has made me want to be more open so others know that they're not alone. I believe it may also help someone realize what it is they've been going through. Anxiety is real and it can be debilitating.
Looking back I've realized I've battled anxiety from the time I was a little girl. I've learned so much about myself as I've had to help my son through his anxiety over the years and it's truly helped me work through my struggles and see what I've faced for many years. Growing up I never shared what I was going through with anyone because I didn't understand it myself. I thought that something was wrong with me and thought if I told others that they'd think I was weak, weird, or say that it was not normal. I used to get sick to my stomach when I had to go to a new place, meet new people, or knew I was going to have to be social. In school I wouldn't want to raise my hand or read out loud in class, I would have such anxiety build up inside of me but I didn't know what it was at the time. I'd often ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink just to escape class. And forget it if I had to do a presentation! As I moved into adulthood it didn't really get much better. Through college, job interviews, and meeting other adults I always have had a fear of what others thought of me, about meeting new people, or making mistakes.
Over the past year with the unexpected twists and turns of COVID my anxiety has heightened. The racing heartbeat, the night sweats, the struggling to get up out of bed in the morning. Not being able to plan or know what's coming makes anxiety more intense, so the constant changes of schedules, plans, and expectations with the pandemic has increased all my feelings. With COVID so many mental illnesses have intensified throughout our world. Living through the unknown has made every day tasks more stressful and seem like a major feet for so many. I've had to keep reminding myself that we're living through a historical event and that the way our jobs have had to completely shift is not something anyone has ever had to do before. Our children have had to attend school in ways that no other children have ever had to. Parents have had to work full time jobs from home while also supporting their children while remote learning. These and more are all things that we never expected to have to work through. We're overcoming major tasks and learning each day how to navigate the unknown. We have to help support our children through things that we've not experienced ourselves.
I know I'm not alone on the mornings that I've woken up and not known how I was going to make it through the day. I didn't know how I was going to put one foot in front of the other or face work and my students. I didn't know how I was going to support my own children through another day or be the wife my husband needed. But I did it. I have made it through each day and feel like I'm finally coming out the other side just a little stronger. On top of the anxiety ridden days I've still been coping with the grief from the loss of my mother. Dealing each day with missing her and the anxiety of the unknown of our worldwide pandemic it was debilitating at times. I felt as though I was going to fall into a million pieces and wasn't sure if I could put myself back together. So I talked to my husband and my doctors. I shared with them how I was feeling through tears. I tried for a while to eat healthy, exercise, get in the sun as often as possible, get enough sleep, and cut out caffeine...but there were still many weeks out of a month that I just didn't feel okay. I've started taking a natural supplement, decreasing caffeine, and started acupuncture treatments which has made a world of difference.
To all of you who have gone through similar battles know that you can feel better, you are not alone, and you can get support. You deserve to feel good each day and you don't have to live each day feeling like you're going to fall apart. I promise you that. A big reason that I wanted to learn how to work through my anxiety each day is because when I look at my son and what he's going through I don't want him feeling the way I've felt. I know I need to be better for him. Growing up I saw my mother and other family members deal with depression, anxiety, and mental illness and I want to break that cycle. I don't want my anxiety to continue to effect relationships, my children, or their children. Bringing awareness to the struggles of anxiety is so important. You can be the one to break the cycle. We can be better and do better. As Glennon Doyle says "We can do hard things".