7/14/2022 22:00

Emotional Support

As I already remarked the pandemic has amplified my naturally anxious nature sufficiently to make me just as uncomfortable as everyone else. Not, I imagine, as much more uncomfortable; the increment is probably less by however much the starting level is greater -- but then I have no reliable metric by which to compare.

In any case the result was a feeling of worry bordering on dread and a belief, contrary to all past experience, that if only a few people would sit and talk with me it would ease all my troubled feelings.

Where such an illusion came from is a mystery to me.

What is interesting is that over the next 10 or 14 days (a) my friend Marian talked to me about upcoming events; (b) my friend David sat in my driveway for 2 hours talking about past, present, and future; (c) my friend Mark sat for another 2 hours talking about a different set of experiences, events, and plans; and finally (d) Gavin a friendly electrician and former colleague's son brought venison and his brother to my house for yet another conversation. In every case I was happily diverted while we talked and when we parted every bit as anxious as before.

Why is that? Is that a rational response? Of course not. And why? Because anxiety is inherently and definitionally irrational. If the worry were well founded then, first, we would do something about it and, second, we would name it something other than anxiety. Because the anxiety is anxiety in actual reality (and not something else) it will not be cured by simple rationality.

We should also recall the long experience mentioned at the outset. Relaxing into a mellow haze of recollection is not the usual end of my social interactions, not even the pleasant and unchallenging ones. A more typical result finds me hiding from sight and panting (at least metaphorically) as if I had just escaped from the threat of drowning. That is not an outcome to relieve a pre-existing anxiety no matter what illusions my mind might have put itself under.

I do appreciate all the attention and conversation and even, in some ways, the minimal social interaction which these visits entailed. The visits were good and healthy for me. All of my visitors proved highly tolerant of the desperate use I made of them.

Whatever good these conversations wrought they were not the solution to the problem of worrying about possible but ill-defined future disasters which have little to no rational basis. Actual reality can displace thoughts of imaginary risks but when I am in the throes of anxiety I worry that giving too much attention to reality may cause me to miss one of the monsters under the bed.

Even though there are no monsters and the bed is laid out on the floor and people have already come to talk to me and the pandemic is being held in check by lifestyle and vaccination and anxiety is nothing more than a running joke if you can just look at it straight on.