My mum told me yesterday that she doesn’t think I know how to worry properly.
It was because I’d been telling her that one of my main worries about the coronavirus was zombies. Zombies or perhaps man-eating plants. ‘I don’t care how much toilet paper I have,’ I said, ‘the most stressful thing about going to the supermarket is getting out of the car and expecting to see the undead shuffle out of the trolley park.’
‘I absolutely promise you,’ she said, ‘that there will not be any zombies.’
‘That’s exactly what they say at this point in the books,’ I pointed out, in what felt like a completely reasonable way, ‘but then the virus mutates and suddenly your shrubs are trying to eat you in the night.’
‘I think perhaps that you’re not used to worrying,’ said my mum, ‘and that you’re not sure how to process it. I don’t think it’s really about zombies.’
She might be right.
Whereas my sister, in her own words, has been ‘prepping for this moment her whole life’, emotionally at least, (although they do also always have more than a normal amount of pasta at home), I have not. Anxiety has historically not been my ‘thing’ and I prefer to waft through life unconcerned by external events or health concerns. Over the last year or so though, maybe age, maybe the midlife unravelling, I’d already started to notice odd niggles about things taking root – a needless trip to the optician because my eyes ‘don’t feel right’ here, a cry over the pointlessness of life there. I’ve felt slightly off my game for a while and coronavirus feels like it could be the thing that tips me over the edge.
25 years of reading dystopian fiction has left me with an ingrained fear of things like viruses, over which we appear to have so little control. It feels scary to me because it’s unpredictable, it could be anywhere and because we don’t know how to kill it.
Just like zombies.
Partly I know it’s to do with personal circumstances. Belle has been going through a ‘rough patch’ for, ooh, about three and a half years now, and that has certainly taken its toll on us both. Bee had a difficult pregnancy and now has a new baby, and I’ve wanted to support her as much as possible too. Belle’s not been attending college for a year and the daily ritual of getting her and myself out of the house in as casual and fun a way as possible has been a huge part of how we go from one day to the next.
It’s felt like something of a limbo for me, and her too I’m sure, because neither of us are really sure of what might change and when. Trying to maintain work alongside this has felt tough – creativity and motivation are low. Having this sense of suspended reality scaled up into a global one has shaken me for sure. I was dealing with uncertainty on a personal level by feeling grounded by the security of others, of a world carrying on regardless. Now I feel like I’ve lost that anchor.
Maintaining a social life outside of just the two of us at home, having regular, face-to-face contact with other adults, has also been a really important way of maintaining my own sanity. Faced with the prospect of losing that for the foreseeable future is overwhelming at times. What if we can’t handle it? What if we both go mad? What if we get eaten alive by all the spider babies?
And then there’s the guilt to deal with, of knowing that I’m in such a relatively privileged position, that neither of us are likely to actually die, and yet still failing to find the strength to maintain a positive outlook. I feel like I’m being selfish, but when I think of the scale of the crisis and how many people will be affected in so many different ways, it becomes unmanageable.
Perhaps making it about my own battle against zombies is my brain’s way of dealing with it, for now at least, and maybe that’s okay.
Are you experiencing anxiety around coronavirus and how are you managing it? Please do leave a comment and let me know.
P.S. I understand that the best way to kill a zombie is a straightforward decapitation, just make sure you sever the head completely.