A Lesson From Our Time in Quarantine | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

A Lesson From Our Time in Quarantine

By Janna L

I haven’t had a panic attack since February. For most of my adult life, I have had about one to four panic attacks a month. My triggers are meetings, church, concerts, overstimulation and making mistakes. 
At the heart of it is a fear of not belonging. Why am I the only person feeling overwhelmed? Will people think I’m weak or weird if I start crying? What if people find out that I’m broken?
I worked on reducing panic attacks through talk therapy, exposure therapy and medication. I became more open about what I was experiencing with my coworkers and friends. If they already know my diagnoses, I don’t have to fear they’ll find out that I’m different. I realized that I am not broken, and my friends want to help me, not judge me. But I still had panic attacks, and I accepted that that was part of my life experience. 
It was important to me that I still be a “functional” person and still sing in church choir and go to other events. I still made space for myself and would read in the lobby if I felt too uncomfortable. If I had a panic attack, I would go home and take the following morning off from work. 
During stay-at-home in Washington, I have been lucky enough to be able to work from home. I’m not in triggering environments except for a couple of times going to the grocery store. Thankfully my husband has been doing most of the grocery shopping. I had already cultivated a strong online social support system with family, church and DSA. I started a garden and my husband built a new coop for our new chickens. I love getting fresh eggs from Starfish, Eggsie, and Clucky Lucky (chickens named by my nieces). 
When stay-at-home orders are lifted, things will never go back to “normal,” and there’s a blessing in that. We have learned that people can be effective in doing their work remotely. Conferences can be distilled into webinars. Concerts can also be on Instagram live. While I do want to go to things that I enjoy even if they are triggering, I have realized how exhausted I was trying to keep up with everything with low emotional reserves. 
I spent so much time trying to be normal. But now that I’m talking with family more on FaceTime and chairing DSA meetings on Zoom and watching church on YouTube, I realize that there are different ways for me to feel connected to my community without feeling overwhelmed.
We can make accommodations for people to participate in events and belong with their communities. We can continue to make space for each other to breathe and interact with others at their own pace. We can feel more connected by providing more ways to work and live. I hope we take this time as a lesson for letting people be the way they are and not forcing them into a mold.

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text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).