Chronic Anxiety During Covid Sucks

Living through a global pandemic while barely surviving severe anxiety.

Honestly, when the pandemic first shut everything down it was a relief. As someone with social anxiety, not having to leave my apartment for college classes or work was kind of awesome — especially after two difficult terms of trying to adjust to university life.

I was not having a stellar time. Being at home relieved a lot of the weight of trying to fit in with a social environment I couldn’t relate to. I was a returning adult student sharing classes with eighteen-year-olds who seemed more interested in chatting than studying. At home, I thought I could focus better and not worry about fitting in.

But after a while of having only my two cats for company, the walls of my little apartment started closing in. Zoom meetings brought their own kind of social anxiety, and most of the time I didn’t even want to “show up” for class. Especially when professors demanded we keep our cameras on and I barely had enough motivation to change out of my pajamas.

Anxiety is exhausting. It keeps you from wanting to do daily things like showering and brushing your teeth and making phone calls and doing your job. But quarantine puts you in a weird position: you don’t really have to take care of yourself if you’re not interacting with the outside world.

But you still have to go grocery shopping. And suddenly, grocery shopping is a momentous hurdle defined by masks (and avoiding the people who don’t wear them properly) and hand sanitizing and cleaning and cautiously standing six feet apart from people who are taking forever to pick out their produce. Yikes.

That’s the thing about the pandemic. Any anxiety it may have alleviated in the beginning was quickly cancelled out by the new forms of anxiety it brought on.

For someone who was already struggling with depression and anxiety, it complicated things. The next thing I knew, I had my own personal storm cloud thundering above me. Because of anxiety, things are dark and gloomy, and the rain won’t ever seem to stop.

On February 12, a new study from the National Institutes of Health suggested that young adults who struggled to manage fearful responses during childhood are at greater risk for experiencing severe anxiety during COVID-19.

Young adults who experienced behavioral inhibition during their youth — behaviors like aversion to new and strange experiences and had difficulty managing worry — indicated higher levels of anxiety during the pandemic.

I may be a few years older than the eighteen-year-olds the study cites, but the findings don’t surprise me. Although the pandemic relieved certain aspects of my anxiety disorder, it certainly created new sources of anxiety and intensified others.

I don’t know how long my personal storm cloud will follow me around, but I don’t think it’s leaving anytime soon. As long as the pandemic is here, people like me will be coping with extraordinary sources of anxiety. I don’t know what the solution is. All I know is that I’ll just have to bust out an umbrella, because the storm isn’t going anywhere for now.

If you’re struggling too, hey there. I know it sucks. But you and your storm cloud are not alone. Maybe in the end that’s where we can find a shred of solace — the knowledge that at least, in a way, we’re in this together.

Nonfiction writer wrangling words and horses in the Pacific Northwest | she/they

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