This is a term I coined myself, comparable to PTSD. In my world, this stands for Concurrent Traumatic Covid Syndrome. It can’t be post traumatic because the trauma is ongoing. It definitely has happened because of COVID. And the effects are very real, and I think it’s safe to say that I will never be the same person that I was before.
I wouldn’t say I am an overly social person in “normal” times, but I do enjoy regularly spending time with my small circle of loved ones. This has been vital to my spirit since I stopped working. I went from interacting with over 160 students plus colleagues every single day, to interacting with no one. When I left my job, I was lucky enough to maintain relationships with so many students, and I also was blessed to find a very special MS family as well as a strong yoga community. And while I do enjoy my alone time, being around my loved ones definitely sustains my spirit and fills my heart.
Recently I was super excited for a very special event that had been postponed due to the pandemic, and it was a celebration for someone very important to me. We had been eagerly discussing it for so long, and I couldn’t believe the time had come. Along with it, however, came a fair share of anxiety, given my vaccination status.
I listened to the guidance available at the time (and my MS Specialist) and got my vaccinations in January and February. When I reached full efficacy in March, it was so liberating. Not that I acted recklessly or changed my behavior much, except dining indoors twice. Then I came to find out that because my immune system is suppressed (as is typically the mechanism of action for many MS treatments) my body did not make ANY antibodies against the virus at all. None. Tested three times to be sure, and yet still… nothing. This changed everything for me because as everyone else started being able to socialize and get back to some semblance of normal life, I had to retreat back to quasi-isolation.
But this event was too important for me to miss and so with Bruce by my side and my big girl panties on, we drove over two hours to celebrate.
This is a picture before we left for the event, showing how amazingly my mask matched my dress!
As we sat waiting for the event to begin, I started to feel my anxiety rising. I got the cold sweats. I started shaking. I was hyperventilating and nearly paralyzed with fear. It was an all out panic attack.
Bruce dragged me to a spot where he felt the air conditioning pumping and told me to look around. At that moment there was no one around us. He knows that crowds are often a trigger for me even in non-covid times… and maskless people inside when I have no defense mechanism in my body have made this a million times worse.
With tears pouring down my cheeks and barely able to move, I managed to get to the car with Bruces help, even though I was holding his hand in a death grip, slicing his fingers open with rings. If he wasn’t there, I’m pretty sure I would have been curled up on the floor in the fetal position. As it was, I was so thankful that no one saw me in this state, because the last thing I wanted to do was take away from the joy of this celebration.
I am so grateful for my other half who always knows exactly how to take care of me.
The point is, many who are prone to anxiety are having more issues than people know about with the uncertainty of the future and covid cases on the rise again. Mental health is extremely important, and that’s why I’m talking about this even though it’s also very private and personal.
I’m here to tell you that mental health issues are as real as those related to physical health and we all need to recognize that everyone is affected differently, especially given the current public health situation.
We all have our own comfort level and we all need to be respectful of each others’ boundaries. I tried so hard to make myself comfortable in the situation I was in, but I just couldn’t do it.
I was so upset that I missed this event that I had been anxiously awaiting. And I was mad at myself that I couldn’t do it. And then, with some distance, I realized I couldn’t be mad at myself for something out of my control. I can’t get mad at myself when I have an MS relapse, and similarly, I can’t get mad at myself for having a panic attack.
Luckily the family was very understanding of what happened and hopefully I will get to celebrate this event with them on a smaller scale at some point when things are safer for me. I still felt awful about it (and continue to do so) but in the moment there was nothing else I could do.
The moral of this story is that we need to talk about mental health and we need to take it seriously. These are trying times. Be kind to others. Protect each other. Check on your friends and loved ones to make sure they are ok. And most importantly, take care of yourself because you can’t pour lemonade into anyone else’s glass if your pitcher is empty.