healthy in times of great stress

A Covid-19 Panic Attack, Breakdown and My Fear of Depression

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First, the coronavirus came for my business.

My Fear About Money

Four of my last coaching clients have canceled or postponed due to the unknown economic effects of the virus. And the last “dating client” said while she agreed with what I was telling her, she decided she did not want to end any relationship at this uncertain time. She didn’t want to be alone.

But then the pandemic-mindset came for my soul.

My Fear About Depression and Ruin

  1. I’m going to lose everything I’ve earned
  2. My partner is going to leave me because of my anxiety and depression
  3. I should probably drop off the planet and hole up in my apartment alone listening to the white noise generator.

And finally, the virus that is just getting started has already taken down the world-as-we-know-it. And we’re not going to be getting into groups for classes, for work, for business meetings, sports, games, music events. We’re all going home and we’re going to be virtual. We’re going to have to find a meaningful connection with the work, and add virtual friendships with people we may never meet outside a computer screen.

World economics are being upended. My bigass AAPL stock by paid off and then fell into the coronavirus gully. I lost a small chunk of my winnings. The stock has now fallen far enough that a rally of buyers continues to try and pick the stock up at lower levels. But it’s not bottomed out.

What’s bottomed out is our past way of life. And this comes with new opportunities. Let’s say we ALL have to figure out working from home with kids. What a fucking gift this virus has given us. Work from home. Manage your kids, or get help managing them. (There’s a whole new growth industry for private teachers in any subject. The families with money are going to want their kids to keep kicking ass on the online high school or university classes.)

And as the days of quarantine are rolling forward the pandemic came for my heart.

My Fear of Being Alone Again

Since the middle of last week, I have been struggling a bit emotionally. I won’t say the word depression, because a blue patch does not a depression make, but the quality and severity of the precipitous drop in my mood was noticeable to all of those around me. Most notably, my girlfriend. We settled in for a busy weekend, but there was something off. Something brooding and moody beneath my surface of jolly banter. I was not bantering with my full wit and repartee.

We stayed close. She told me she loved me a few extra times. I tried my best to tell winning and hilarious stories. We managed the impending doom together. And that was the big part for me. I WAS NOT ALONE. I was not having to face this racing global collapse on the right side of an empty king-sized bed. I was loved. I was still loving. And most importantly, I was still loveable. Just as I was, I was still appreciated, touched, and nurtured by this amazing woman.

If We Can Talk About This…

Of course, there is no secret I’ve “do you dabble in depression?” as Jeff Tweedy wrote in the Wilco (song). I mean, there’s an entire section of my Dark Day writings. And a book on the way. If you’re entering a relationship with me, you’d best brush up on some of the ways I’ve exposed myself as a moody motherfucker. Of course, she knows this. But this may have been the first exposure of my blue vein.

We were walking easily down the street following her kid ahead on a bike. She came over and held my hand. Gently asking about my mood. “You’re a little quieter than I’ve seen you. I’m just checking on you. Are you blue?”

“I don’t think so,” I lied. (It’s hard to admit dammit. And when you feel like EVERYTHING is at risk in these dark moments, you hide your dark days as best you can, especially in front of those who love and depend on you. “The last thing she needs,” my dark mind repeated like an evil spell, “is more of your heavy load in her life.” And while this was true, she was overloaded already, what was missing from this equation was the big “R” of a loving Relationship.

“Okay,” she said, giving my hand a squeeze. “That’s the last time I’ll ask you about it.”

“No,” I said, “It’s okay to ask about it. It feels good to be checked on. Of course, you can feel the difference in me, I can too. I’m stressed by the virus and processing some other fears, but I’m holding steady.” This was my attempt to reassure her somewhat.

“I’m just letting you know I’m okay either way. You need to be okay either way.” And with that, she let go of my hand and chucked a football at her laughing son riding away on his bike.

It was as if I had been given a hall pass on my hardship. Like she had named my fear (depression) given me a chance to self-reveal it (denial) and then said it was okay either way (acceptance). She had pulled a ninja move on me and my anxiety and fear.

In These Times of Great Stress

There are going to be a lot of people going through blue moments. Some of us (them) will require meds and therapy to help them get better. Some of us will only require the knowing and loving hand of a solid partner.

And in the next few viral days, we’ve surged and quarantined in her house and we’ve grown closer and tighter. It’s as if my partner is saying, “Even though we haven’t known each other much more than a year, I’m picking you over this fear and panic. If we’re going down, I want to go down together.”

The hand of a healthy and highly communicative relationship gives me so much courage and energy. Just knowing that I have a place beside her, and beside her child, gives me a place on this crazy mixed up viral planet we happen to be sailing darkly on. A partner who won’t abandon you in one of your blue periods (or 10) is the partner we all dream of. I mean, consider this: if we’re staying together for the long haul, we’re both going to have some blue periods. How about KNOWING your partner really does have your back. Loves your back. And loves you back to wellness even without breaking stride.

She never halted or got afraid. She felt concerned and then she felt safe enough to ask. And while I was unable to give the right answer the first time, I was able to feel her truth at that moment. And she said it again today, now a few days later, “I love you just as much in your quiet moments. People can be on fire all the time. It’s exhausting. I mean, I love that person too, but this person is a bit easier and more flexible to be around.”

Just Hanging Around with Your Partner

Yes, this person (my quieter persona) is easier to be around because my demands are lower. My expectations are lower. My energy is lower. And what I got, even in these extraordinarily stressful times, is a partner that says, “I choose you, either way. Even as we go barreling into the mouth of this viral dragon, I choose to go beside you, holding your hand.”

See, what happens with us moody creative types is eventually we wear out our partners. Their patience with our failed efforts at recovery, our failed efforts to stay UP, at some point, when the fit is not right, lead them to choose OUT rather than TOGETHER. When you find a together partner, a “together no matter what” partner, a “together here at the end of the world as we know it” partner… Well, that’s when you know you’ve found your home. YES. Thank you. God bless.

Now, wash your damn hands.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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