Interesting Times

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months (and have therefore already been following the social distancing rules), you’ll know that everyone, everywhere, has been put into a lockdown-like state to help “flatten the curve.” For a lot of people, this lack of knowing what happens next can create fear or anxiety, which is the exact opposite of what you need in order to write a book, do a job from home, or basically exist in any meaningful fashion.

Personal information forthcoming. Continue with caution.

I go to therapy regularly to help manage my complex PTSD (cPTSD) and my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I’ve been seeing the same therapist for over a year, and as a result, I’ve become better at setting boundaries, figuring out what my real opinions are, and recognizing what I have control over.

Okay, that’s great, I hear you mutter to yourselves, as your pour yourself another Irish coffee. So what?

Here are things I have no control over:

  • I have no control over the coronavirus.
  • I have no control over what other people do to flatten or steepen the curve.
  • I have no control over what the government does or does not do in response to this pandemic.
  • I have no control over who, in my extended family, catches this disease and subsequently succumbs to it.

And that relieves a lot of my anxiety.

Here’s the reason I mentioned my therapist: Every conversation with my mother–a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder and a pathological need for control–is like the worst CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE game ever.

You receive a text from MOTHER, requesting you call FATHER and berate him for leaving the house. What do you do?

A. Call FATHER and berate him for leaving the house.

B. Tell MOTHER that her request is inappropriate and that FATHER is a grown adult who can make his own decisions.

C. Ignore the request and block the group chat.

No matter which option I choose, bad things will happen. Choice A alienates me from FATHER. Choice B risks verbal and emotional abuse aimed at CHILDREN and SPOUSE, to punish PLAYER. Choice C risks MOTHER discovering that she’s been blocked, with the same consequences as Choice B.

But the fact remains that the choice is mine. And that’s stressful.

So. Here are things that are within my control while in quarantine/shelter-in-place/lockdown:

  • Whether I keep up with my coursework (not as much as I should)
  • How often I exercise (never, but I do miss it)
  • Whether I work on editing my virus novel (yes)
  • How frequently I go grocery shopping (twice per week)
  • Whether I donate blood (yes)
  • How often I paint (most days)
  • How I treat my friends who are experiencing anxiety related to CoViD-19 (kindly, with offers to text)

By focusing on things that I can do, I’m able to bypass anxiety and head straight for zen. One day at a time. What do I have control over at this exact moment? And so on.

Will this work for people who are actually concerned about their parents/grandparents? Probably not. I’m fortunate (?) in that I have no skin in that game. But I wanted to bring an extra perspective to the conversation.

Because we all know that what the internet is lacking right now is perspectives on this conversation.

If you’ve found something else that helps you out, feel free to bring it up in the comments!

Stay safe, stay sane.

All best,

Ellis

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