All of the Comparisons I Can Make to Describe My Anxiety Right Now

This probably shouldn’t have taken me by surprise to the degree it did, but I am decidedly NOT handling coronavirus well. (Is it possible to handle a pandemic well? Discuss).

I hate that our most vulnerable populations are at greater risk, that our government’s response has been irremediably bungled, that so many people are not taking it seriously. I hate that one of the most helpful things I can do is… nothing.
All of my need to protect and help is being channeled into a burning desire to… do the chores my parents ask? Share tweet after tweet about the importance of social distancing, free healthcare, community support?

So yeah, clearly my anxiety has kicked into high gear.  I have a lot of days where I’m fine (today is not so much one of them). I try to fulfill a to do list of arbitrary tasks every day (watch a movie, practice handstands, do yoga, walk). And I can’t even begin to describe how privileged I am to be able to 1) stay home, 2) not work, 3) have anxiety be my greatest (personal) worry right now. But as I am having a hard time breathing, my pulse is fast, and not being catatonic is taking a lot of effort, I’m going to try writing to make it a bit better. And I already journaled once today. Clearly it didn’t work.

You know that shaken up feeling you have right after you almost fall? I’m feeling like that. Every second and every minute.

I can’t read. I can’t focus enough to read. I’m having trouble focusing enough to watch Youtube videos.

Some combination of this fast breathing-fast pulse thing is making my arms and legs feel a bit jelly.

I don’t feel like jumping out of a window (at least not relative to the moments in my life when I have MOST felt like jumping out of a window).

My diaphragm feels like it’s going to try to fly away from the rest of my body.

It’s really very interesting to bump up against my introvert boundaries.  I’ve lived the past three years studying abroad, and not in the vicinity of any of my close friends. I generally prefer solitude. But not seeing ANYONE ANYWHERE. It’s horrible. Apparently I like having people around, close by, you don’t realize how much normalcy you get from just the presence of others.

Something is squeezing my heart. Like one of those jiggly tubes you play with when you’re little that slips through your fingers when it turns inside out. Sometimes there are sparkles inside.

My mind feels paralyzed because my thoughts are all either too much or too fast to hold on to. Because it’s easier to not focus on any of them because the amount of attention and concern and fear it would take and give to focus on one, not to mention all, of them is too much.

I don’t understand people who aren’t taking this seriously. I completely understand not panicking. Panicking isn’t helpful (case in point: me). But predicted deaths in the US are 400,000 to 1 million. Predicted time span is possibly 18 months. And after that what does our world look like?

It’s stupid, but all of the things I had been vaguely planning- the job I have lined up and that is postponed (ostensibly and hopefully to early April)- adopting a pair of cats and someday if I can a doggo- someday buying a nice couch. They feel like kind of distant benchmarks of a space where I wasn’t worried about everyone I care about dying. Good old days.

If people aren’t willing to stay safe for their damn selves I selfishly am wishing they would recognize that I obviously can’t handle this and need them to be more responsible. But if they’re not worried for their parents, for their grandparents, for their immunocompromised friends, for the homeless, etc, I don’t think my anxiety is really going to tip the scale.

I understand now why people join cults and follow persuasive demagogues. I would very much, in this moment, like someone to tell me exactly what it is I should be doing. What I can do to fix this. And that everything will be okay.

I’d like to think I would be able to question orders like that, but honestly I don’t know.

This is the second bad day. The seriousness started for me I think on the 11th. My first bad day was the 12th. I cried that day because I realized (maybe wrongly, but I think rightly) that if I were ever in a situation where I would have to be brave and calm under pressure, in the face of insurmountable odds, I would fail.

Weirdly, this was couched in terms of ‘what I would end up doing if I were facing fantasy evil’ a la the Harry Potter series, or The Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or so many others.  I guess you daydream when you are little that if you were in that place, in that position, you too would be a hero.  It’s not so much fun to reach the conclusion that you are a neurotic mess, in this world and any other.

I’d like to imagine that I would in fact be brave/courageous/at least an asshole if I were faced with an actual evil. That the reason I’m faltering now is because a plague is… a bit less clear cut of a thing to combat.  It’s a bit nebulous. But then again, so are my excuses and here we are.

And then again, the people in those adventures are fictional.  Not that there aren’t real life heroes, but the amount of trauma (both physical and emotional) that fictional individuals can recover from knows no bounds. Again, I hope you’re enjoying my nebulous excuses.

…..

I wish I could focus (more) on things that will be important.  The election. Rebuilding from the virus in a sustainable and deliberate way that preserves the natural inroads we’ve seen in heavily populated, heavily polluted areas. Providing relief to the people most devastated by the virus’s consequences. Learning how economic stimulus can be used to bring Americans closer to equality, rather than propping up giant companies that have experienced some losses, but that will invest in themselves over infrastructure and people every time.

But I’m tired. And honestly, I don’t have a lot of hope. I never have a lot of hope but I have less hope right now.  Or perhaps I have hope, but not faith.  These are things I hope will happen, but to believe they will feels naive. And like entirely too much effort.

…….

The best way I’ve come up with to describe how I’m feeling right now is “operating at a very high emotional frequency”.  My responses to little things feel magnified. Noises are ranging from loud to unbearable.

It’s weird to be so cut off from my normal methods of coping.  And to find that the methods of coping that remain entirely unequipped to deal with the level of whatever the hell this is that I’m experiencing right now.  It would be great to get some release, but I don’t think I’ll be finding any anytime soon.

Truth be told, I’m feeling like being pinned under a tree would be a great place to be right now.  Practically and literally forced to Not Do Anything and Not Go Anywhere.

There’s not so much I can do to help. And nothing that I can do to help feels like so very much.

