It’s no secret to anyone that the air is eerie right now. Walking my dog down our street, we’re giving the other pet owners short and polite acknowledgments instead of the enthusiastic, warm, and drawn-out greetings we usually give. Everyone is feeling pressure to keep their distance, and keep interactions brief for their own health, and out of respect to others who are concerned about the spread of germs. I can’t recall ever experiencing something like this in my lifetime before. Everything is getting cancelled. Everything. I work from home, but I cannot imagine what life is about to be like for those who must go into a physical location to make money. Either they will continue to do so, and potentially put their health at risk, or they won’t be able to do so, due to business closures, and find their finances at risk.
I was at the grocery store today, and that was a strange place. I couldn’t decide if I should be grocery shopping for the tasty recipes I’d like to try this week, or if I should be buying massive quantities of non-perishable foods, in case supplies run out for a while. Fresh salmon, or canned? Baked muffins, or canisters of oatmeal? I felt competitive with the other shoppers. I was watching them all, seeing if anybody knew something I didn’t about what we should stock up on, and whether or not I should try to grab it before they did. Is that already a peek into how I’d behave if a true apocalypse happened? Would I be a survivalist? Would I compete with others for supplies? It’s a frightening thought.
Maybe there is some comfort in knowing that we are all having these experiences right now. Here are ways Coronavirus may be affecting your psyche.
Every cough is a concern
If I hear someone so much as clear their throat, I move away from them as quickly as possible while covering my face and then keeping a close, laser-like focus on that person to make sure they don’t come near me. If somebody coughs, sneezes, or sniffles, I start believing I can see other symptoms on them, and even begin to feel them on myself. I don’t know if I’m just a hypochondriac or rightfully concerned.
You aren’t making new plans
If someone invites me to something or even tries to book me for some work, I refuse to give an answer. Or I’m very hesitant. I have no idea what the world will look like in two weeks. Will I want to leave my home? Will I want to go somewhere where there will be a small crowd? While I’m usually the best planner, I don’t want to make plans right now.
Imagining survival scenarios
My brain has been going wild with survival scenarios. Too many zombie films for me I guess. We live on the first floor of our building, which is the least secure floor, but we are friends with a couple on the top floor. I imagine myself sending them a text if push comes to shove asking if we can come live with them, offering up our supplies to entice them.
You disdain close talkers
I find myself moving away from people in conversation. Like, really far away. I don’t want to stand within three feet of someone for a conversation. And as for those who are standing close to me, I’m giving them the death stare. I’ve been asking strangers in line at the store to move away from me.
Should you kiss your partner?
I live with my partner, which is a huge factor in this whole thing. I find myself thinking, well, what’s the point of me taking all of these precautions out there to avoid the virus if I then go home and put my mouth on someone’s mouth? I won’t stand within three feet of strangers but I’m exchanging saliva with someone at home. I can’t confirm he didn’t come in contact with the virus.
Constantly doing a body scan
Every morning I wake up, sit, take stock of my body, and think, “Okay, how is my head? Is that okay? What about my throat? Was that a slight tickle? Maybe just dry? Am I nauseous? Or just hungry because I haven’t had breakfast. I’m tired. Or am I fatigued?” I am running these body scans constantly throughout the day.
The resistance to give into panic
On the one hand, I do not want to give into the panic. The panic is often worse than the actual cause of it. My local grocery store ran out of toilet paper last week. Most of the shelves were looking pretty sparse today. I don’t really think there is going to be a whole-country supply shortage, so I’d like to continue to do my grocery shopping as normal. But on the other hand…
Then the urge to stock up
On the other hand, everyone else’s panicked behaviors put me in a tough spot. I don’t necessarily think I need to buy eight cases of canned beans because the world will run out permanently, but I think I might need to because, due to everyone else’s behaviors, we could run out for a while. So now I want to stock up, and I’m contributing to the panic.
A me vs. them mentality
I mentioned this a bit in the intro, but I do feel myself having this me vs. them mentality. I see someone grabbing several boxes of something and think, “That’s so selfish. Why should they have that? I should be getting those.” At the same time, I wasn’t even interested in mass quantities of walnuts two minutes ago.
Considering a weapon purchase
I did just order myself a small taser gun to attach to my car keys. Again, it’s all of those zombie movies I’ve watched. I just envision some scenario in which my boyfriend, dog, and I are all loading the car up, frantically trying to escape the city, when someone runs up on us to steal our car and I have to defend us.
You take comfort in your health
I have those moments when I think, “Luckily, I’m in my thirties. I am young. I have no preexisting conditions. I’m healthy. I have a great immune system. It even fought off the flue just a couple of months ago! It’s a good one. I have nothing to worry about. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
You feel guilt over that comfort
Then I feel very guilty for taking comfort in my age and my immunity. That’s a selfish outlook. I shouldn’t just think, “Well I’ll be fine and that’s what matters.” I start feeling very guilty, and deeply sad for all of those who must be worried right now, like the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. I feel that I’ve somehow harmed them, just by being grateful that I’m not them.
It affects your drive
It’s hard to have much ambition while this is happening. My usual instinct is to do something every day to move my career forward. But, it feels silly to do that when the world might end? No, it won’t end. But that’s the kind of thinking going on here! Who am I to be working on a book treatment about long-term domestic partnership when people are worried about their lives?
Anger towards the irresponsible
I’ve become unreasonably angry with those I perceive to be irresponsible. I was at a coffee shop yesterday and a woman sat down with a friend near me, and I heard her say, “I have a bit of a runny nose” and I wanted to stand up and yell, “Then go home damnit! Why are you bringing that virus out here?!”
You question every siren
I’m noticing sirens more—are there more, or am I just noticing them?—and I’m worried about them more. It sounds like the end of the world. Is that a siren rushing to pick someone up in fatal condition from the virus? Is it a siren responding to a raid on a grocery store? My imagination isn’t doing me any favors.