Beauty on the Bad Days: Anxiety and Joy
I've never labeled myself as one who experiences anxiety. Sure, I've worried about and ruminated on life's challenges, but I've always considered it a mild, temporary state of being.
Until Friday, March 13.
As news of COVID-19 permeated our world that week, I'd done my best to distance myself, both literally and figuratively, from the crisis. I knew I was in the "vulnerable" category with my muscle disease, but felt pretty safe. This strategy of avoiding the drama had worked in the past for me, and I was content to stay in my optimistic bubble.
Until I clicked on a link which was shared from a trusted organization. It was an opinion article from a doctor in Italy, and it shattered my little panic-free world. From its hyperbolic headline (Stop Killing People) to its dire claims of long-lasting effects if you even were to survive the coronavirus, the essay flipped a switch in the most ancient part of my brain that said, "You're in danger!"
My heart raced.
My stomach clenched.
My breathing became rapid.
I felt sick and scared and shaky. I tried to talk myself out of it using reason and intellect, but my body wouldn't listen.
I reached out to Shawn for help. My husband is the most logical, level-headed person I know, and I rely on him to balance my emotional responses, so I asked, "I won't get this virus, will I? I'm safe, right?" These questions were a plea, and there was fear in my voice.
I expected his reassurance and comfort, but he said, "You'll probably get it." It was a blow to my gut, and I physically doubled over. I was near tears as I asked him to explain why.
Shawn had answered honestly according to the statistical chances that he'd been hearing about in the news. His realism crashed into and obliterated my optimism. I started crying. He hugged me.
Then something beautiful happened.
Instead of just holding me in my fear, Shawn picked up his tablet and started reading. He found a technical article about COVID-19 and read up on the current, scientific data about the virus. It was a long, thorough piece covering the origin of the disease, its mode of transmission, and the reported cases of contractions and outcomes.
When he was finished reading, he summarized the article, giving me the positive highlights that calmed my fears. I wasn't left alone to bring myself out of the anxiety attack (a feat I discovered would be near impossible to do). I found my footing with Shawn's help.
After I was able to think reasonably again, I recognized that any "news" about the coronavirus was a trigger for my anxiety. Since then, I have tried to avoid the articles, headlines, and Facebook posts. I count on my family to read them and give me only the most important facts.
I haven't been perfect in this effort, and when I notice my heartbeat picking up pace or my breaths quickening, I stop what I'm reading or listening to and replace it with joyful things.
I take a deep breath.
I pet my dogs.
I gaze at the landscape.
I silently sing a favorite song.
I list what I'm grateful for.
It's not easy, but it works.
In the coming days and weeks, we will need to be intentional about finding beauty.
We'll need to trust our family, our neighbors, and our community.
We will need to create and hold on to Joy.
How do you manage anxiety? Who can offer you reassurance and walk with you until you find beauty?
Some Doorways from last month:
- I had a sobering moment in my genealogy research as I realized that my seventh great grandfather owned three slaves, and they were detailed by name (a rare thing) in his will. I took a moment to reflect on the negative impact my ancestor had on these three lives. I was also interested to see that he emancipated Fanny upon his death, but bequeathed both Solomon and Eilish (sp?) to his sons.
- I attended the last home game of the MSU Bobcats women's basketball team, and was caught up in the joy and excitement of cheering on a comeback win with the crowd.
- I felt a rush of joy and love when I saw my dog, Nita, perched atop a pile of blankets that we had brought in from the camper to wash. She was truly Queen!
- Despite the many empty shelves at the store, Shawn was able to get most of the groceries on our list which gave me peace and comfort.
- This month has been especially great for sunsets and painted clouds. Such beauty in the sky!