Lockdown Life #1: Social Anxiety in the Time of Coronavirus

Hello dear readers, old and new! A big thank you and welcome to the newest followers — it gives my heart a happy little skip when I see a new follower notification. 🥰

So, obviously, pandemic.

  • We are healthy, thank goodness. Hamilton has very few cases and a low risk of infection, for now anyway.
  • James is off school for at least 3 weeks. Olivia’s daycare is also closed.
  • Jesse is working from home indefinitely.
  • The 2nd point above has made it very hard to find time to write, or read, or shower.
Actual conversation with Jesse just now about this photo:
Me: Ugh. UGH.
Jesse: What?
Me: I have the perfect photo to use for a section of my post but I look fat in it.
[yes, I know this is terrible and unhealthy talk, but I want to share it because I also know I’m not the only one who does this to themselves]
Jesse: *looking at photo* No you don’t!
Me: Yes I do. I look fat and ugly. It’s super unflattering.
Jesse: No it’s not! Just use it!
Me: *to my inner brain bully* FUCK YOU. I’m using the photo. You are wrong and toxic. *inserts photo*

Actual photo caption: “Social distancing” with two little kids.

A micro take on things

I feel like so much has been written about the situation already that I don’t necessarily want to add to the storm cloud, but at the same time, I feel like I can’t not mention something that is having such a significant impact globally and in our micro-level day to day lives.

So here’s what I will say, from the perspective of someone with anxiety who is also a nerd about learning about anxiety:

  • My social anxiety is being affected by this situation far more than my generalized anxiety.
  • By which I mean that I’m not having health anxiety or being kept up at night worrying about the apocalypse.
  • This isn’t to say that I don’t worry at all about these things — it’s just that I worry within what I consider a “normal” range (i.e. for a person without anxiety issues who suddenly finds themselves in the midst of a pandemic. Which is obviously not zero anxiety.).

But the social anxiety is flaring up HARD.

  • Social distancing instructions are basically encouraging me to give in to my “vices” of hermitude, avoidance, and never leaving the house.
  • I work hard to overcome these tendencies every day.
  • So in some ways, my mental health issue has now become my superpower, as I won’t get too put out or stir-crazy if I have to lay low for a while.
  • BUT it makes me EVEN MORE afraid to go outside AT ALL.
  • No, not because of the virus.

BECAUSE OF THE PEOPLE

Taking the kids to the park was already something I had to work myself up to and force myself to do.

Taking them for walks was already so hard that I often avoided it unless Jesse was with me (and even then…).

This situation is yet another reminder of why I am so grateful to have a supportive partner who also happens to have zero social self-consciousness. And big strong arms.

And now?

  • It feels socially wrong and villainous to leave the house.
  • I worry to nearly uncontrollable levels about people judging me for being outside at this time.
  • When I do have to go out — to get my prescription refilled, for example, like I will have to do tomorrow, lest my anxious but medicated brain soon become my ANXIOUS AND UNMEDICATED BRAIN — I am paranoid that everyone is watching and judging my every move.
  • And being out with the kids is excruciating, because kids have a terrible tendency to cough and snort and sniffle and lick random things and pick their noses and TOUCH EVERYTHING.
  • (Either all kids do some variation on these things or I am a terrible parent.)
  • We have been invited to visit a friend for a tiny playdate. Should I go? Am I monster if we go? If I decline the invitation, will the hosts think I’m a monster who is worrying about everything? What is the balance between social distancing (good) and social isolation overkill (bad, apparently)?

Oh rational brain, come out come out wherever you are!

Does my rational brain recognize that my social anxiety brain is going nuts? Yes. If I take the time to work through the anxious thoughts, I can counter them. But it’s hard.

  • I know I “shouldn’t” care what people think.
  • I know we’re all just muddling our way through.
  • I know I’m doing just fine in the grand scheme of things.

It just depends whether I have a handle on the irrational anxious thoughts at any given moment.

