Click. My heart thuds in my chest. Click. I start to sweat. Click. My mind twirls around like a tornado. And then I wait for the next click that is surely meant for me.
I lie in bed, insomnia gripping me and I can’t help but go down the rabbit hole of news article after news article, desperately searching for the answers, for anything that might make me feel better. Or at least sure, of something—anything at all. Because certainty was never a part of life, but now it feels as far away as my carefree days of traveling around Europe.
I don’t know what to think anymore. I don’t know how to act. I don’t even know if any of my actions are or will keep me or the people around me safe anymore. I feel like I’m overreacting and under reacting all at once but the fear settles deeper into me now—two years into this global pandemic—than it has since the beginning of it all when everything was completely unknown.
I hear stories and I read articles and I get updates from our government and I’m told what to do or what not to do but the next day, even the next hour the rug is pulled from beneath me and I am forced to start from scratch.
When you live with anxiety your life always feels a little off kilter, as if the thing you fear is always around the next corner, but I had no idea that the entire world would suddenly feel what I feel. Or maybe some people don’t, which makes me even more confused.
Every single day I hear of a friend or family member who now has COVID, and I wait for my turn, because now it feels inevitable. The click of the COVID gun ready to choose me on its next round. So I convince myself that, “well at least I’m vaccinated and I even have my booster now and most new cases sound relatively mild. At least everyone I know personally is pretty careful.” But then I read an article telling me one third of the workforce will now be out of commission at any given time. I hear from a friend or someone I follow on social media that yes, COVID really is much worse than a cold or flu and the reasonable state of mind I have so carefully cultivated this past two years suddenly leaps out the window faster than the latest COVID protocols.
Is it too obvious to say that I don’t want to get sick? Is it too naive or simplistic? Right before Christmas I was hit with a brutal stomach flu. For about 10 hours I was more sick than I had been in two years and folks—I forgot. I pushed from my mind just how horrendous illness can feel. I was so sick that at numerous times in the night I wept to my long-suffering husband, “this is it. I’m dying.” I have a severe fear of vomiting which didn’t exactly help the situation.
So I got tested and waited for the results like you wait for your final grades—with hope and fear. Never had the word NEGATIVE looked so beautiful to me when that text arrived a day later telling me I was COVID-free. Oh the relief. It took about 7–10 days for me to feel like myself again but only 24 hours for me to go through about 3,000 emotions and to remember how good not being sick feels.
I don’t have a great immune system in general and in pre-COVID times I would usually get around four to five colds or flus a year on top of my regular migraines. In one particularly stressful period of my life I got strep throat twice in one month. And at the time I had no paid sick leave at my not-for-profit arts job. I remember having to throw up in a garbage can at work because I had forced myself to come in sick.
So the inevitably of COVID hangs over me now like an invisible cloak of doom and I wait. I wonder how bad it will be when it hits. Maybe I’ll be lucky and it will hardly feel like much. Or maybe I’ll be one of the rare cases that, despite being relatively young (or at least not a senior) and healthy, develops into something severe or long lasting. Maybe the three years I’ve spent recovering from a bilateral pulmonary embolism (blood clots in my lungs) will all be for naught and it will hit my lungs like a gale force.
These anxiety ridden thoughts swirl through my brain as I lie in bed at night and no amount of yoga, self care or distraction seems to be able to push these most recent Omicron induced fears away. But, as we’ve all done for two years—I’ll find a way to cope. I’ll dig deeper into my personal well and I’ll keep on keeping on. Because living in constant fear is not only exhausting but it’s also kind of pointless. I’d rather live in hope, or at least a version of hope that is realistic and allows me to function on a daily basis. So I step out of my house, and I hope it will all be okay.