A Deep Sadness

I have, of late, been finding myself very much influenced by the progression of the Coronavirus. To the point where there has been what feels like a very palpable, physical reaction to what I see happening to the world at large. To the United States in particular.

There is this deep feeling of sadness that I have. And I’m not sure where it comes from, or how I can rid myself of it.

The best description I’ve encountered so far is from an article titled That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief by Scott Berinato:

Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there.

It’s a long paragraph I’m quoteing, so I wanted to break it up a bit. Here’s more that really feels like it hits the nail on the head:

With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

Liz tells me that I’m reading too much of the news, and I think that’s a part of it. But there’s another part of me that feels too much information is not a bad thing, in our current situation.

Small things will set me off. When I was able to purchase toilet paper online, it felt like winning the lottery. When I schedule a grocery delivery, I’m anxious while I chat back and forth with the shopper regarding all the things that are no longer in stock. I worry about food, and whether there will come a time when we’ll encounter difficulty procuring things.

I got upset at Liz one morning, when she was making a joke about me ordering more cans of soup. I got immediately upset, and said that buying soup was my way of ensuring we had food, and it’s all I could do to exert control over an uncontrollable situation.

Clearly, I had more going on beyond just cans of soup on my mind.

I’d say that easily, for the last week, there are some nights where I feel listless. Unmotivated to do anything. Even dulling my brain with games feels unpleasant. It’s just been a very heavy stone on my chest, a sense of dread and sadness I can’t seem to shake off, no matter how hard I try.

I have bookmarks that I look at each day. I can probably tell you the current number of cases and deaths in the main counties of my immediate family, across both Indiana and Illinois. I’ve been keeping track of the doubling time most mornings, before I start my job.

It does feel like mourning in some ways, except that nothing direct or immediate has happened to me. It does seem very anticipatory.

// Edit: I’m writing the second half of this post a few days later, on 4/10. The really weird thing? This just stopped. Out and out stopped, and I don’t have this sense of weight or gloom anymore. I think it’s still there, but like… a normal amount. It’s not the crushing weight it was, for the last week or so.

In the same way that I cannot explain the original sensation, I’m also at a loss for explaining why it’s gone away. And so suddenly, to boot.

Perhaps hearing more positive news about how the total death estimates may be lower than originally expected. Or that people like Bill Gates are finding ways to buy us more time.

I wonder if I’ll lapse back. It’s trite to refer to an experience as a “dark cloud,” but that’s very much what it felt like. Maybe I’ve accepted the ambiguous nature of our existence more. Maybe I’ve worried myself out, and I just can’t worry any more.

It’s incredibly weird, to have had such a strong, emotional reaction to an abstract concept. And then to have that very strong reaction disappear, seemingly overnight.

[Photo via Tom Barrett]

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