Let's face it. Whether you agree with the regime that's running things, you think the actions of our leaders are no different to what any of us would be capable of doing. Or maybe you don't even have the mental or emotional capacities left to reply. What's clear is that after almost two years in a prison-like existence, a toll has definitely been taken.
Personally, I've never had to deal with anxiety before. It's not, historically, been an issue for me. Maybe because I never recognized it, or perhaps it's the fact that my ego is so big it casts a shadow on what would be a normal person's dilemma.
In any case, I've recently learnt a new meaning of the word because anxiety has started creeping up on me and striking at random like an obsessed bully. I never know when he'll show up, I don't see the warning signs, and I still don't understand why he keeps coming after me. Anxiety has had me swing from being calm and content to nervous, anxious, and scared throughout lockdown six.
For me, this is not normal, and it all peaked a couple of weeks ago on a mid-August evening. I was sitting on the couch, and after watching ten minutes of the six o'clock news, I got a bad taste in my mouth. I knew I needed to stop watching. Which I did. I went to my room, put on some music and stared at the ceiling. Usually, this works. But not this time. This time my heart was pounding. I was sweating, for some reason terrified and tearing up. I got up and tried to shake it off, but that didn't work either.
It would be like this for the next half an hour.
I've had a similar experience about five years ago. At the time, I was under a lot of pressure at work, went back to uni full-time, moved out of home for the first time, bought a new car, and was helping my parents move house. All of this was happening simultaneously, and the stress led me to the same place I found myself on a Tuesday night in August of 2021.
I had a panic attack.
I completely understand the irony of someone bragging about their ego and then seconds later admitting to panicking so severely that their body did a hard reset without warning.
But what can I say... no, seriously, what can I say to that? I don't know. There's no way to spin this. It's the truth. The truth doesn't have to make sense. It makes its own way, and you just have to deal with it.
Now I could say that throughout this whole COVID experience, I've been aware of how badly some people have it. I've even made stupid videos of myself to try and "help". But now... after going through this shit... I've experienced a new kind of misery first hand. And I don't like it.
Right now, you're probably thinking - Hey! You should have just called someone. Anyone. Call me. Talk to me. Reach out. Don't you know that I want to be there for you! But here's the thing. Here's what's been crystallized for me first-hand.
If you go through something like this, picking up the phone is the last thing on your mind. What's actually on your mind is: I'm broken, why am I like this? Why am I panicking? What's the reason? I'm desperate, but I don't know what to do. I don't know who to call. I don't want to bother anyone. If I try to call and they don't answer, do they really care?
The experience I'm sharing was a brief orientation of a train ride that, if left unchecked, stops permanently. Sadly, and disproportionately during COVID, many people took that ticket to the end of the line.
People passing these stations can't call for help. Their phone is dead, they don't carry coins, and they can't ask someone nearby because stay at home orders aside - they feel completely alone. I felt completely alone.
This experience of loneliness and fear, and pain. It was, and sometimes still is, compounded by a scenario that is completely devoid of hope. With no end in sight for lockdowns, no apparent reasonable voice to listen to, and no clear exit strategy from this seemingly now permanent existence of everybody telling you what to do. It's easy to feel attacked when so many villains lie passively in waiting.
Sad, scared, and desperate. I turned to brown liquid: whiskey. I drank an unreasonable amount. I guess I wanted an "escape", or maybe I wanted to punish myself for being weak and feeling this way... for failing.
What got me through. I could tell you it was Jesus, a call from a friend, people reaching out and texting me. Forcing me to go for walks. And every one of those would be true. But that's not the point of these words. This isn't about telling you what I need or what I think others need. For me to be some sort of ambassador for anxiety after one or two panicky moments.
All I really want to tell you is that when someone is in that place, on that train - when I was on that train - the only thing I really wanted was hope.
In trying to understand why I got off at the station I did and what helped me move on... I've realized that I got off because I saw a friend trying to get on and in a moment of twisted beauty, I learnt that what I think of as 'failure' can be someone elses form of hope.
Knowing isn't the answer.
I know I'm not alone, but I can't pick up the phone.
I know that drink isn't the answer, but I just refilled my glass.
I know this isn't the end, but it sure feels like a good place to stop.
I can stop sooner if I can see that you are stopping too.