It’ll be okay

  • I have the benefit of knowledge gained in therapy now at least. I know what an anxiety flare-up does to me and I’m being extra diligent about looking after myself.
  • That said, I am anticipating that I won’t have access to my weekly sessions with my psychiatrist for a while, and I’m anxious about that.
  • The massive, sudden change in our home routine is not easy — anxiety hates unpredictability. Anxiety needs time to adapt.
  • But I will be strong. I can see the silver linings — more time with the kiddies and Jesse. This is wonderful.
  • And kind of a freebie pass to use my social anxiety superpower for good… right?
  • Yeah that last one is a stretch.

And as for blogging?

  • With my social anxiety flaring up the way it is, I am finding myself withdrawing and it’s hard to stop.
  • I’m having trouble showing up online and interacting with others, and replying to comments and emails and messages from friends.
  • Please know that I do read and appreciate everything you send, and that I want to reply and WILL reply as I’m able.
  • I just want you guys to know that I’m not ghosting you — I’m just… hermitting you a little. But with great love and affection.

Mind your mind

If my brain is anything to go by, I would say we all need to be very conscious of the mental health impacts of what’s going on in the world. And not just for people who are already predisposed to mental health issues, anxiety or otherwise.

This situation has the potential to turn even the coolest cucumber into a flaming… er… well, I guess just a cucumber on fire.

Running through your fridge screaming. In the night. All night.

Look just be gentle with yourselves during this trying time, and reach out, and check on each other (virtually, of course…), and maybe go read a book on self-compassion.

And remember that we’re all in this together, and these sacrifices are saving lives.

And also eat your cucumbers before they burst into flames.

P.S. Full credit to Jesse for suggesting the title of this post. Love it.

23 thoughts on “Lockdown Life #1: Social Anxiety in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. I love your blog, your ability to bare your soul and your sweet, certainly NOT fat nor ugly face! Feeling for you in these tricky times. “No one ever called me Moderate” Mim alternates between being so excited about getting to stay home and feeling a bit stir crazy! No one has a rule book for this so do what makes you happy and healthy! Love to you all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My initial thought when all this started was that it was tailor-made for someone with social anxiety. Here is “official” permission to NOT GO OUTSIDE AND INTERACT WITH PEOPLE. Little did I realize that it could backfire in the way you have described. I know better than to say this, after all I have learned from your blog, but I really doubt that anyone is judging you for being outside. There are still valid reasons to go out, and getting meds is one of them that is officially recognized. People will also need groceries, so they will go out for those. You aren’t the only one, so don’t despair. I know, I know, you can’t just tell someone not to feel a certain way. My only suggestion would be to think twice about attending those play dates, as tempting as it is to get the kids out of your hair for a while. Getting a bunch of kids together during a time like this is like putting them into a petri dish. I’m not judging whatever decision you make, just pointing out that you need to err on the side of caution. We are all in uncharted territory here, so no one gets to judge anyone else on how they handle things. Let’s just try to stay safe and healthy and we will get through this. The world may never look the same again afterwards, but we will get through it.
    And no, you definitely do NOT look fat in that photo. At least not to those who are not viewing it through your eyes.
    Give James and Olivia a hug from us. And while you’re at it, give Jesse and yourself one too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you xoxoxoxox hugs have been distributed with your compliments 🙂

      The first 3 sentences of your comment totally capture what would seem like the most natural reaction to social distancing for people with social anxiety. I think it might be accurate for people who are simply introverts and prefer less social contact and lots of downtime alone. It’s just the social anxiety angle that makes it complicated for some of us.

      Give Miss Em a scratch from Olivia for us! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Two Therapists are moving online. We do not like video or phone (we know you get this, Sadie). One therapist is out of town. One hasn’t gone online yet. Kids are home indefinitely. College closed. One more mouth to feed and more laundry to do. And an extra person to love. We went bird watching last night together!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hey, you probs wouldn’t tell a friend to fuck off or call them toxic. Please treat Sadie with gentle, kitty/puppy/soft baby hands. She tries very hard and is our pal. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my gosh, you are totally right. Thank you for catching and calling out that total lapse in self-compassion. Allow me to reframe:

      “Shush, inner voice. It’s okay that you don’t like this photo; it’s hard for lots of people to see themselves in photos. Try to remember that you don’t see yourself the way others see you.”

