Anxiety and COVID-19

Anxiety

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!

Virna Teixeira

Translated by Chris Daniels

Nocturnal sweats

I woke up at 3 am with night sweats, chills, 100-degree fever, a slight shortness of breath and a dry cough. A slow restlessness, fidgeting in bed, unable to get up to go to the bathroom to wash my face. I remembered a film I saw many years ago in high school, recommended in literature class: Inocência, an adaptation by Walter Lima Jr from the novel by the Franco-Brazilian Visconde de Taunay. Young Inocência with malaria, behind a curtain, disheveled, feverish, in a room on the ranch.

I spent a few hours like that, scattered in thought, isolated in the room without TV while the paracetamol took effect and the viremia subsided. I chatted with a friend on Twitter, and saw the day dawn through the half-open curtain, a pink-orange spring sky. So I screwed up my courage, got out of bed, plugged my laptop into a projector, and started watching Inocência on Youtube.

A very interesting film, a very strong record of patriarchy and colonialism in the 19th century in the Brazilian interior. The eccentric figure of the German butterfly hunter, fascinated by Brazil and local customs. The slaves. The adventurous doctor Cirino, wandering the roads on his horse, looking for sick people to pay his gambling debts. Cirino treats and seduces the young patient, promised by her austere father to another man. There are gripping scenes, like that of a poor leper who wants to consult, but the doctor keeps his distance and refuses. He asks: do you have treatment? No. Can I pass it on to others? Yes.

Virna Teixeira

Translated by Chris Daniels

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 21.59.37.png

(Cindy Sherman. Untitled #153)

autópsia

no sotão descobriu a outra
dor fantasma no frasco de vidro

o hematoma media 60 mm
lobo temporal

uncus, jamais vu
e cortes finos de parafina

lâmina de astrócitos    edema

no microscópio
trombos, um feixe de luz

iluminava a sombra

autopsy

in the loft was discovered another
ghost pain in a jar of glass

a hematoma measured 60 mm
the temporal lobe

uncus, jamais vu
and fine paraffin cuts

astrocyte blade             edema

under the microscope

a clot of blood, a beam of light
illuminated a shadow

Virna Teixeira

Translated by Shelly Bhoil

The poem appeared in poetry magazine Zarf #13 earlier this year. It’s a poem I wrote some years ago, while still working as neurologist in Brazil, although inspired by my gradual transition to psychiatry and Jung’s concept of the ‘shadow’, here illustrated by Cindy Sherman’s provocative still.

Between walls | William Carlos Williams

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Between walls

 

the back wings

of the

 

hospital where

nothing

 

will grow lie

cinders

 

in which shine

the broken

 

pieces of a green

bottle

 

 

Entre paredes

 

as alas no fundo

do

 

hospital onde

nada

 

ira crescer jazem

cinzas

 

nas quais brilham

os cacos

 

de uma garrafa

verde​

 

William Carlos Williams

 

Tradução: Virna Teixeira

Poetry from the wards

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Suite 136 is a prose-poetry documentary book that it was published last year by Carnaval Press. This book is the result of my experiences working as a locum doctor (and as a foreigner doctor) in psychiatric hospitals in London. ‘136 suite is a place of safety for those who have been detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act by the police following concerns that they are suffering from a mental disorder’. It is a short term section to warrant medical assessment, and the suite is seen as safer place for that purpose, instead of a police station. The poems in this book are untitled and therefore 136 Suite works as metaphoric title.

My intention was to listen and to register, anonymously, and in different ways, the patients’ perception of their detainment in hospital under the Mental Health Act and their own experiences with a mental health condition. Confidentiality is preserved and narratives are slightly blurred with fiction.

This work has also been a result of my parallel activities as a doctor and a poet for many years, and of a degree I obtained in Medical Humanities at King’s College London, which allowed me to work more consciously in that direction – although medical marks can be traced along even my early writings. I presented this project in a Medical Humanities Conference in Ulm, Germany in December 2018.

The book is bilingual (English/ Portuguese), and can be ordered with Carnaval Press by carnavalpress@gmail.com

 

***

 

If you told me you were an angel, I wouldn’t judge you. An angel is a sort of innocent.

I’m an individual, I’m not a typical person so the dose of medication shouldn’t be typical.

It is affecting my angel’s rights. My naivety is being abused. In reality I was diagnosed with demoralisation and uselessness. The illness is no longer there. 

Unlike this induced state, I am blissful.

Thinking has helped my mental state, and I believe that talking is the way to solve things.

 

Se você me dissesse que você era um anjo, eu não julgaria você. Um anjo é uma espécie de inocente.  

 Eu sou um indivíduo, eu não sou uma pessoa típica, então a dose da medicação não devia ser típica.  

Está afetando meus direitos de anjo. Minha inocência está sendo abusada. Na realidade eu fui diagnosticado com desmoralização e inutilidade. A doença já era. 

Diferentemente deste estado induzido, eu sou uma pessoa bem-aventurada.

