Anxiety in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s been about a week since I first started to think seriously on the Coronavirus. And even typing that out, it seems so odd: a week! The news changes so much from day to day, a week feels like nearly a month ago.

Last week, we began to get emails at work letting everyone know that people could work from home if they desired. The office would be open as an option, but people could work remotely if they felt safer doing so.

Last Thursday, I had come across a staggering article detailing what medical care looked like in Italy, due to the Coronavirus. After seeing that, I decided I would be working from home on Friday (and likely remaining remote for the foreseeable future). Around that time, Liz and her coworkers also were trying out the remote option.

On Saturday, Liz and I had the opportunity to hang out with some friends in the suburbs. We debated at length on Thursday and Friday, about whether we should go. I was super hesitant and cautious, almost wanting us to self-quarantine. Not because we exhibited any symptoms, but to do our part to avoid spreading the disease.

At the time, I felt like I was overreacting. And honestly, perhaps I was a bit. I’m overly cautious and a worrier by nature.

Yes – if our friends were not sick, there was a low chance of us contracting or passing along the Coronavirus to one another. But in my book, the chances get even lower if we simply didn’t go.

Your chances of getting hit by a car drop down near zero, if you don’t walk into the street.

The thoughts in my head at the time: “If this isn’t the time to be overly cautious, what would be the appropriate pandemic when it would be appropriate?” Also: “In the history of things, we often say ‘Boy, we sure were too cautious at the time.'”

Liz and I talked about going to this event a lot. To the point where I think we both viewed it as “beating a dead horse.”

I ultimately decided to listen to Dr. Allison Arwady, and I can’t find the exact link… but at the time, I was hearing that if you were sick – most definitely stay home. But if you were otherwise healthy and not exhibiting symptoms, you should feel free to go out, eat at restaurants, go about life as normal (but practice good hygiene).

Ultimately, we decided to go hang out with friends. And it was a blast, and I had a fantastic time. But the group of 6 ended up being a group of 11, and in hindsight I think it was a mistake for us to go.

Because as of Sunday, Chicago then declared that restaurants and bars would be closed for dine-in patrons as of Monday night. And things began to get more serious. And with each passing day, additional news comes out, and additional steps seem to be taken as the city, state, and nation try to halt the spread of Coronavirus.

For someone like me, who’s overly cautious by nature, it’s a challenging time. My anxiety ebbs and flows, but the hardest thing to do is to fight these occasional surges of panic. I worry about worst case scenarios, and I think ahead as to what might happen next. And when I see the world around me rise and react to those concerns and fears, it’s difficult to not feel vindicated – to feel that my worries and anxieties were justified all along.

The two times I’ve been out to the grocery store, I’ve spoken to clerks and baggers, saying hello to other shoppers and saying good morning. And deep down, I was holding back a strong feeling of dread, looking for some words of assurance from the stock boy or the butcher, to tell me the world would keep on spinning.

Over the course of the last week, I’ve seen more and more people take Coronavirus seriously. I’ve seen stories from friends, who worry about their parents who are not taking the Coronavirus seriously. I’m hearing the stories about Italy, which I was nervous about a week ago, get repeated more and more.

As of today, Liz and I are more or less doing the self-quarantine thing. Depending on your preferred euphemism, we’re in lockdown or “sheltering in place.” We’ve asked family not to come over, and we’re taking active steps to not go out – beyond doing errands like grocery shopping.

A small part of it is us trying to avoid contracting Coronavirus. But honestly the major impetus is to do our part to curb the virus’ spread. It feels as much a civic responsibility as it does a pragmatic course of action.

My concerns are of the self. Of my immediate person, of my wife, of my loved ones who now feel further away than ever before. But the biggest and hardest thing to keep in mind for me has been the well being of others. To look past my needs and concerns, and to not think about my best interests… but to think of others, first. The impact I could have on others, both positive and negative.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this. I’ve been wanting to write about these thoughts and feelings for a while now. Sometimes the feeling is I could write for hours; other times, the anxiety passes.

Listening tonight to Mayor Lightfoot’s address, I was reminded again that we need to be focusing on each other. There’s a reason she invoked Gwendolyn Brooks, and there’s a reason poetry is invoked in times of significance and import. We use poems to remind ourselves of what’s important.

[photo via Niklas_hamann]

More People, Less Food: Grocery Store Run, Saturday AM
Working Remote

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