And I’m not imagining that this post will be helpful to anyone. I may have, at some point in time, imagined that it would be an interesting and helpful look at mental health during times of pandemic, but in reality it is an anxiety spiral. Just typed up.
And in some ways it’s a therapeutic exercise for me. Or I imagine it would be except I don’t feel better.  Really the most I can hope for is that I’m not triggering anyone else’s anxiety.

And it is selfish, but I think I will let it go up.  Without imagining it will be helpful for anyone. Mostly because the feeling of having said what’s bothering me to a larger, external group/being is one that I need right now. All the better if it can exist there without anyone reading it. Because, for mental anxieties that I know are transient, sharing them with friends seems like a bad (read: selfish) decision.  If this post can just exist in the greater world, enjoying the company, I would like that. It’s one of the things I myself am missing most right now.

The Two Best Movie Scenes of 2019

There were two movie scenes that really stood out to me as Perfect last year, and a whole bunch of others that stood out to me as Quite Good (the knife umbrella macaron attack in Shadow, anyone?).

The top two scenes were not in movies that made my top ten list (which was actually a top 8 but became a top 9), so I want to share them here to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.

  • Willem Dafoe literally cursing Robert Pattinson for insinuating that he (Pattinson) was not fond of his (Dafoe’s) lobster.
    The Lighthouse
  • Noah Jupe’s phone conversation with his Mom, where he repeats her side of the conversation to his Dad, and they essentially carry on a screaming/crying match through him.
    Honey Boy

Thematically Appropriate Content

If you’re looking for something to “get down with the sickness”, as it were, here are some recommendations.

Reading material:

  • Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allen Poe
    Short Story
  • The Plague, Camus
    Novella
  • A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe
    Novel
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    Novel

Music:

I may have joined the club and made a coronavirus playlist, focused on my preferred musical era of 60’s/70’s.

Movies:

I don’t have any disease-focused films, but if you’re self-isolating (which, if you can, you should be) here is a list of 100 RT-Fresh films you can stream for free online (with links).

Hi It’s a Plague

Here’s some reading material

Are Our Prisons and Jails Ready for Covid-19? (ACLU)
(The answer is no)

Trump is Ensuring the Worst Possible Outcome (The Atlantic)
(Don’t worry, it’s okay to blame Trump for our nation’s response to the coronavirus because he fired the entire national pandemic response team in 2018)

Young and Unafraid of the Coronavirus? Good for You. Now Stop Killing People.(Newsweek)
(Murderers.)

Free Movies Online: 100 Fresh Movies to Watch Online For Free (Rotten Tomatoes)
(For your isolated pleasure.)

Current Expositions in Paris

Fun story, if you call something an exhibit or and exhibition in Paris it has weirdly sexual exhibitionist connotations, so now I call everything an exposition. Which is wrong, in English, but I keep doing it. I’ve also forgot the correct sense of the word ‘recuperate’.

A few expositions opened shortly (like, a day) before I left Paris, meaning that with packing, cleaning out my apartment, and post-exam fatigue, I didn’t have the time or the wherewithal to go see them.  In case anyone is headed to Paris, here’s what you could go see that would make me jealous:

Library Haul

I’m back in the United States which means I’ve checked out an inappropriate amount of books and movies from the library.

Here’s what they are:

Books:

  • White Negroes: When Cornrows were in Vogue… and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, Lauren Michele Jackson
  • Women who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and Sublime from Tin House
  • Forty Stories, Donald Barthelme
  • In the Gloaming: Stories, Alice Elliott Dark
  • The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, Toni Morrison
  • A Village in a Valley, Beverley Nichols

 

Movies:

  • Pick of the Litter
  • Becoming Astrid
  • Cold War
  • Good Manners
  • Land of Mine
  • Room 237
  • Maria by Callas
  • Mandy
  • Night Comes On
  • Shadow (the one from last year)
  • You Were Never Really Here
  • Miss Hokusai
  • Prospect
  • November
  • L’Amant Double

Movie Updates

In the time since I’ve last posted, I’ve finished off exam week (three exams in one day, woo!), finished off graduate school in Paris, and moved out of France. I’m now in the middle of visiting family in Spain.  That is, until Friday (it’s Wednesday evening now), when I will be taking the plane back home to the Greater Boston area. Where I will be for a week (a week coinciding with the spring break of one of my best friends!) before moving back to Manhattan to begin a second internship/trial period at IFF as a fine fragrance evaluator.

I’m very exhausted and I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting as all this gets gearing up (despite having so many ideas- recommended links! my dreams for the future! movies that have already come out that I want to see! things I’m looking forward to at home! things I’m going to miss in Paris!) but I would like to slide in a few amendments to previous posts.

The first amendment: An addition to my favorite films of 2019.
I cut off my list of favorite 2019 films at 8, but since then I was lucky enough to see the French submission to the Oscars for best foreign film, Les Miserables.  There is a lovely group in Paris that shows French and other international films with English subtitles- they’re called Lost in Frenchlation. If you’re in the Paris area you should definitely check them out.
So Les Miserables. Not an adaptation of the classic novel, but a film that takes places in the same area of Paris, Les Bosquets, and looks at the tense relationship between the police and the largely North African and Muslim neighborhood they patrol over the span of a few days.  It’s very powerful and I very much recommend it.

The second amendment: Three additions to my anticipated films of 2020:
Minari: A family drama seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old Korean-American boy whose father moves the family from California to rural Arkansas to learn to farm and make a better life.

Respect: A biopic profiling legendary singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin.
The teaser trailer was stunning and Jennifer Hudson deserves a break, post-Cats.

Passing: Two white-presenting black women are forced to confront their own choices, and each other, after they reunite to learn one is living as a white woman and the other as black.
I feel like I’ve seen and liked another Nella Larsen adaptation, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.