This pandemic has not been good for my nervous system (I wanted to write “mental health”, but I think that is potentially a misleading term because it makes it seems like actual biological conditions are just “mental”, as though it is a pure product of the mind). I already had generalised anxiety pre-pandemic, so for almost two years I’ve just been even more worried, stressed and anxious.
The vaccine held some hope, but with more recent data it seems some people are still getting pretty ill – anything that doesn’t require oxygen is considered “mild” but you can still feel like shit for weeks and also risk long covid – with breakthrough infections and older people with underlying conditions are still at risk of serious illness. The risk is lower of course, but it is still there. The underlying conditions are diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol which most people above the age of 40 probably have some form of the above because of our national carb-heavy diet with high stress levels.
People close to me have been getting non-covid related illnesses, and everytime they need to visit a clinic or hospital it stresses me out, because the probability of getting infected in these places are higher. Some of the elderly live with unvaccinated kids or people who have to regularly expose themselves due to work, so that worries me too. I can’t stop worrying.
I am already pretty lucky in terms of what I have to deal with compared to many other people, yet I’m still so stressed and anxious. I cannot imagine what it is like for other people.
On the other hand I see many people trying to go on with their lives as per normal, because what else can we do except to try to survive? But the pandemic for me and probably some of us is not just about the uncontrollable virus situation. It is also about how much we’ve witnessed over the past 1.5 years: the competency of politicians, people being severely misled by misinformation, the lengths people go to defend their own beliefs and “sovereignty”, how people are harming others because of their own unchecked psyches.
The world is in chaos, but we’re trying to tell ourselves everything is fine and please carry on. We’re going to feel the repercussions of this for years to come, on top of dealing with climate change. I am not sure what to do myself except trying to cherish whatever time and peace I have now.
It still feels wrong to try to do fun things in these times when so many people are suffering. My pace of writing here has suffered, because each time I write something it sounds like this. Half the time I feel like I am an unlikeable wet blanket, the other half I feel like I am only expressing the reality I experience.
I “console” myself by reminding myself of the inherent absurdity and suffering of life – no one is spared the pain of existence, going through the process of living, ageing, getting ill, and eventually dying. People from former generations have been through wars and great famines. Perhaps we’ve been lulled into a false sense of safety for the past few decades, with promises of unbridled technology advancement that were supposed to solve all our existential problems. But can technology nourish our deprived psyches, our propensity to harm?
Every day now I mentally brace myself for bad news, like the ancient stoics. Every day that goes peacefully without drama I silently thank my lucky stars. I know I am living on borrowed time, because I know each time something heartbreaking happens a part of me dies.
I think the pandemic has changed the world dramatically permanently, but we’re still trying to believe it will go back to where it was. At this time I find buddhist philosophy helpful, even if I know it is simply another narrative for me. There is no other way, except to tell ourselves whatever stories that will make us feel better.