Anxiety,  Chronic Illness and Invisible Disabilities,  Depression,  Mental Health

Anxiety in the New Age of COVID (And Before)

I think social anxiety is something that people can relate to more now than ever. For me, it hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s always been there. And I’m going to be completely honest, I’m really struggling.

My social anxiety used to be so bad that I was afraid to order from delivery services like DoorDash or UberEats. As a freshman in college, I wouldn’t leave my dorm room outside of times when I needed to go to class. The few times I did leave my room to go to the cafe, I always sat in a corner where no one could see me. I would stare at the ground when I walked around campus because I was terrified to look anyone in the eye. I hated going to the grocery store alone, I kept a list and stuck to it. I couldn’t stand to be in a crowd, I hated even walking through one. I would start shaking when in large groups of people that I didn’t know. I struggled to add to group conversations and be present in a group setting. Many, many, many times my mind would go blank and I’d feel disoriented and embarrassed. Going into new classes was terrifying, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. There were so many things.

I still struggle with it, very frequently as of late. I become easily overwhelmed socially and need breaks frequently. I haven’t wanted to talk to my friends, even online, because I feel so drained socially. I’ve been doing more social things lately because of grad school apps, that could be it. On top of that, the spike in racial tension that has been steadily increasing at an alarming rate for 4 years now. Even so, it easily overwhelms me. Not sure if it’s anxiety or depression or both, sometimes they feel the same. In the wake of COVID, I feel myself slowly going back to how I used to be. It’s a terrifying and safe feeling at the same time.

As a person with multiple underlying conditions, I have to be very careful. It’s the source of much of my anxiety because if I were to catch it I’d have a higher chance of dying from it. So I become so anxious that I don’t like to leave the house. It’s like there are two sides of me that are in a constant tug of war. Feeling like I shouldn’t let COVID keep me from living life but also being highly aware of the position I’m in as a person with chronic illness. What’s even scarier is that more and more people are developing chronic conditions as a result of having COVID. What does that mean for our future?

It’s super frustrating and a little infuriating when people give you weird looks for protecting your health and public health. Simple things such as wearing a mask or telling people back away from you or asking them to generally behave as if we are still in the midst of a pandemic. America is ‘re-opening’ and everyone feels like it’s over but it’s not. More importantly, they’d risk my health for them to have a good time and I’m not cool with that. So feel however you want to feel about it, call me paranoid (although I am not), but I’m not risking my health just because you feel like it should be over now.

Today I’ve noticed that it becomes difficult to sit with your own thoughts because of the anxiety. There is a strong sense of anger and irritation that comes along with it too. Becoming angry with other people who aren’t as considerate as they should be. Or, becoming angry out of fear of what may happen to you if the other person is sick. There’s also this feeling of frenzy that ultimately leads to mechanical, angry, obsessive, cleaning.

I say all this to say, I think that there are more and more people out there with social anxiety as a result of this pandemic. We feel anxious being around one another, every event (if held at all) takes careful planning and consideration, when out in people you can see people’s anxiety skyrocket when someone isn’t wearing a mask, the list goes on. At this point, we’re 7 months in and anxiety is something we are all familiar with. It makes me wonder, how will this affect the manifestation of chronic conditions and mental health issues in the future?

P.S. – I am not responsible for any behavior I may exhibit once the world is safer and COVID is under control ? (I’m kidding lol, unless.. no really I’m joking)

One Comment

  • Miriam Breslauer

    Hugs. I didn’t have any kind of social anxiety prior to COVID, but now I have a hard time not viewing all people as monsters and potentially dangerous to me. I am a hugger and yet now I am scared to hug my family. Eventually I gave up on this last one and went back to hugging my family because we couldn’t deal (as a family) otherwise.
    This year in particular has been hellish for everyone I know regardless of age, financial status, and background. Social anxiety is off the charts bad for us all, but for my friends and family with it it has ramped up to unsafe levels for them. I truly hope you can find safe outlets where you can get some safe social contact. My relative with it plays board games with me and another in the family until we all break in some way (physical or social). It helps us all at least fake social contact.
    I hope this helps to know that you aren’t alone and that you aren’t the only one feeling this way.

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