• Flux Magazine

"anxious + depressed and there’s a pandemic" by Ty Zeanah

this quarantine crept up on me, and i thought i was ready to stay home indefinitely because i would use the time productively but instead, i was slapped in the face with the harsh realization that i was not even close to ​that​ person.

i wanted to say, "i would know who i would be," or even just be able to say, "i wouldn’t really know who i would be," during something like this but overall, i foresaw myself reacting differently in a global pandemic. i started out optimistic in which i thought, or i had envisioned, or i had hoped for myself and i had pictured the person i would possibly be during a time like this. i realize that envisioning future-selves in unpredictable situations might be just another symptom of living with chronic anxiety (and always having to think of the worst case scenario or in extremes could just be a side effect for those struggling with runaway thoughts, like me) and yet, here we are. we’re living through a time i never imagined i would be alive for, a time where the whole world is forced to shut down, when we’re told to stay home for the welfare of not only our communities, but for humanity’s best interest altogether. this is a time where we can either hoard necessary supplies like food and toilet paper or ask a neighbor if they need anything when we make an awaited run to the grocery store. we can consume news and Covid-19 updates as if the fate of humanity single-handedly depends on our research and news-comparing discoveries... or we can take care of ourselves - whatever that looks like at this exact moment, right?

well, i went for the gentle approach in the beginning of every beginning like this one when it came to my general wellbeing. what i mean by that is i tried to tuck my fears into bed at night, (sidenote - if i’m being honest probably also 1ish p.m. because i exhaust myself by then and need to recoup with a nap around that time, especially now that i’ve given myself that permission; when i say, “nap,” what i mean by that is: a timeout from consciously being myself because i’m already disappointed with my decisions and the day isn’t even halfway over) i close my eyes on my mind because i tricked myself into believing if i’m asleep i can’t be overthinking; and i tried to give those irrational thoughts whatever they wanted during the day, even if that giving in actually meant eating breakfast at 2 p.m. and justifying my first meal as a bag of microwave popcorn, or challenging Netflix to ask me, “if i was still watching?” ​four-six ​times a day, because, “hell yeah, i was in fact, still watching Cold Case Files (or at least napping to the background noise). and hey, some day(s), it's okay to zone out for your own mental health every now and then, or for me, more often than now and then (disassociating is considered a ​superpower ​to some people, okay? it’s on par with compartmentalizing so intensely you forget the time, the day of the week, and if you’re ​really talented​ like me, your whole name!) how could one forget their own name if they have all (okay, most) mental faculties, one may ask? my answer to you is this, my friend:

imagine if, for example, you could forget who you were versus who you wished you were, or you could forget the people who were still here or aren’t here or weren’t there but either way, the answer might break your heart somehow, or if you could forget what you did or didn’t do, let what consumed, screamed for your acknowledgment daily, even if disdainfully, (you might be allowed to) let it all go, like someone else’s birthday balloon not meant for you on a regular Wednesday, it’s all gone into unreachable atmospheres, or on the latter, it may paralyze you in your body as it so often does to me and instead of feeling motivated to let your other foot drop from midair, you somehow convince yourself the discomfort of balancing on one leg endlessly isn’t so bad, instead of letting gravity work in your favor and feel the ground underneath your instability for once? for once doesn't that sound worth the fear of the unknown and required bravery?

doesn’t that sound like an easy choice? so obvious it’s painful and some days i’m so uncomfortable with my eyes open to the daylight and my mind operating the steering wheel behind them, intentions hopeful then destroyed, too aware for my own good; what i mean is some days it’s easier to smoke weed or drink wine or watch Netflix or play Animal Crossing on my Switch for hours and lose track of time, and more importantly, myself, without engaging my brain too much into realizing what's required of me to participate in reality, than it is to make a to-do list or even find the will to locate a pen and paper (i’m old-school, so making notes on screens feels too weird to me and thus in my validation: making to-do lists is more strenuous in my case) and notice how i won’t even mention trying to carry out said, “to-do list,” right about now because it makes me feel bad about myself acknowledging all the undone around me.

because i was the person who wasn’t using my time wisely; i was the person who was asleep when awake, preferably, and generally taking advantage of doing absolutely nothing (worth noting) to the very best of my prestigious ability. i like to think this avoidance technique i mastered and deploy when i’m anxious is best friends with my procrastination habit; they go way back, the two of them, childhood friends.

how sad and eye-opening and grateful and embarrassed and aware i feel: living through a global pandemic that forces me to slow down to a pace that feels so eerily familiar i choke on it as if i’m allergic to the air in my apartment the moment i open my eyes in the morning...

day: “i don't know, i lost count” in quarantine/shelter in place - and i have to force myself to feel some kind of accountability. to the world. to my responsibilities. to my goals. to myself. some days it's 4 p.m and i haven't brushed my teeth yet, there is no routine in the mind of someone operating with depression and anxiety because everything ends in a, "don't care," or, “what if...?” before any action can be completed. the easiest way not to deal with what's going wrong in the world right now is to turn the world off completely.

but today i kept my eyes open and they saw the day as it happened instead of in the past or future tense. i watered my thirsty plants and asked for an old recipe i love. and yeah, i hate to admit that some of my plants died while i overslept and i put too much batter in the loaf pan for the banana bread recipe i never baked by myself before, but i swear it tasted as close to ​her’s​, my best friend’s without her hands making it - so, i smiled because today i made banana bread instead of closing my eyes on the day. what i mean to say by this is i’m trying to find a balance in my mental health where some days can be bad and i’m allowed to disconnect from being myself only if i make a simultaneous promise to create some days like today: where i feel brave enough to bake banana bread for the first time and it comes out looking strange but it tastes just like home nonetheless, and some of my sturdy plants perk up toward the day because i opened the blind and tied back the curtains to let the moment in, disguised as sunlight.

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