Raise your hand if you have a copy of John Taylor’s Feelings Are Good album. I do. When I think of this early solo album of his, one of the first things that comes to mind is the phrase that I used as the title. Crisis equals opportunity. I think about it as it is on the cover of my copy. I had not heard the phrase before even though it has been around long before this album was released. Clearly, though, John felt that this phrase fit for him at the time of the release. It is a phrase that I always keep locked in the back of my mind since then. I like the idea that you take something awful, something terrible and it takes you to somewhere or something better.
This phrase, this idea is one that I have revisited frequently in the last few weeks, especially this week. When this pandemic first started, my anxiety went through the roof. I worried about my own health after having been in a building with 2000 people on a daily basis. My concern for my parents could not have been greater as I constantly fretted over whether or not they got it and would stay in. (For the record, my parents are stubborn and often feel/act like they are invincible.) When thinking about my job, I had no idea what my school district would do or what I would need to learn/do in response. In those first few weeks, I experienced constant tension, headaches, etc. My body clearly reacted to the extreme anxiety I was experiencing on a constant basis. As days and weeks passed, I figured out that this was not going to be a short term deal but one that could/would last far longer than I ever expected. I knew, then, that I could not keep going as I was. There was my crisis. I could either fall apart or I had to remember and use any and all strategies I had developed/created in dealing with my anxiety disorder over the years.
In looking back at various points in my life when my anxiety was particularly challenging, one or two strategies come to mind. For example, a few summers ago things were rough when it came to work. I started journaling again in response. I had to get it all out to make things not so scary. Before that, I had to walk on a daily basis to get rid of the headaches I was suffering from. So, now, I knew that this time would require a strategy or two to get myself together. I started coloring. It helped but not enough. I began journaling. It helped but not enough. I tried making a schedule in an attempt to have a sense of control. Naps became a daily feature. All things I attempted/started and helped but I still felt like a human ball of tension. What’s the deal?
I had to start really thinking about this time. What is the same and different about this period of extreme anxiety? One big element is that I am alone. I literally have been all by myself for almost 6 weeks. Once I realized that this is a big part of it, a lightbulb went off in my head. This anxiety is doubled, is magnified because there is the social aspect to it. Throughout my life, I have never been great, socially, which is interesting because people fascinate me and I chose a career in which I am around people all day long. No, I have always desperately wanted to have people like me, to be friends with me but I have been hurt a lot by people I called my friends once upon a time. This has led me to do more observing than interacting until I can trust people. So, now, I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of friends but I do have people I can trust. How does this fit into this crisis? How does recognizing that I need people I can trust in my life factor in? More importantly, what do I really need right now, socially?
In thinking through all of this, I have come to realize that I need to know that I matter. I don’t mean that I need to know that I make a difference as I do get that feedback from teaching, political activism and even from writing this blog. No, I need to know that people think about me, care about me, and not because of a job that I have but because I’m a person that they deem worthy, important and important to them. Thankfully, I have my family who checks in with me and the rest of the family daily. I have a couple of friends here where I live that text me each and every day. They text me random things from things about work or politics or just how they are feeling. In thinking about all of this, I am thankful that they just stepped up to do this but I should probably be prepared to explain to those people I have come to trust what I *need*. For a long time, I thought the goal was to be able to survive 100% on my own without anyone else but I don’t think that is right anymore. I need strategies to deal with my anxiety, including having people care about me. That doesn’t make me weak or demanding. That makes me feel like a person who matters.
This time in self-isolation has definitely been a crisis of sorts but it has also been an opportunity to learn about myself, about what I need to be well and to thrive. Am I 100% where I need to be? No, I’m definitely a work in progress and some days are pretty awful still. For example, Tuesday night featured a pretty bad meltdown in which I was screaming, shouting and crying about how hopeless it all seemed. This carried over until Wednesday, which was my birthday. I have had some weird ones over the years but being alone? That felt terrible compounded by having a window leak in my condo. I am still struggling to get everything I want to do done as there are moments during the day that I just sit down and feel paralyzed. That feeling, especially happens every time I think about the job search that I know I should and want to do.
In turning this crisis into what I hope is an opportunity, I’m hoping that the anxiety is more manageable than not so that I can continue to work, to function and even to write this blog. As I move through this process, this time, not only will I continue to think about my strategies but also will look to Duran Duran to inspire, to keep my going and thinking just like John Taylor did with including that phrase on his solo album. Crisis equals opportunity, indeed.