Panic attack

(Yes, this is the token coronavirus post. Everybody else is doing it, so you can’t blame me.)

I had a major anxiety attack over the weekend. Well, it actually started building as early as last Wednesday, only blossoming into full-on despair and nihilism Saturday evening. And that has nothing to do with being sick. As far as I know, I’m not infected. Even if I were, I doubt it would have that effect.

The truth is, I’m not afraid of catching this virus. No more than I would fear the flu or pneumonia or something similar, anyway. Yes, I worry about the possibility of infection, because I always do. I can’t afford to go to the hospital. I don’t have a primary care physician I can call on. So the prospect of suffering an untreated illness does, and should, concern me. That’s true whether the virus that caused it is the same seasonal flu strain that hit me in December or the (most likely man-made) SARS successor causing so much uproar around the world.

No, what triggered my anxiety to ludicrous levels a few days ago wasn’t the thought that I would get sick or even die. I’ve been through that one. Three months ago, while I lay in the bed, wracked alternately by aches or chills, I contemplated my own death, because I figured it was coming soon. My cousin died from the flu in 2014, at 35, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. (And anecdotes may not be a substitute for data, but my very real experience with flu-related death is enough to make me feel that the current panic is overblown.)

What drove me to the brink of insanity was the thought that I would lose a loved one due to this. And the irrationality of depression provided two potential avenues for that to happen. The first is obvious: someone in my family contracting the virus. I have a lot of family members who are old, who continue to smoke despite my fervent pleas to quit, and who simply aren’t in the best state of health. I’ve lost one uncle already in 2020, and…I’m tired of funerals. Especially the kind around here.

The second conjecture was, to me, far more likely. As I have stated in the past, there is a woman out there whom I love very dearly. She’s likely reading this; if so, I hope she forgives this frank exposition of my mental state.

Unfortunately, she lives almost 100 miles away. I’ve been trying for months to…well, to get my act together, to find steady work, get a vehicle of my own, and so on. Every step of the way has been fraught with peril, it seems, as though all the forces in the world stood ready to stop me. I’m not a superstitious man by any means, but it’s almost enough to make me believe in curses, because the law of averages says I should’ve succeeded at something by now.

With the panic gripping the world, however, I felt my chances had finally run out for good, that I had lost my last opportunity to claim the life we both believe we deserve. If the whole world is locked down in quarantine, how am I to get to her? Who’s going to hire me when nobody is allowed to work? We’re both in our 30s, so I’m acutely aware of the biological clock factors at play, too. Four weeks—or four months, as some are claiming might be “necessary”—is time I don’t feel I have, time I can’t waste sitting around. Not if I want to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a family man, of living a life worthy of the name.

All that came crashing down on me Wednesday and Thursday, and it hit hard. I tried writing on Thursday, and I just couldn’t find the will. My worlds are my escape, and I felt like there was no escape. Insomnia kept me awake, tossing and turning through each night, into each morning; what sleep I did get was light, troubled, not at all refreshing. On Friday, I made the mistake of pushing her away for the weekend. Some dark, disturbed part of me suggested I should do one better and break away for good. At least then I’d only be ruining one life, it argued. Saturday mostly involved lying in bed, listening to music, thinking, and trying not to cry in case the toilet paper scalping keeps going.

We talked on Sunday, and I vowed never to lose my mind like that again. I hope it’s a promise I can keep. For that matter, I hope I can keep all my promises to her. Especially the ones that lead to us living not just happily ever after, but together.

I’ve seen my life alone. It’s not pretty. It’s barely worth living, to put it bluntly. So now it’s time to fight. Fight the panic, fight the demons inside me, fight all those who stand in the way of the life, the love, I should have had all along. I know it’s not easy, but I’ve taken steps, following the mantra I have made my own, the opening lines of “Recreation Day” by Evergrey:

One step at a time.
Small progress seems futile,
but is as valuable as life.

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