06 Sep It Simply Does Not Care
For almost two years now, we have been trying to figure out COVID-19. We’ve wanted to believe along the way that we had finally gotten a handle on what it was, what it is, and what it’s going to do. Do you remember those first few months when we were saying “maybe by Easter” or “maybe by summer” or “surely by the fall”? As human beings, we seek knowledge of a thing so as to have some level of control over the thing. If we can understand it, we don’t have to be afraid of it. Further, people tend to make things look in their mind the way they want them to look. We have so wanted to believe that the pandemic was over that many proclaimed it over before it really was. Then there are the ones who so much wanted it to not be real that they said it was, in fact, not real.
But you know what? COVID-19 does not care whether we understand it or not. It does not care if we believe it’s real or not. It does not care if we believe it’s over or not. And this lack of knowing, understanding, and predicting has made the last two years two of the most anxiety producing years in my experience as a therapist. That’s not to say that COVID-19 is all we’re talking about in therapy but in almost every case there is an added layer of anxiety because of the pandemic. The context of our lives is deeply colored by COVID-19; a thing that refuses to be contained by our understanding or predicting.
I have a lot to say about anxiety as a therapist and over the years that I have written this blog, I have done so. This month I want to point out something that I have pointed out before but which I think is of special significance right now. Anxiety, like many other mental and mood disorders, impairs our ability to reason. What I have noticed in myself and in my patients is that the anxious brain does not easily come up with proper responses to the anxiety. In fact, many of the things we think of to do when we are anxious only tend to make us more anxious.
The sorts of things I’m talking about now are things like watching more and more conflicting news reports and picking a favorite pundit who says what we want to hear. Or it might mean listening to somebody we knew in high school who has a strong opinion about some treatment or another. Maybe it’s isolating oneself to an excessive degree or conversely going into crowded rooms not wearing a mask in full-bore denial.
Here’s what I want to suggest. Who is the person that you have entrusted your physical health to? Who gives you your annual physical? Who have you taken your children to when they have had colds or broken bones? Your doctor. Your doctor has without fail done the best that medical science has been able to provide to help you be healthier and live longer. Please, don’t allow your anxious brain to convince you to stop listening to your medical care provider now of all times. Your doctor is working hard to stay up to date on the latest advances in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Yes, it may be true that something you hear this week from the medical community might be altered some next week. That is the nature of this sort of time. But the very best chance you have to get through this dangerous time is to listen to that woman or man who has had your health as their primary concern all of your life. Your doctor.