      Also I totally get the phone aversion… my therapist called last night to offer phone or video, and I know I should try it… but I dunno…

      What kind of birds did you see?!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Your inner-voice wants to keep you safe. It just doesn’t see with clear vision all the time Ours, too💕

        Just did our first video therapy. It w as effective. The distance helped us not get overwhelmed with emotion. We had a misunderstanding where T thought we were judging T and said so. We were not. And we managed to remain composed, communicates the misunderstanding successfully and keep going. No small feat.

        We saw the mating ritual of the Woodcock. It’s almost unbelievable it is so poignant. Tomorrow, weather pending, we may scout for waterfowl, who are migrating north

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks for sharing your video therapy experience 💖💖 so far I have held back from agreeing it… I just feel like therapy happens in the hospital and I don’t know if I want to bring it into my home! But that’s fear talking. It sounds like you had an overall positive experience.

          Did you see waterfowl??

          Liked by 2 people

          1. We saw lots of waterfowl! Redhead, Canvasback, Gadwall, Scaup, Shovelers, Greater white-fronted Geese, Tundra Swan, Goldeneye, Mergansers, Northern Pintail, and more!! And last night Older Child found us 2 Short-eared Owls!! It’s like seeing God

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Wow! The only words I recognize in there are Geese and Owls! hehe. I should try birdwatching someday. I thought of you yesterday — we saw two birds (of some variety…??) doing either a mating dance or having an argument. Jokes to be made there about marital life.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. For some reason this has only just shown up in my blog reader. Coincidentally, I used a similar blog post title the other day!

    I’m telling people (well, online people) that “I did social isolation before it was cool!” Which is funny, but also not so funny, because it’s reinforcing my negative behaviours.

    I’m feeling pretty anxious, partly because I’m Jewish and there’s a mega Jewish festival coming up and I’m worried about being ready and partly because Mum has cancer and has compromised immunity because she’s having chemotherapy. At the moment we aren’t even sure that my sister and brother-in-law will be able to come to us for the festival, in case they spread anything (not even COVID-19, we’re worried about Mum getting a cold). So it’s an interesting time here.

    Stay well!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I missed this comment — I’m getting caught up as much as possible today.

      You expressed exactly what I was trying to say: “it’s reinforcing my negative behaviours.”

      How are you doing since you wrote this? How is your mum?

      Like

      1. Mum is OK, thanks for asking. Her next round of chemo is on Thursday.

        I am coping OK. I guess in some ways I’m coping too well, as I’m not feeling hugely isolated. It does feel a bit weird to avoid some of the somewhat-social things I used to do each week.

        The UK went into complete lockdown last night and in some ways I feel better, because now I’m not worrying “What if…?” I’ve accepted that the Jewish festival will be low-key for us this year, and we may not manage to do all of it 100% according to Jewish law and tradition. Certainly we know my sister and brother-in-law won’t be coming over for it, but, again, now I know that will happen instead of worrying it might happen it feels a bit easier.

        I hope you and your family are doing OK.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for sharing — we are doing well, and I’d describe it very much like how you said.

          I don’t mind being home, but it does feel a little weird not to do the few social things I would do.

          We are in full lockdown (yet?) but non-essential businesses have closed as of Tuesday night. So it’s slowly ramping up toward full lockdown.

          Playgrounds are now off-limits.

          It’s a little stressful but I also just appreciate having clear “rules” so I don’t have to constantly wonder what’s okay and what’s not.

          Like

  5. This is a wonderful post. My kids are grown but I can imagine the stress. I also know that as a mother, you’re left wondering what those babies’ futures hold. It’s hard not to wonder.

    As for me, I’m not one to fret over things I can’t control, but it’s tough. My oldest son is a truck driver and he’s on the road, driving across the country now as I type. With this pandemic, I can’t help but to be concerned. But at the same time, I focus on the positives, hope for the best, and do a lot of praying. That’s all I can do.

    I’m doing great so far and taking things one day at a time. Wishing you and your family safety and lots of blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your positive outlook! I hope your oldest son is still healthy and safe.

      I appreciate the reminder to focus on the positives and not fret over the uncontrollable. I’m struggling with those things this week. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

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