Does anyone else feel themselves turning into a worrier about Upper Respiratory Infections? I think it’s possible that I am especially suggestible.
I am fine all day, everyday, and have been since the beginning of the “physical distancing period”. However, I do like to be well-informed and so every evening I watch the 8 P.M. COVID-19 specials on the CBC news channel. Then I watch the first part of The National before I go to bed.
Having felt fine all day, it is during these broadcasts that I notice that my throat is dry and maybe a bit raspy. I always forget to drink enough water during the day, and my throat is usually dry in the evening, but now this has become an ominous symptom. I get a drink of water and God forbid if I should cough because then my anxiety level will soar and I’ll have to breathe deeply to calm myself down.
Last evening, in the middle of the daily 8 P.M. COVID-19 special, my chest tightened and I began to struggle breathing. I’m a doctor, so you’d think I could identify this symptom but, in fact, it takes a specialist, a psychiatrist, to make this diagnosis in my case: I am about to have an anxiety attack.
It turns out that I become very distressed when I hear elected officials more focused on the incomes of the wealthy than on people’s lives. I do not see this happening in Canada, thank goodness, but, as I reflected last night, most Canadians do live in very close proximity to the United States. Listening to reports of the actions and words of the President of the United States, I fear for us all.
Once I reach the panic stage of my evening, I decide that it’s best if I just focus on relaxing. I have resolved that, during this period, I am going to read particularly good books. Not that I read trash most of the time, but I have these books on my shelf that I have borrowed or bought that I have been waiting to read.
Think of a time when you’ve opened a book, read the first page or two and thought, “This is going to be amazing.” I usually wait to read these books until I have the time to read them consciously and mindfully, knowing that the book has the potential to change my mind completely about something.
Right now, I am not waiting. When I have doubts like the ones I have surfacing presently, I do not need to be reminded of the worst of human nature. I need to be reminded that, through our worst times in human history, the most amazing literature and music and art have emerged, evidence that the heart of humankind is gracious and good. Think of Chagall, whose “Allegorical Scene” painting was stolen by the Nazis and displayed as “Degenerate Art”, only to emerge as one of the great works of the 20th Century. Think of Mozart’s joyful opera, “The Magic Flute”, written when he was in extreme physical pain. When I remember this, my anxiety decreases.
I think of the work I must do tomorrow. I take my temperature and go to bed.
(This is an image of Chagall’s Allegorical Scene – I love how it depicts ordinary joy.)