I don’t want to do this. I truly don’t want to do this. For nearly 20 years I have been sharing my life with you; the fun times with family and friends and my beloved Igor, and the bad times — losing my infant son, my mom, my hero dad, and my best friend Igor.
I have enjoyed the laughs and the witty comments from readers in emails, on phone calls, and in person. I have taken some right crosses on the chin sometimes from folks who don’t care for me, or what I have to say. I welcomingly accept it all, because if I can evoke some kind of response, then I’ve done my job as a columnist.
But after all these years, I come to a column I just don’t want to write — but I have to.
For most Americans, March 2020 is the month that wasn’t, or better put, never should have been. And by all indications, April is heading on the same path. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down. Abnormal is the new normal. Caution is the theme of every day for everyone. Hand-washing, social distancing, self-quarantining, working from home, take-out or delivery meals, grocery home deliveries, are all activities which are becoming commonplace for many of us.
For goodness sake, we can’t even go to Mass any more; we can’t receive the Body of Christ any more; we can’t hug friends and family any more; we can’t run into friends and neighbors at the supermarket any more; we can’t go to concerts, movies, restaurants, parties, First Communions, Confirmations, and even stop on the street to chat with a fellow walker. But we’re all rising above that. We’re all adapting, changing, evolving, and moving on until this blows over.
Everyone has an opinion on this pandemic. Everyone has advice. Everyone shares dos and don’ts. Many have become “experts, doctors, and advisors.” For most people, the fears, worries and anxieties of the spreading virus are in check and something they can control to a degree.
Here comes the tough part now. Not everyone is handling this pandemic with common sense and logic. There is group of us who cannot handle this with common sense and logic. There are a group of us who have a problem that won’t allow us to do that. There is a group of us who have a disorder, some diagnosed, others implied, that will not allow us to process all of the warnings, advice, recommendations, and calls to be calm and rational.
I am going to speak for myself now, knowing full well there are many of my peers out there who feel the same things I do, to one degree or another. I have never shared with my readers that I suffer from a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder, for which I am treated, but frankly that treatment only goes so far. I have been “blessed” with the ability to take a small problem, if one even exists, and magnify it to the point where it becomes overwhelming and paralyzing.
I have been this way since I was a child, and never shared it with anyone until I was in my 30s when everyday life became such an incredible burden that I had to seek help. Why am I telling you this? It’s because there are many people out there, people you know, who are having a very difficult time dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic.
I used to be on Facebook and I used to enjoy it. I loved sharing sports topics and music topics and just plain silliness. I used to be on Facebook. I had to disable my account because Facebook became for me a source of panic, worry and hopelessness during this pandemic. Friends and people I don’t even know would offer daily advice, warnings, and “need-to-know” Coronavirus information. Each day I would read these posts and slip deeper and deeper into despair, until I told my wife that it’s not a question of if we get the virus, it’s a question of will we survive? I had to remove myself from Facebook to escape the dire warnings and news. I hope I can return to it someday.
For someone with an anxiety disorder, or depression, or anything in between the daily barrage of information, statistics and warnings paint us deeper and deeper into a corner. How often do I wash my hands? When do I wash my hands? Where can I go to buy a loaf of bread and not be exposed? How much do I sanitize the packages that come in from the supermarket or food delivery? People like me never know. Never. And then we dwell on the fear that we didn’t wash enough, weren’t careful enough, and have now become a danger to ourselves and worse, to others. That’s where the guilt comes in. That’s when we start blaming ourselves for bad things that will probably never happen.
I don’t mean this to be a confession of sorts, or to have people look at me differently, or feel sorry for me. People like me do carry on, we do live day to day, and we are useful members of society. In fact it’s humor that gets me through times like these; it’s writing; it’s sports; it’s music; it’s people. I’m writing this to let others know that some of their brothers and sisters don’t “have it together” as much as others during this time. Please pray for us. Please be aware that while everyone is worried and anxious about the virus and finances and normalcy, there are others who are paralyzed by these worries and anxieties.
If you know of anyone like us, reach out to us; just to say hi. Please don’t say, “Don’t worry,” or “Everything is going to be OK,” or worse yet, “You can deal with it.” If we could, we would. Jesus says in the Bible “Be not afraid.” We can’t do that. It’s not because we don’t believe. God knows what’s in everyone’s hearts. He knows what each of us is capable of and what we’re not.
To my brothers and sisters like me, please know that I know what you’re going through. I also know there is nothing I can say to you to ease this heavy burden other than I’m so with you in heart and mind and spirit. I didn’t want to do this, but I’m glad I did.