Coping With The Anxiety of Covid-19 as an Atheist

Coping With The Anxiety of Covid-19 as an Atheist March 26, 2020

So it comes in waves. You come across a particularly grim article, with forecasts that make you wonder what, if anything, will be left after all of this. And then maybe you see a tweet that makes you think, well, hey, perhaps this won’t be so bad after all. The waves go really low, though, and over time you find yourself sinking lower and lower into a pit of anxiety.

Usually, I’m a pretty optimistic person. I prefer to focus on the positives when bad things happen. I’m always looking for the silver lining and reminding myself that this too shall pass.

But usually, there is something positive to grasp.

Usually, there is a silver lining.

I’m having trouble finding one this time.

I mean, I’ve gone over it and over it in my head. Maybe we come out of this with a universal basic income, and that would be cool. But is that a silver lining for Italy? Do you think any single Italian would care?

Maybe you finally oust the orange tyrant occupying the White House over this. That would certainly be a positive, right? But does that matter to Spain?

Maybe we collectively realize that grocery store clerks and truck drivers and other essential workers are worth more than minimum wage. That would undoubtedly drag our civilization into the twenty-first century. But how many Chinese citizens would feel better about all of this as a result?

My guess is none. There is no outcome of this pandemic that will make things okay again in Italy. There are no silver linings for Spain or China.

The worst part is that this is just getting started. Now, the USA is creeping up the Covid charts, threatening to take over the number one spot for hardest hit. I’m in Canada, but that doesn’t make me feel much better. I don’t want to see you hurt any more than I want to see me hurt.

Two days ago, I braved Walmart because we’d run out of produce. I went to pick up groceries for other people as well, who are in a higher risk group than me. I had a list in hand and my disinfecting wipes in my pocket. I was prepared. Or so I thought.

I had trouble finding half the items on my list, and I began to get frustrated. Searching for these things was dragging this out much longer than I had anticipated. I was starting to feel panic at just wanting to get out of the store and back home as fast as possible, but also not wanting to get everything I could so I wasn’t wasting this harrowing trip to the grocery store. No one was smiling; everyone was keeping their distance. Some had masks, and some had gloves, and everyone had tension. You could feel it. No one wanted to be there, and we were all just trying our hardest to get in and out with what we need as fast as possible. But that didn’t happen. It was becoming increasingly frustrating, and I had to stop on multiple occasions to stop and remind myself to breathe. When it finally came time to checkout, there was one til open, and I had way too much to get through the self-checkout as I was shopping for several people. So I stood in line and stewed and tried not to think about the virus, tried to think of good things to fight back the tears—the overwhelming grief at the loss of normal. I wanted to go home and cry.

This was just grocery shopping. Grocery shopping.

Our world, as we knew it is gone. Who knows when and if we get it back. Many of us could have a wretched illness soon. There is no promise any of us will have work when we come out of this. There are so many things to be anxious about right now, and if I, who has it relatively good compared to much of the world, almost broke down grocery shopping, I can’t imagine what all of you are going through.

Especially atheists who have been disowned, shunned, excommunicated or kicked out of their home because they are atheists. I can’t imagine dealing with all of this without a good support system.

I want to help. You know how much I care about you.

The only thing I could think to do to help, though, is to connect with those of you who are struggling with this anxiety. To make sure you know you’re not alone in this. So, my friend Bridget and I, set up some hangouts for just that reason. It’s just friendly people talking with each other, trying to bring each other some comfort in an uncertain time. We’ll be face to face (although you do not have to show your face if you don’t want to), just chatting as friends. A counselor will be present to guide the conversation.

If you’re interested in connecting with me, Bridget or our counselors, make sure you sign up. If you don’t sign up, we can’t send you the Zoom link, so sign up here.

I hope to see some of you guys at these Hangouts. Stay safe, wash your hands, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • Jezebel’sOlderSister

    I try to focus on today — Today I feel fine; today I have plenty of toilet paper; today I have my dogs and cats to keep me company. Today, I personally know of no-one who has tested positive. Today I am too upset with my Sister in Law who tried the “no real Christian” argument on one of my facebook posts.

  • Jim Jones

    The Radical Acceptance Hotline: 828-215-8529 Text or Talk | The Hotline

    The Radical Acceptance hotline is a new free service for Evangelicals and Catholics who are struggling and asking questions.

