The horizon is growing darker and gloomier despite it only being 7PM. I text my co-teacher Joe that I am seriously considering teaching my students to tune their instruments tomorrow. He says he will think about it. He doesn't like to stress himself out, so it doesn't surprise me that he is not jumping into panic mode about what might happen.
I heat up my left overs and call my parents. As I login to my laptop for a google hangout I see Email #2 from the district, cancelation of all non-essential activities. The uncertainty starts to manifest as anxiety in my body. I talk to my parents for over an hour. They are dealing with a lot of uncertainty with their college. They have had no plan shared with them, but admins are working nonstop. At one point I ask them if its just me or did this all just explode overnight. They feel the same way. But regardless of how we felt, this had exploded a long time ago, we were just blocking it out until now.
Before I know it I am telling them a lot of worries I did not know I had. What am I going to say to the 5th-graders? Do I act like everything is normal? Do I just sit down and answer all their questions? What if I can't? What if I'm scared? We talk it all through. I really want to just be able to walk into school the next day and tell the 5th-graders they can ask me anything. My parents add in that this will probably make them feel calm and respected. But I do not want to cause panic and want to help keep calm by keeping the routine going. They agree with this too.
I tell my parents the story of me telling 5th-graders to wash their hands after a child was sick in the classroom and how the response was a bunch of giggly children screaming "coronavirus." In the words of my dad, "Well, if the upside of all this is we finally get 5th-graders to wash their hands..."
I switch over to talking to Max. I'm getting pretty frazzled. Media is getting really overwhelming with Coronavirus news. Email #3 comes in, school is closed Friday, but only for a day, and only for the students. Teachers will report to work to prepare to switch to online learning if we need to. Not saying we will, it is a "just in case" kind of thing. Now the uncertainty is really anxiety inducing. I talk to Max later than my normal bedtime trying to calm down. Schools closing because of illness is not normal.
I try to read in my normal 'read before bed' routine. My thoughts are starting to spiral. I read a paragraph and then realize I had been imagining hypothetical scenarios the entire time. I go back and try again and barely comprehend what I am reading. My thoughts were racing. My mouth tasted funny. What if I had a stroke? Would I have to go to a hospital? I have a phobia of medical malfunctions. I have a hard time stepping into hospitals as a visitor, I have never been admitted to one, and I can't watch doctor TV shows. This would be a bad first time to go to a hospital. I tell myself this is an overreaction, this has happened before, I am not having a stroke, I just have to clear my head and sleep. But the thoughts are still racing. What if I have to quarantine alone? I don't think my mental health could handle it. I need other people. My thoughts explode when left alone.
This is maybe a good time to mention that I live with an anxiety disorder. The onset of it needing medical attention was my freshmen year of college, but I have struggled with anxiety and phobias for most of my life. About six weeks into freshmen year, when I was entering a state of perpetual anxiety so bad I could not function in day to day life, I stated seeing a therapist and then was able to get medication through my physician. I saw the therapist for a few months until the medication stated really working and then I was back to a "normal" functioning life. I still take the medication daily. It is enough to keep me calm through most of life, but not enough to stop a panic attack if it comes. I've gotten pretty good at calming myself down from onset of a panic attack. I know my triggers. I feel more anxiety in routine changes, medicine time shifts, uncertainty, medical stress, hormonal shifts.... Basically everything that is about to happen.
I take a tip I learned from my mom awhile back (who struggles with similar anxiety triggered by slightly different things) and take a Benadryl. The anti-histamine calms down the nervous system just enough to stop myself from spiraling. I am pretty lucky in that I do not need much medical help to keep my anxiety in check. I realize I am privileged enough that when I do need help I can get it. I am hoping it stays that way. I worry about people that are less privileged and hate that I have been able to block out this worry for so much of my life.
I finish my chapter, at least kind of knowing what I read. It seems like I lie in bed awake for hours and never sleep, but I know I must have slept eventually. In the back of my head I think about how silly it was that I was complaining about sound proofing a cafeteria just this morning...