How I’m Dealing With My Panic Disorder During The Coronavirus Pandemic

*trigger warning: talk of ED, abuse, anxiety, and depression

I had a bad panic attack last night. It was the first time, in a long time, that I really broke down and sobbed. I curled up in a ball in my bed, felt my pulsating chest, and emptied an entire tissue box. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what’s happening right now.

The corona pandemic has completely taken over the world. Everyone is talking about it–the symptoms, the percentages of deaths in certain countries and the percentages of deaths globally, who’s more susceptible to getting the virus, how to prevent it from spreading, what our national leaders are doing about it, if anything at all.

The world has been a bit unnerving and scary lately. People with anxiety are having a harder time dealing with things. Me included. I fled New York City and went home to suburbia in New Jersey. Thankfully, my family and I are healthy and safe in our homes with food, water, and toilet paper. Still, not everyone is safe. Not everyone has the things most of us have. And that’s where my anxiety started to kick in.

I’m an empath. Always have been, always will be. Although I know my family is safe and sound doing some social distancing, I can’t help but refresh my social media and get stressed out about everyone else and what they’re doing and how they’re surviving.

There are other people dealing with mental health issues like me, and there are people who are dealing with something a lot more different and in some cases, a lot more severe. Some people are concerned for those with depression or ED who might relapse. I saw someone question what they should do if their social distancing is in an abusive household. My heart just…aches.

I see people on Instagram and Twitter* still going out to bars and restaurants. (Thankfully none of my friends are the hardheaded dumbasses that are going out in public – I’ve just been seeing the content reposted from others.) I read about people who can’t go into work but also aren’t able to work from home and they’re (rightfully so) concerned for how they’re going to pay for groceries and rent. I’m concerned for my friend and my uncle who are both nurses. I’m anxious for those who have gotten the virus (Tom Hanks, please stay with us) and are either quarantined or being hospitalized.

*Note: As I write this, I see my phone light up with a Twitter notification that 4 athletes have tested positive for COVID-19. 

I could just…log out of Twitter. Turn off the notifications. Mute the words “coronavirus” across my social media platforms. Tune out the news that my parents are watching on the TV in the other room. But I can’t.

I don’t know if it’s an empath thing or if it’s an anxiety thing, but I’m keeping up with the news–as painful as it is–because I want to know things are getting better. I refresh social media to see if there have been updates on how long this will last. I watch the Tik Toks and I laugh at the memes because I, too, use humor as a coping mechanism.

Seriously, what the fuck? How can I deal with my anxiety and panic disorder now that it’s at an all-time high? How can we, as a society, get all the hardheaded people out of bars and clubs and public transportation and inside their homes so this stops spreading? I don’t know. How will public and national leaders help make sense of things and find solutions to this epidemic? I don’t know. Will people ever see eye-to-eye on how we, as a country, should deal with healthcare especially in situations like this? I don’t know.

I woke up this morning and noticed how puffy my eyes were, resulting from crying myself to sleep the night before. So how do I deal with my anxiety? How can I deal with it, especially during a time like this? I’m not sure. I’ll just have to do what feels right in the moment. I’ll close out of Twitter if I see too many tweets in a row about this virus, I’ll listen to music that makes me feel good instead of whatever’s being said on the news, I’ll do yoga every morning and every night and make note of my breathing.

Living with anxiety has always been a hard thing for me. Even at 23 years of age, I still struggle from time to time. I take my prescribed medication nightly, I listen to meditation music to help me fall asleep, and I do yoga every once in a while. But during the time of this pandemic, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

Are you struggling with your anxiety during this time of the Coronavirus? Here’s some insight on how you can take care of your mental health and wellbeing. Hang in there. We’ll get through this. That’s just what I keep telling myself at least.

Brooklyn-based poet, writer, avid coffee drinker, and music lover.

Keep up with Kelly on Instagram, Twitter, Amazon and TikTok