One of the most striking things I see in this pandemic is anxiety. COVID-19 broke out abruptly, changing our lives, and bringing uncertainty. We have lost control over many things, individually and collectively, and we have to adjust to a new reality. Anxiety is the body’s response to this stress, a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is going to happen. We expect the worst, and how can we not, with so much bad news in the media, with so many political and economic issues going on?
Being infected is also having no control over what will happen. How will your body react to the virus? The disease is very recent, tests are often not available and expensive, and there is no specific treatment. Many people are afraid of dying. Many people are concerned for those close to them, especially for the elderly and vulnerable.
I received many kind messages from friends and acquaintances when I revealed that I had become infected with covid-19. I realize that I am loved, and it is a comfort. My family wants to hear the news. Some colleagues want to help, but without realizing it, they make morbid comments, or send dramatic scientific articles, or ask me why I am not using hydroxychloroquine. Yesterday I told a doctor friend that I had woken up feeling better. Angry at the country’s political moment, and frightened by the current situation, she replied that a well-known doctor had improved like me, but days later he had been intubated.
That was the last straw. I was tired of talking to so many people, listening to so many recommendations, worrying about the evolution of my symptoms. Fear of the unknown spread. I suddenly realized that my dyspnea had worsened. That my hands were cold, that I had tachycardia. I recognized my anxiety, and realized that I was on the verge of a panic attack. After all, I had no fever and my cough had improved. It wasn’t my lungs. I tried to calm down. I closed my eyes, started doing breathing exercises. I put on some relaxing music, did a little mindfulness practice. The malaise was improving.
I reflected that I have no control over what I am going through now, and that anxiety only makes the symptoms worse. What can I do if I clinically worsen, except seek help? What is the use of anticipating misfortune? I empathize with my colleagues, but many of them are more anxious than I am. I would even say that they are desperate, afflicted with their impotence in the face of this pandemic, afraid of becoming infected. I need to be calm. I get off the internet for a few hours, get distracted by other things, laugh at some silly jokes. I slept a lot, a whole lot. Rest is a holy remedy.
I woke up feeling better. I’ve had no fever for 36 hours. My mood is improving. I put on my red kimono, put on some makeup and quickly got into a virtual morning party called ‘Morning Glory’. There were five hundred people online dancing in their homes, people of all ages, wearing colorful and festive clothes. Vibrant energy. I love a party. I felt so much better.
In the midst of this pandemic we need to take care of our mental health. We have no control over the virus, but we can take precautions, help flatten the curve, and find creative ways to be at home. Despite the alarming number of deaths, the symptoms of COVID-19, although more unpleasant for some than for others, subside after a few days. Self-isolation is not the end of the world, and when we self-isolate, we are protecting those close to us. Reducing anxiety is essential. It even makes the immune system more combative!
Translated by Chris Daniels