Going through the COVID-19 pandemic with a cancer diagnosis made me feel jittery, and I know that many others felt the same way, too.
My personality has changed for the worse over the past several years. I constantly feel restless, jittery and distracted. I move from task to task without finishing one and start another one unable to finish that one either. I walk into a room and do not remember why, so I spin around trying to figure it out. I will look for items like my phone when they are in my hand.
I have done this to some degree before, but never remember feeling so discombobulated. I look at piles of unaccomplished jobs on my dining room table. I have trouble concentrating when I read which one of my great loves. I spend mindless hours on the computer and scrolling through Facebook. This is not because I have nothing else to do, but I do not have the energy to continue. My writing has even taken a hit.
As a counselor, I spent years explaining to parents and children about ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and realize that in some cases medication can help. However, I do not think these would help me because ADHD is a difference in the way the brain functions, and I do not believe I have that. However, I feel like I have major ADHD and really can sympathize with these kids and their parents for the first time.
I started to talk about this to my friends and found out something startling. They felt the same way. One counselor friend said she thought it was the aftermath of the pandemic. Of course, I should have figured this out. I have written articles and given programs on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and our reactions to save our lives. We use the basic responses to flee, freeze or fight when threatened. But I feel there is something more here. The study of psychology reveals that it takes 30 seconds to escalate from a real or perceived danger causing faster heartbeats, racing pulses and increased breathing. It takes 30 minutes to de-escalate.
The problem with the pandemic is that we never have had a real chance to de-escalate. I was constantly in fear of going out, inviting over company, becoming ill, and losing loved ones every single day for over two years. I want the pandemic to calm down, but has it really? There is always the shadow of another variant looming like a black cloud.
I feel somewhat protected by the vaccines and boosters, but there is still a shadow of darkness over us. Lives have been shattered forever through the loss of jobs, income, houses and loved ones. We're not back to “normal,” and after two years, will we ever be? Now we are viewing horrible images of a war in Ukraine that I can’t understand. I am still suffering physiologically from racing hearts, rapid breathing and increasing heartbeats.
No wonder so many of us are jittery.
Added to this is the extra stress of having cancer. I am still facing constant decisions about treatments, possessing the fear of cancer worsening or coming back, and have endless medical appointments taking. With both cancer and COVID-19, I am mourning the way life was before we were robbed of any normalcy.
I am not presenting solutions. We have been told repeatedly how to relax, exercise, get more sleep and think positively to combat stress. I do not want to hear all those platitudes right now. I simply want an explanation for why I feel the way I do. Many of us who survived 2020 to 2022 feel this way, and just understanding why helps me to feel better. That is all I can hope for right now.
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