I have always been an overthinker. I’m a Virgo – Worrying is my jam. I will get a tickling of an idea in my head and then my mind starts to add to it line by line, like that kids game where each person’s random sentence builds a nonsensical story. I have worked myself into an irrational panic in this way many times.
In hindsight I realize that my heavy drinking was a way to avoid this tendency of my mind to spiral into crazy-town. Alcohol softened the edges of thought and jumbled my brain so that worry fell away into the cracks.
My current avoidance tactic is denial. I will thumb my nose at the severity of a problem, because if I diminish its importance then I can halt the domino effect of anxiety.
Like this virus problem: I initially scoffed at the social distancing thing. Laughed in its face. I refused to acknowledge that keeping our distance was important simply because the government or media told us to. It’s just a germ. No big deal. Just wash your hands. You all are overreacting!! (Plus I’ve always had an issue with authority. Ironically I get this from my original authority figures: my parents. Ever the skeptics, they have taught me to question everything. Even at 43, the rebel inside immediately wants to dig my heels in and push back when confronted with a command.)
But still I could feel the tickles of worry at the back of my neck even as I shrugged off the public’s response as extreme. Like a blinking light of warning, that little tickle signaled that I should loudly declare my nonchalance about the subject in order to ward off an impending tidal wave of anxiety.
But the wave inevitably broke through.
I think it started when my 70-year-old dad said (with his ever-present jolly smile), “I’m not ready to depart yet; I’m having too much fun!”
We had been talking about the delicate matter of my parents, who are of the aging demographic most severely affected by the virus, spending time in the proximity of my young children, who are of the perpetually snot-spewing demographic. My parents are wonderfully doting grandparents and have been a huge help to me in so many ways. My kids cried when I told them the sleepover they had planned with their grandparents yesterday had to be postponed because my daughter has been coughing.
And that’s when the Anxiety Train left the station and headed straight for the Tunnel of Panic: What if my daughter’s cough is more than just a cough and my sore throat is more than just a sore throat? What if my children are carriers and they already passed the virus to my parents this past weekend? What if my parents get sick? What if they die? What if I get sick? Who will take care of us? What if my husband loses his job? What if this social distancing lasts for months? What if my kids can’t go back to school? What if grocery stores close? What if the economy collapses? What if people freak out and start looting? What if humanity shows its dark side? What if? What if? What if? Chugga chugga, Choo, fuckin Choo.
It gets dark in there.
I went from This whole thing is ridiculous and blown out of proportion to hyperventilating over the possibility of a nuclear winter in less than a day.
A few years ago I would have opened a bottle of the wine I’d been hoarding and partied my worries away.
In a way, it’s almost harder in the short term that I can’t turn to a mind-numbing substance to find immediate relief of panic and anxiety. But of course, that only would have led to a real reason to freak out by creating instability for my children and the promise of misery and guilt the next day. Drinking never made anything go away. No matter how much wine I poured on my worries, they were still there when I woke up – aching and spinning and even more hopeless than before.
So now it is time to plug into my connection to my higher self in order to shut off the stream of What Ifs.
I believe in the power of my own breath to quiet my racing mind. I believe that I can tune in to the steady grounding vibrations of earth and trees to smooth my erratic thoughts. I know how to do these things and I know that they work.
I know where to find my lifelines, I just have to grab ahold.
Some people have different names for this: prayer, meditation, connection to God, whatever. It’s all the same thing. Surrendering your ego (which feeds your fear) to something greater than yourself and truly feeling the connection to Life and Love.
It will all be okay, a friend messaged me after I shared my concerns.
But how do you KNOW that?? my frantic mind chatters back.
Because, my dear, everything is Impermanent, answers my Higher Self.
Accept that nothing remains the way it is now. This is one of the great truths of the human experience. And that is ok.
Perhaps all this will bring out the best in humanity. Perhaps it will slow us down enough to bring us back to the basics: Love, Peace, and Connection.
Perhaps we will emerge from this time of cocooning as a grand and wonderful Butterfly.
©Vixen Lea 2020