 Pensar tem ajudado o meu estado mental, e eu acredito que falar é a forma de resolver as coisas.  

 

***

 

I am afraid of world war syndrome. I am afraid of vampires. I am afraid of death. I can hear the vampires. They talk like people. Their faces frighten me. I can hear angels, demons, vampires and wolves. They are talking about me. They came to save me. The windows are closed, and angels can’t come in. She thinks I am vampire, and she follows me with a stake in her hand.

 

Tenho medo de síndrome da guerra mundial. Tenho medo de vampiros. Tenho medo da morte. Eu posso ouvir os vampiros. Eles falam como gente. As faces deles me assustam. Eu posso ouvir anjos, demônios, vampiros e lobos. Eles estão falando sobre mim. Eles vieram me salvar. As janelas estão fechadas, e os anjos não podem entrar. Ela pensa que sou um vampiro, e me persegue com uma estaca na mão.

 

***

 

My mind is mathematical
My body is electronic

Your body language tells me
you’re from SãoPaulo

Doctor you look like a patient

I’ve never been to Brazil
I’ve been to Suriname
My father was from Burma
My mother was Anglo-Indian

I fell in love only once in 1984
He is on the phone directory
He thought I was going out
with a ginger haired man

Now you can interview me

I can pretend I am Brazilian
I can be Gisele Bunchen
I failed as a model once

I can’t remember running naked
It was the first time that
policemen were nasty to me
That never happened before

How come I am so tall
and you’re so small

I am elated I told you
I am allergic to lithium

 

Minha mente é matemática
Meu corpo é eletrônico

Sua linguagem corporal me diz
que você é de SãoPaulo

Doutora você parece uma paciente

Eu nunca fui ao Brasil
Eu fui ao Suriname
Meu pai era de Burma
Minha mãe era anglo-indiana

Só me apaixonei uma vez em 1984
Ele está na lista telefônica
Ele pensou que eu estava saindo
com o homem de cabelo gengibre

Agora você pode me entrevistar
Eu posso fingir que sou brasileira
Eu posso ser Gisele Bunchen
Eu fracassei como modelo uma vez

Não me lembro de correr pelada
Foi a primeira vez que
os policiais foram malvados comigo
Isso nunca aconteceu antes

Por quê eu sou tão alta
e você é tão baixa

Eu estou exaltada eu avisei
que era alérgica a lítio

Virna Teixeira

Launch of Alba Londres 8 – Brazilian Contemporary Feminisms

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(Photo: Taraneh Mosadegh)

Alba Londres is launching an issue of its magazine dedicated to explore contemporary Brazilian feminist poetics, in association with Carnaval Press. Brazilian poets Adelaide Ivánova, Adriana Zapparoli, Carla Diacov, Érica Zingano, Flávia Rocha, Jussara Salazar and Virna Teixeira are published in translation in the habitual bilingual amazing edition of the magazine co-edited by Jèssica Pujol and Virna Teixeira. We also invited two Brazilian writers, Cristina Judar and Assionara Souza, who contributed with short stories for this issue.

Latin America has a very high prevalence of gender violence, with Brazil occupying recently the fifth position in the world ranking of female murders. This special edition aims to reflect on this alarming violence against women in Brazil, and on how Brazilian women poets reflect about the theme in their writing.

Alba Londres is a magazine that publishes experimental Spanish, Portuguese and British poetry in translation since 2011 and this is its eight issue. Carnaval Press was created in London in 2015, and is the first small press dedicated to publish and present Brazilian contemporary poetry and lusophone poetry in translation to the British readers.

We would like to invite you to the launch, which will take place at the Brazilian Embassy on the 9th of March 2017, with readers:

Adelaide Ivánova and Virna Teixeira

…and their translators: Annie McDermott, Lotto Thiessen, Jèssica Pujol and Francisco Vilhena

RSVP essential  (culturalbrazil.rsvp@gmail.com)

Brazilian Embassy – Gallery 32. 14-16 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5BL. Phone: 020 77474500

Poetry and mental health

To celebrate the opening of the Museum of Futures Visual Poetry Exhibition, a ‘Camarade’ collaborative poetry reading was held with 24 poets associated with the exhibition reading new work written for the night in 12 pairs. The event was held on February 23rd 2017 in Surbiton, UK. http://www.theenemiesproject.com/futures

Reading at the Museum of Futures with Albert Pellicer:

Workshop: Phenomenology, anxiety and breath — Mental health, Ethics and Law at King’s

Friday March 17 2017, 9.30-4.30. Advance notice for this workshop, which is sponsored by the generous support of the Wellcome Trust. Speakers: Dylan Trigg (UCD), The phenomenology of anxiety Ulrika Maude (Bristol), DH Lawrence and the body Michael Lewis (Newcastle), Breath in the history of philosophy Petr Kouba (Prague), On Nancy’s ‘The Intruder’ Emiliano Trizio (UWE), […]

via Workshop: Phenomenology, anxiety and breath — Mental health, Ethics and Law at King’s