Tuesday, July 20, 2021

anxiety brain and the great what if?

Sometimes, things seem a little unreal. I'm not sure how I can be contemplating my first week in over a year where i will technically not have to wear a mask in the library, but can also be scanning the headlines again anxiously as those numbers creep up.  Logical brain totally understands--vaccines, low Chicago numbers, , tight campus policies, yadda, yadda--my anxiety brain, which drives the vehicle most of the time, is like WTF?  I have felt safer in the workplace than anywhere since I am not that close to other people for very long and everyone was masked anyway. My dealings with the public, with things not so busy, were limited as well and most handled virtually.  The bus was what worried me, and while the capacity limits expired a while back, people are still required to be masked there, so that feels safer anyway.

Logical brain tells me that if I were to somehow become infected by some contagion flinging asshole, I'd be fine. I'm not keen on getting sick at all, particularly even if lighter cases can leave you with some problems afterward. Or just so much we don't know about spreading it when your vaxxed. Or just so much we don't know in general. Vaccines work, and there's solid proof of that, but also, anxiety brain whispers, what if you're like a unicorn whose immunity is out of whack somehow?  I had the moderna, and didn't really have many side effects outside of maybe a little tiredness that night and a sore arm for a couple days. Others had more. What if it wasn't enough?

Anxiety brain mostly should shut up, but watches while the world barely skips a beat.  In a week or so, scads of probably unvaccinated youngins will descend on downtown for Lollapalooza . My boyfriend, newly vaccinated, is back to hosting packed karaoke every Saturday night.  Restaurants, stores, and downtown streets are stuffed with tourists.  Things are fully and totally open, though I tend to be very nominally out in the world in general, so my life doesn't change much either way. When I was in Rockford in June, I both thrifted and dined sans mask, but then worried lowkey afterward I'd made a mistake.  Outside of that, besides work and commuting and stops for coffee, I think I only have been inside a store once lately--a Home Depot quick stop with a friend. I may see more extended family before the end of the summer, all vaccinated and probably outdoors mostly anyway. Not much changes if this is going to be another Oh-Shit! situation. 

But then everything changes. I spent a year not being able to read or make art.  Not being able to to layouts and cover designs and any sort of task that involved concentration or detail work. Around the time I got my second dose, I felt my body uncoiling like a spring that had been tight since last March. I had lived another alternate reality where I did weird covid math calculations when cases began to rise about ho many dead people that would mean in a few weeks.  Where I doomscroolled endlessly and didn't want to leave my bed some days.  I felt stress in my body always.  Add in political ridiculousness and an anxious election and 2020-early 2021 was not so much of a span of time, but a year plus long low key anxiety attack. About a month ago I was feeling pretty good it was all going to be over soon. The coil loosened and my lungs opened up again. Now I'm not so sure. 

In April, as cases crept up mid-month (though declined as vaccinations opened up), I sat at my desk and sobbed overdramatically-"I can't do this again!" It was not one of my finer moments. It sounded foolish, since obviously there is no choice. We have to to.  And I wasn't even talking about locking down or things that were a bad idea (actually I really appreciated the quiet), but just living anxious and hyperaware every second for impending doom. To have my brain hijacked for another year. To feel helpless, not even so much because of the actual disease, which just doing its things and living it's best disease-life, but the carelessness and selfishness of people that allow it to flourish, to spread, to mutate. Do we just get used to it? Does the death just become commonplace?  Do I have to go back to calculating risk so carefully--to worrying about other people if delta is able to get through vaccines and still be a problem. Will we be, as winter descends this November, in the same place we were last year?  I hope not, but it seems possible...

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