Fear can make us small. It can make us paranoid, nervous, suspicious, unfriendly, close-minded and all these things that I don’t want to be. My anxiety and OCD means that I get scared a lot. Ordinary things that don’t scare other people scare me. Some days I’m more scared than others. Some days I have to really psych myself up to go outside or get in the car or even video chat someone for the first time.
These days I’m even more nervous about interacting with people. I worry that people will get angry if I sneeze from seasonal allergies or if I do or don’t wear a mask (depending on their beliefs about masks). I feel like a roly-poly (or pill bug) that’s been touched and has rolled up into a tight shelled ball.
When I went out for a hike at a state park, I finished earlier than my family and waited in the car. I had people come up to the car door, gesture for me to roll down the window, and ask for my parking spot while I waited. I felt so overwhelmed by these interactions. I didn’t know how to tell them that them getting close made me nervous on top of the fact that I couldn’t leave without my family and couldn’t tell them how long I would be waiting. Things that would have been mildly uncomfortable a few months ago are now incredibly fraught for me.
But I really don’t want my fear to make me unkind or unfriendly. I don’t want to react to the world and people with fear. I don’t want to jump when a runner comes up behind me on the sidewalk because I’m extra tense. I don’t want to cross the street to avoid people although I do because I want them to be comfortable. I don’t want to ignore someone who wants to know if they can have my parking spot because they also need to get out and go on a hike to work off their tension after being cooped up at home all week too.
I want to be kind because the world is scary right now and everyone is telling us to be afraid of other people because they might be contagious. I want to err on the side of kindness and openness and helping others if and when I can instead of reacting to the world with fear. I don’t want to give people a reason to think that the world is worse or even just as bad as they fear it. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
I want to react to people with an open mind, try to understand where they are coming from, and give them the benefit of the doubt, just as I want them to do for me.
I don’t want fear to take that away from me. I don’t want to be a smaller person emotionally and psychically because of all this. I want to keep trying to be open despite my mental illnesses, even and especially when they are especially intense.
Predictably, the anxiety of lockdown ending is triggering my general anxiety because I don’t know what to expect and that makes me nervous. I feel like I can’t control things right now and it’s not a good feeling for me. I want to know what to expect when I go outside or go to a store.
I want the world to make sense. I want people to make sense. I want to fulfill my part of the social contract to be a good member of society. Right now I’m not always sure what that means and that can make me fearful. But it’s not an excuse to not be a caring member of my community. I just have to work much harder at reminding myself to be open and understanding instead of afraid. It’s part of how I can take care of my community.