Obsession with COVID-19

In this post I will attempt to describe the conclusions my thoughts were making during my descent from reality into psychosis.

This event was triggered by the occurrence of Covid-19 and its direct impact on my life. I was already suffering from high levels of anxiety before this, and one of my strategies for dealing with it was to challenge myself by asking what the worst possible thing might be in any given situation I was afraid of, (usually incredibly mundane things like making phone calls) and then asking myself what I would then do in that situation, so as to prepare myself for the worst and not be afraid anymore.

However this plan backfired on me when it ended up leading to me trying to save the whole world’s mental health problems at once.

Here’s the path that led me there, over several days of obsessive concentration which lead to me blocking out input from the real world and ‘spacing out’ in order to focus on my own thoughts and conclusions.

(Each realisation felt like utter truth to me in the moment)

1: Covid-19 means I have to make a choice on leaving Amsterdam before Australia closes its borders. Australia is requesting citizens to return, and I am currently in the waiting period for my Dutch visa, meaning it could be denied leaving me without legal residence.

However my whole life was in Amsterdam. I felt that I was making a drastically life changing decision.

2: I panic and decide to stay in Amsterdam. Then I panic more that I’ve made the wrong decision. I use my strategy of figuring out the worst thing that can happen.

3: bad move. The worst thing that can happen is an apocalypse style scenario where threat of the virus leads people to panic and turn against each other in the streets. I realise the threat of the virus is secondary to the threat of panicked humans.

4: I become obsessed with the virus and the necessity of flattening the curve in order to ensure my own safety again. I receive an emergency alert text to my phone. I refuse to hold hands with my boyfriend outdoors in case we get busted for being too close. Toilet paper and pasta sell out of our local supermarket. I see people wearing masks in the street and it feels like the end of the world.

5: I realise that since the real threat is other people going crazy mental health is a global priority right now. Why is no one talking about it?

6: I realise that the reason the media have been silent about mental health is the same reason for the toilet paper fiasco – reporting something like that only makes it happen more.

7: I realise that it’s incredibly important both that everyone is mentally looked after so that they don’t snap, but also that no one tells anyone they need to be mentally looked after, because one person going insane can lead to a mass effect.

8: I begin to empathise with the toilet paper horders, because they figured it out before the rest of us and are now the best prepared.

9: I remember how I judged the toilet paper horders before and how before my own panic I would have agreed that we need to have a discussion about global mental health – however now I think about it I realise how bad that might be for those who are deeper in the panic than myself.

10: I make several phone calls to others with anxiety and confirm that their fears echo mine. That this is a unique and unprecedented situation, and no one knows how a pandemic will effect our mental health. Also, no one is doing ok. I can hear the suppressed fear in their voices.

11: it occurs to me that the very thing uniting us is the same thing keeping us apart, and that we are all afraid of other people and just expressing it in different ways; some by panic buying, some by following germ free regimes, and some by remaining silent about mental health even as we see those we love succumb to panic.

12: well. No one wants the world to end right? This time everyone has something in common; we all have something to lose. Surely we can avoid it ending if we just admit to each other that we’re scared of it ending and then laugh the whole thing off.

13: nobody else wants to admit their fear to me. I think it’s because saying you’re afraid of the world ending makes you sound like a crazy person, when this time it was a small but legitimate fear.

14: Because we have the internet we all have a platform, and we all therefore have a small or large chance of influencing others, which meant that any person could potentially lead others through this time. However because we knew that MAYBE we could all do something about it but MAYBE we would instead incite people to worse we all stayed silent.

However we ARE the people of the world and we should be able to join together for a common goal.

14: I understand that In order to get everyone to agree, I need to say something that both the panicked people and the others can instantly agree on without inciting either side to panic more or implying that anyone is at risk of panic. I need to find the one thing that will unite us all, creating a wave of mass empathy among humankind and showing us all how similar we are.

15: I need to find the independent variable.

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