One thing that the world wide pandemic has changed for me is that it feels easier to talk about anxiety than it used to.
When Canada was asked to stay home to help reduce the spread and load on hospitals things felt very uncertain all of a sudden for pretty much everyone.
I'm sure there were folks who were unphased or unbothered but for the most part people were at least concerned, if not anxious and afraid.
I was terrified. Or, I suppose I should say that my anxiety level rose to the extreme. Or something like that. I was not ok.
And I found that a lot of people were not ok.
People were worried. People didn't know what was going to happen. People weren't sure they were safe, or how to stay safe. People had to adjust their routines. Some lost work or were forced to work from home or were forced to work in an environment that was now riskier than before. Things weren't how any of us were used to. And we were told a lot of conflicting upsetting things. People became more wary of other people. We were asked not to socialize. Many of us suddenly weren't supposed to see family and loved ones and friends. People were worried.
And as I looked around and heard from others I realized... people were starting to understand anxiety. People were feeling lots of the things people living with an anxiety disorder deal with all day every day. Uncertainty. Fear. Lack of safety. Concern. Fear of the future. Things being unknown. Dread. Existential angst. Death feeling closer than usual. Others being a threat. And so on and so on.
And after a while it made me feel more comfortable saying to people "this is really making my anxiety bad" and "I've been dealing with anxiety for a while now... this is making it worse." Because for the first time it felt like people understood.
For the first time it didn't feel like people would say "just get over it" or "why are you worried?" because they were feeling stress/worry/anxiety about their own lives and selves and family and job and situation. It felt like almost everyone got some sense of having anxiety or at least being very unsettled.
And so it felt easier for me to say "I am not ok".
In the past few months I've told people that I've been dealing with anxiety (and whatever other term(s) to explain it) that I've not told before. Do I feel better for having told them? Hard to say, but I don't think I feel worse? No one has been surprised. Or at least they've been polite and non committal in their responses. It's still awkward and uncomfortable but there has also been a sense of commonality, certainly in the first few months of everything.
Now it's a little bit different again as people have had very different reactions to "reopening" and mask usage and health and all sorts of things I don't want to get into here.
I feel a bit nervous again telling people that I haven't been grocery shopping since March and that I'm really not socializing and really not doing much of anything because I know others are. And so it's hard again for me to know if I'm being over reactive or they're being under reactive or who's judging who, so I just keep doing the best I can and I try to let people be and just adjust my behaviours around their choices. (Like someone who's maybe going to the gym and restaurants and lots of socializing and shopping and being pretty normal, I will probably not go for a distance walk with them, but someone who's wearing a mask and not seeing many folks and shopping a bit, I will see if my anxiety will "let" me spend time near them.)