    The hotline is staffed by individuals raised in these belief systems who have deconstructed, and who are simply willing to invest time and empathy.

    This is not a suicide or counseling hotline, but a “you are not alone” hotline. Our only agenda is Radical Acceptance for you, your questions and your story.

  • Gussie FinkNottle

    Stoic philosophy has a lot to offer for times like these. I find negative visualization to be particularly helpful.

  • Anne Fenwick

    My guess is none

    That’s where you’re going wrong. How we come out of this makes a huge difference, for eveyone. As for what we’re enduring right now… I can’t speak for China, but I think it’s important to realise that people in European countries do study history. We have certainly seen worse. Our grandparents have seen worse. We are used to grieving (who isn’t?). I was always deeply conscious of the fact that things like this could happen. Given that consciousness, I was aware of the current fragilities of society. That’s why it matters very much how we emerge. I must admit that, as tough as this is, I don’t quite understand how it can come as a psychic shock.

  • phatkhat

    I can relate. I’m “elderly”, though it really feels weird to say that, and it is terrifying. Sometimes I don’t know if I have the virus or an anxiety attack. So far, my area has no confirmed cases, but that doesn’t mean much, given the lack of testing. And I don’t think things will ever be the same again, though whether or not that is good or bad is debatable. Hubs is an “essential” worker – a truck driver. So I worry about him, too. I hope some of the treatments they are trying work, and that a vaccine comes soon. (And that enough people get it to confer herd immunity. I’ve read some of the outrageous CT out there about forcing us to get a vaccine for it that will combine with 5G to make us mindless robots. [eyeroll] Scary times, indeed.

  • AnyBeth

    Thank you for introducing or re-introducing me to the of concept of “Radical Acceptance”.

    As one with a progressive neurological disease with both a highly variable course and that can be highly variable day-to-day, I’ve been practicing radical acceptance, broadly speaking, for roughly 15 years now. Which put me rather ahead of the game when the biggest problem was uncertainty, as I’ve lived uncertainty for a good while.

    I must say I rather resent how a large part of the psych community has so much focus on external/internal locus-of-control. When I knew for a fact that I may not have good recall of, say, the last 5 years tomorrow or may awake to total aphasia (both had happened) or any of a plethora of neurological symptoms, it was still considered a bad sign that I’d agree that outside forces had more influence on my life than I did. Seemed to me that surely the greater problem would be if I thought I could change these. It’d be like thinking you, yourself can change the shape of the pandemic.

  • AnyBeth

    Now is not ok. It is ok that now is not ok. But it will be ok. Not because circumstances will change, (though they will,) but because we who live on will adjust to whatever new normal we find ourselves in. Even to uncertainty. It is not easy. It is not fair. It is not ok. This S ‘s A. But it will not be like this forever. Because we are remarkable at adapting, it will become ok as time goes on. And if, perchance, any of us ourselves fail to go on… well, that’s not any more ok than any of this, but, afaik, the dead have among the lowest incidence of worry that’s out there.

    I like to remember the two precepts of Bruthra from Pratchett’s Small Gods

    I. This is Not a Game.
    II. Here and Now, You Are Alive.

    So as you’re showing here, so should we all. Do what we can to take care of ourselves and each other. Until we find ourselves in the better place we’ve had a part in making.

  • Joseph Koromaus

    Truck drivers make more than the minimum wage.

  • KenderJ

    As a practical suggestion, Wal-Mart and all of the grocery stores in my area offer pick-up services. You order and pay online, then go to the store at the agreed upon time and the personal shopper brings your groceries to your car. Not only do you avoid the stress if going inside to do the shopping, but you are not exposing the people who have no choice but to be there to any germs you might be carrying. Added bonus, your friends who are more susceptible would be able to choose what they want instead at sending a friend with a list and hoping for the best. I know we are all doing our best to get through this and I hope you are doing better.

  • Jezebel’sOlderSister

    My Wal-marts have cancelled curb side service

  • David Brenner

    Thanks for being there, Courtney! I tested positive for COVID 19 earlier this week. Your support through your writings and wonderful Instagram posts is much appreciated!

  • Allen T Coffey

    I resonate, Courtney. I’m in a high risk because of my age, diabetes and high blood pressure. But I had to go into a store yesterday to get some food because we were running out. So I did.

    Stay safe, sister.