Author and The Grace Tales reader, Annabel Bower, discovers the nasty side-effect she's dubbed 'Coronanxiety'...
I feel like I’m in fight-or-flight- mode but I can’t see or feel what I am fighting and there is no option for flight. I’ve chatted to more girlfriends in the last two days than I have in the last 2 months. We’re all worried, anxious, and unsure of what we should be doing in the face of Covid-19. To social distance completely or still send the kids to school? To prepare for lockdown or just wing it? I know that government directives are being rolled out, but I can’t help but feel that they’re not firm enough. I wish someone official would tell me exactly what I should be doing and make me do it.
I’ve self-diagnosed myself with Coronanxiety. I am obsessed with all things related to the Coronavirus. I have been for some time now, but I was keeping that to myself in case people thought I was bonkers. I’ve found myself constantly refreshing news feeds, desperate for new case statistics and articles about how it’s unfolding worldwide. In the last few days I’ve come to realise that I’m not the only one. So many of my friends have been feeling the same way, but like me, didn’t want to be labelled as hysterical.
As I drop my 3 older children at school and drive home with my newborn baby, I think, ‘should they have gone? Should I turn around and pick them up?’ I don’t want to alarm them, but if we’re going to go into lockdown or starting school holidays early, is it necessary to keep them home this week as well? Surely the school or the government will tell us what’s best. I want to trust that they have all the facts and are acting on them, but can’t help but feel that we could all be doing more. I feel guilty that I am not doing more to flatten the curve.
Unless completely necessary I’m avoiding the shops and barely going out. I’ve cancelled all of the kids’ extra-curricular sports and social activities. Play-dates, footy, ballet, swimming – all gone. The kids’ swim-centre assures me that lessons are safe, chlorine and UV treatment will kill the virus, but I want to say to them, ‘how can you be so sure of this?’ I feel that at the very least If I’m not pulling the kids out of school just yet, I should be social distancing in as many other ways as I can. It’s all so confusing.
And that’s my Corona-conundrum. I want to do more, as I’m pretty sure I’m not doing enough, but have no idea how to go about it. Is there any benefit in pulling the kids out of school if my husband is still out in the community working? He runs a building company so can’t work from home.What’s the benefit if my parents – baby boomers with high comorbidity – are still out shopping and kindly offering to babysit? I keep wondering if I’ve consumed too much media, become too fixated on what’s happening in Italy. Become an armchair expert on a topic I have no understanding of.
I know I’m not the only mother who feels like this. We’re all confused, all conflicted and secretly trying not to freak out over the thought of being in lockdown with our children. It feels superficial to be worried about how I’ll cope with my kids at home, given what other people will face, but if it’s going to happen please let me know so I can stock up on gin and formulate a game-plan. More than anything it’s the uncertainty of what the coming weeks and months will hold, which is accelerating my coronanxiety.
At a time when I should be trusting my gut, I’m second guessing myself. My thoughts are scatty and my ability to decide what’s best for my family in the context of the wider community, non-existent. Some decisions, however, are easy. I was coordinating the inaugural fundraising event for my charity; a lunch which was to be held in May. It’s been postponed – that one was a no brainer. Yes, it was hard to make the call and naturally I felt sad that all of my hard work could be potentially be lost, but in the greater scheme of things it was a small sacrifice to make and a clear and simple decision which had to be made. I wish everything else felt this black and white.
I am a catastrophic thinker which is not ideal at times like these. I have been at the bad end of statistics in the past. When my fourth child was stillborn I was the 1 in 135, so it’s hard for me not to imagine worst case scenarios. But my experience with baby loss has also taught me that not everything is within our control, sometimes we just can’t plan or predict how things will transpire, despite a ferocious desire to do so. So perhaps for now, the best thing I can do is listen to those I trust and start trusting my own judgement.
I’m looking towards my friends who are doctors. I’m reading the articles they’re sharing, digesting the graphs they’re posting on social media and watching the actions they’re taking for their own families. Overwhelmingly they’re staying home as much as possible, they’re social distancing and self-isolating. They are desperate for us all to do the same to flatten the curve. So that is what I will continue to do. Unless something outside of my home is completely necessary, it’s off the cards for now.
The next 6 months are uncharted territory. People will face all kinds of devastation; financial and emotional. 2020 will be etched into our minds forever, and my one hope is that we look back and are able to say we did our best. We banded together as a community to protect those who were vulnerable. We stayed home, we (virtually) reconnected with friends, we found joy in the simple things. We slowed ourselves down and in doing so dramatically slowed this virus down. I hope that is what we reflect on, not that we could have and should have done more.
Annabel Bower is an Australian author, food stylist and a mother of five, four who she will watch grow and one who was born still. Her book, Miles Apart – A heartfelt guide to surviving miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss has just been released. Annabel can be found on Instagram @miles__apart and for all things food @foodbyannabel