Fear and COVID-19 - A Flashback

(Originally written March 17, 2020 and for some reason never got added to this blog.)

It has been a while since I’ve spent time writing. I have been sick, then super busy making up for being sick, then just super busy. My writing has been pushed aside more than once when I really wanted to... because, in this time of such uncertainty, I felt this wasn't being "productive" (with my definition at the moment meaning “do something to make money”). Well, I hit the breaking point just a few minutes ago and it doesn't matter if it's technically "productive" or not, I need to write.


The timing has been weird on this one. I'm about to have cataract surgery and due to a test I need to have before the surgery, I have had to go without contacts for a week. Given the nature of my businesses, wearing my old glasses has made it very difficult to do some of my jobs and impossible to do others. 


I have known this for a few weeks and have been preparing for the loss of work and income. I was very proactive by making a list of things that I've been putting off for a long time that needed to be done and could be done with less than ideal vision. I knew this would keep me busy and not feeling quite as bad about the loss of income. I actually wasn't anxious during the beginning of the news about COVID-19, maybe because I was already mentally prepared for this downtime.


Then COVID-19 hit my immediate area, one of the last states in the country to really be impacted. When I was "just" missing work due to wearing my glasses and recovery from the surgery, I could still make money a few other ways, just not as much. However, because I live with my parents who are very high risk, it's safer for me to stay home. COVID-19 killed that potential for "not as much" work that I was still hoping for during this time.


Add to that, I hit a down cycle in my bipolar disorder and have been extremely depressed (bipolar depression – not related to the circumstances around me). Several non-COVID-related hard to deal with issues have happened personally and with some of the people I love. The support groups I rely on have had to cancel (though we were able to pull off a phone conference for one support group last night). 


I have figured out that the most difficult issues I'm dealing with right now are the lack of control and uncertainty. I'll talk about each of those separately. 


Control... Everyone loves to be in control. Worldwide wars have been fought over control. Marriages have been lost over control. Businesses have fallen apart because of control. Wanting control is a common feature of humanity.


But note that control is a defining characteristic of an addict. Trying to control others and the surrounding environment and always failing is one thing that leads to addictive behavior. Not being able to control the addictive behavior leads to shame and a feeling of worthlessness.


So, I'm an addict who has major depression and anxiety issues and is a freelancer who can't work for who knows how long. Under these circumstances there is so little I can control.


I'm not doing well.


Uncertainty... I think we are all programmed to know that we can deal with just about anything for a specified amount of time. When I was still in college, I remember thinking that I could deal with any subject or any professor for just a quarter. If I know that I was going to have a medical procedure or if I was sick, I had at least some idea of how long it would be until I could get back "to normal." 


Not knowing how long this pandemic will last, what will happen before it's over, and what will be the aftermath is a huge problem for me. I have lived through some horrible times in my 50+ years and there was always an end. So intellectually I know there will be an end to COVID-19. But the biggest issue is what my life will be like when it's over.


For several years now I have been building a photography business - specializing in event photography. I was just starting to build up some momentum in my business. Big events have are obviously being canceled left and right. It's scary to not know if the businesses that host events will still remember me when it's over.


Of course, I'm also worried about my parents. I'm worried that they will get sick... and I'm worried that if I leave my house and catch it, it'll be my fault that they got sick. Both my boyfriend and my daughter are high risk so I’m also worried, though not as much, about them getting sick.


Surprisingly, I'm not worried at all about me getting sick. For myself, I'm worried about being inconvenienced... specifically with my cataract surgery. Wearing glasses for this week has been truly horrible. If the test is canceled at the last minute, then all that misery will have been for nothing. If the surgery is put off, then it's that much longer before I can get back to work full-time after recovery.


I know I’m whining… I know that I’m one of many dealing with all of these issues… I know that there are many others who have it worse off than I do… In this case, though, knowing I’m not alone in how I feel doesn’t matter one bit to help me feel better.


The only thing that has made me feel better in this time has been to help others. Setting up the phone support group last night was one of the better times I’ve had the last week. Knowing I was doing something for others kept me out of my head for just a few minutes. It didn’t lift the overwhelming depression I’m feeling but did keep me going for a little longer while I’m in the midst of it.


With all of this, there is no better time to recite the Serenity Prayer... and really try to live it. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."


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