On Monday I had my first ever PCR covid test. I’d had a hacking cough all weekend and because I run writing workshops where many of my participants are over 70 felt it was my duty of care to get checked. out. By Tuesday afternoon I had a text and email to say that I was negative, which I had expected as the hacking cough/sore throat is a yearly event for me as winter approaches. What I did not expect was the level of anxiety I experienced. This is not that any of the procedure is anxiety driven but there is something in that whole thing of “testing for covid” that caused issues in me.
From the moment I went on to the NHS site to book my test I felt myself start to shake and my chest get tighter. Driving to the test site I felt more anxious than I should have. And then from 1.30pm Monday to 2pm Tuesday I was gentle nervous and felt like my life was on hold. Of course some of that was that I had to cancel a workshop because of waiting for the result and keep the other group poised to wait for my results. I couldn’t go to the shops, though I did walk my dog. My husband started to worry that he would not be able to go away for the weekend. There was a lot of tension in our house that only dissipated when I got my negative result in.
Where did this fear come from when deep inside I knew this was just my yearly bug? I think it came from the high levels of anxiety that have been pumped at us from the media about Covid-19. Yes some of the things are wise advice, like washing hands properly which really we should have been doing anyway, but there has been this fear of “what ifs”. And we do hear of the number of deaths from Covid-19, though interestingly in my piece on The Day of The Dead not one of the people I mentioned had died of covid. Suicide seemed to be one of the big ones but I’m not sure how one tests for that.
So yes I am accepting covid is serious or why would the whole world be in lockdown? I am accepting that we need to do the social distancing and the hygiene things. But where does this level of high anxiety come from? I believe it is because we have been told for the last 20+ months to be in fear, not just of covid but of climate change, of terrorists, of Brexit, of economic crash, of poor government choices and more that when we have to face a PCR test it sets of all sorts of fight/flight triggers. I know it did with me.
So what can we do to change this without living in denial? Because denial is just another fight/flight/freeze/fawn response to trauma. And also how do we deal with this without turning to scapegoating some people group? Watch Ridley Road on BBC i-player, listening carefully to the right-wingers and their complaints. All are valid. All could be said today. We cannot let our anxieties come to this.
I do not have the answer at the moment apart from being aware of the feelings that the PCR test brought up in me and working to stay calm. But it has left me with more questions than answers. But maybe one of them is to Choose Joy?