My anxiety has increased with the pandemic, despite trying my best to keep it and depression at a distance. I have become increasingly aware of how much I did to overcome my anxiety and depression the past ten or more years and how the pandemic has stripped away a lot of my efforts.
Starting in 1990, I spent twelve to fifteen years dealing with my issues with groups, individual counseling, and healing workshops. I also was on almost every medication out there for depression, as well as some to help me sleep. Later also I was on a low dose of one specifically for anxiety.
The last fifteen or more years, I have been off medication and relied on other ways to feel good about myself, my work, and my life. I continued my journey to keep my body as healthy as possible, and exercised regularly. As my kids grew older and my belief that my marriage would be a fulfilling one faded, I worked on making my world bigger by getting more people and activities in my life for myself.
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The last three years saw my world become immensely social because of taiko. Many weeks I drummed two to three times with others, and I almost always had a taiko trip planned. The more workshops I did around the country and in Germany, the more people I had to share experiences with. Even online, we maintained the connection we had made while making music together. We continued the discussion of life and how taiko can change the world. I had taiko players sleep at my house, and some of my current closest friends are from taiko, even if they reside far away.
When I returned from Germany on March 16, I plunged into self-isolation with determination to get through it. I used all the tools I have gained the past thirty years of my recovery and living with PTSD. I faced each day with purpose. I exercised with different friends most days, worked at home, and tried to get my family to do things together. I posted on FaceBook often and stayed connected with my friends around the world with zoom meetings or in other ways. I wrote a lot and posted a couple of essays.
Additionally, I joined my taiko group’s zoom meetings with enthusiasm, asking them if we could check in with each person taking a turn. I wanted to hear how everyone was doing (instead of just getting to business). I reached out to people to talk or to make FaceTime appointments. I ate healthily and talked to my kids a lot. In general, I was pro-active. I was determined to ensure that I would remain emotionally and physically healthy and productive, knowing that if I didn’t, I could end up in a dark place.
I couldn’t beat pandemic anxiety
But this past weekend, I slid into a dark, low, and sad spot. I know I have been sliding for a while, but I had kept fighting to stay afloat. I acted “as if,” even if I didn’t feel it – because I learned in the nineties that if you act “as if,” very often eventually you will feel it or at least you will have gotten through the rough spot.
There were different kind of anxieties to deal with before the pandemic. Yet because I was quite active each week, I was able to rise above the negative feelings because of social interactions, playing music with others, and having purpose at home or elsewhere.
But the past two days especially I feel like something has pushed me down, and my low-grade anxiety has morphed into a depression. I feel sad. I feel like there is no point. I feel like my dream will never come true. Going mostly out of business, knowing soon I will have almost no income and will be 100% dependent on my spouse, not having income from writing, I felt like if it weren’t for my kids, my animals, my father (and whoever else I cannot think of at the moment who would be very sad that I left), I could be done with my time here on earth.
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Of course, I realize that my worth here on earth is more than what I earn or produce. But for me, being a great parent and a part-time essay writer, a sometimes tutor and editor is not enough. I feel I accomplished basically two great things so far in my life. But if I live another ten or twenty more years, I would like to accomplish at least one more great thing. I have a big dream that I have hardly began constructing. With life after the pandemic, will it ever get off the ground? Does it matter if I sit around? Should I really continue to work toward my dream?
I understand that much of my suffering is in my own head. There are some things I wish could change or have asked to be different. But mostly the anxiety is like an internal feeling of paranoia and fear. Becoming more socially active the past six or more years alleviated much of my lower level of anxiety I had for decades. When I went out to volunteer or play taiko, I had fun with others. I had interesting discussions or even just listened to people as they talked about their lives or interests. Even if I didn’t share my feelings, it didn’t matter, because I still felt validated and connected with other humans.
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I know that the pandemic will end, and somehow I will have to figure out how to get out there again with all my wonderful taiko and other acquaintances and friends.
I have been through other bouts of depression, so I know I won’t cut my life short. I have never sunk that low, and I have confidence I won’t this time.
I know it’s okay to be by myself or just with my kids. I know how to have special time at home and how to connect. I have the tools. I just need the willpower to adjust to this change.
I am grateful for my privileged position in that I am not an essential worker and can be safe at home. My family and I keep each other safe, and we have enough to eat. I am deeply saddened by the suffering of so many in the world. My anxiety has increased, despite these statements.
I am not feeling sorry for myself, which was the message I was told since I was a small child. This may be a poorly-written essay, but I am being honest. My pandemic anxiety has increased, and I am naming it.
Except for with a few friends and a few online taiko activities, I have slowly withdrawn. I read email only once a day because many cause me anxiety, and some I don’t read at all. I exercise less. I even passed down chances to talk with friends, something I never would have done, even just days ago. I asked to take a couple weeks off from my taiko group because I am tired of smiling or looking attentive without actually connecting with the faces I see.
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I am grateful for the friends who have reached out and with whom I could share and listen. Today I spent over an hour on the phone with taiko friends from Germany – the sole purpose of the conversation being to connect emotionally and socially. It felt so good to hear and nod when they spoke of their concerns. Plus, it felt like a burden released to tell them how small my world felt and how lonely I was. It also reminded me that I have to figure out how to have more fun during the rest of this pandemic.
My anxiety has increased with the pandemic, but I know I am not alone. Pandemic anxiety is an issue for so many people now around the world. Even if that doesn’t totally get me out of my slump today, I believe it will eventually. With the help of loved ones, friends, and my own inner gutsiness, I know I will be better tomorrow than I am today. I will get through this, and I know you will also, however you are suffering. These are unprecedented times, and many people feel lonely, sad, and anxious. I will get through this, and hopefully I will again find it easy to feel peace, serenity, and joy. I share with you honestly it case it helps you or someone else who is struggling. Despite our struggles, I believe, we can persevere.