Quarantined with Anxiety

The question I keep asking myself is, “Did we quarantine soon enough?” Our family did before anyone else I know did. We haven’t left the house in over a week. The four of us have been at our house: my husband, Jason; our daughter Alice, age 9; and our son Tyler, age 20.

Due to the spread of this virus, COVID 19, our governor John Bel Edwards has issued a Stay at Home order that went into effect yesterday at 5 pm. However, we have been “self-quarantined” for over a week. It was a choice we made when the spread of the virus rapidly started and the numbers of cases in our state wouldn’t stop growing.

As long as I can remember, I have had anxiety. It has been a part of me. The first time I remember seeing a therapist I was about 7 years old. I had severe headaches from grinding my teeth and trouble sleeping. I had insomnia and panic attacks at age 17 after my boyfriend died in a car wreck. During that awful time, I didn’t sleep hardly at all, couldn’t eat, and lost weight. It’s amazing what anxiety can do to your body. I am experiencing this again. The insomnia is back, I can’t eat, I have no appetite, pimples on my face and panic attacks. I forgot what this felt like.

The thing about anxiety is you never know when it will creep up on you. A couple of days ago I had a huge panic attack. One of the largest ones I have ever had. Really, I had them under control for the last few years. Throughout the years, I have learned how to keep my anxiety down with yoga, low caffeine, Epsom salt baths, time at home with my family and dogs and time to myself. But, here it is back and rearing it’s ugly head again.

For those of you who have never had a panic attack, trust me you don’t want one. It’s as if an elephant is sitting on your chest and everything is spinning out of control. For me, hot tears come out that I can’t hold back as well as not being able to speak. One of the therapists I have seen taught me this trick where you pick something up, hold it in your hand and breathe very slow. When I am holding it, I only think about the object I am holding. Sometimes I pick up a pebble or a blade of grass, sometimes it’s my husband’s hand (which is what I did a few days ago) or sometimes it’s just whatever I have nearby.

I keep thinking about Anne Frank and what she felt like. We are very lucky to have a backyard and no one hunting us as was the case for poor little Anne. She must have been so scared. I keep thinking of my daughter and how she must be feeling and all the children that are scared right now.

When this started a few weeks ago (dates are starting to get very blurry to me) my first thought was to buy groceries so I did. I made sure we had enough hand soap, shampoo, paper towels and toilet paper. I didn’t buy too much, just what I could afford. We then bought some canned goods. Fairly quickly after that, there was a shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. At the time we had about 24 rolls of toilet paper and I think we have about 15 now. We are starting to conserve toilet paper as there is nowhere to purchase it.

A few weeks ago, our state of Louisiana had no cases of COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus). Two weeks ago Louisiana had zero cases and now as I’m writing this, we have 837 confirmed cases and 20 deaths. The numbers seem to be rising so fast I can’t keep up. The scariest thing has been watching the country of Italy during this time. I remember when this whole nightmare started over there about a month ago and now they have 5,476 deaths. Their death toll has gone up so fast. I just read a headline today that they had 651 deaths today. TODAY.

Sometimes we hear good news, but it’s rare. Yesterday my mom told me her friend Mike, who we have known forever, tested positive for the virus about three weeks ago and is said to be almost totally recovered now. The only way he must have gotten tested is because he is a doctor and had access to a test. Most people do not have access to a test. We are learning that if you are famous and have the money you get a test and results right away. Many people are sick and cannot get tested and if they are lucky enough to get a test the results can take 4-6 days to come in!

Grocery stores are still open and we have had two shipments delivered to our front door since we have been quarantined. We spray everything and then bring it inside. The virus supposedly can live on plastic for three days so we are being very careful. We tried to walk our dogs the other day, but the virus can live in the air for three hours and there were too many people around us to keep going. A man’s dog came running up to our dogs (his dog was not on a leash) and the man had to get pretty close to us (about 2-3 feet away) to come to get him. My daughter said, “this is too risky” and we have now been playing in the back yard only.

It’s quite saddening to think my 9-year-old is living in this awful time. Her 10th birthday is coming up and she is really upset she had to cancel her birthday party with her friends. If I really sit and think about it, I am very saddened for her because she is scared of this virus.

Every night as I tuck her in, she asks me what we are doing the next day. This has been our routine for as long as I can remember. She loves hearing me tell her if we have Girl Scouts or ballet or hanging out with friends. Last night she asked me and I just started crying. Even through this, I have been quite upbeat answering with a chipper, “we are going to make blueberry muffins and then paint in the backyard and then experiment with bubbles” or something like that. But, I just couldn’t think of one thing. Not. One. Thing. I just cried. My daughter reached up and hugged me. She has really grown up this last week.

For those of you living with anxiety, please ask for help. Reach out. Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do for yourself. That sounds easy but it’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to even first identify that you are having anxiety. Come up with a plan and talk to someone about your plan. Even if you just tell one person, that is a start. My plan is to totally stop watching the news, take Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone and meditate/do yoga every day. I will start this tomorrow. I keep hearing people say “we are all in this together” and I agree we are, but for those of us with anxiety, it is a whole different world.

About Elizabeth Branch

Elizabeth is originally from Illinois and moved to New Orleans in 2008. She has lived in many cities including St. Louis, Boston and Chicago; where she went to Loyola University. Chicago is an incredible city that is so diverse with so much culture but wasn’t quite home.  She had visited the city of New Orleans a couple times and fell in love with it; as one does. The last thing her mother said to her before she moved was, “You better not meet someone and have my grandbabies down there.” Well, Elizabeth met her now husband two months after she moved here. They have been married almost 10 years now.

Elizabeth is the owner and photographer at Little Fish Photography. On a typical day she can be found photographing a child with a real life unicorn at her studio in Slidell or in City Park photographing a huge family or Jackson Square photographing a couple siblings. Each day is different and that is what she loves.

When she isn’t photographing, she is with her 9 year old daughter or doing both at the same time. She also enjoys yoga in an air conditioned place and group exercise. Her key to happiness is coffee, chocolate, being around loving people and a daily ten minute Epsom salt bath.  Sometimes the occasional long conversation with a stranger is exactly what her day needs and sometimes sitting on the couch with one of her dogs sleeping in her lap does the trick. She has a rabbit named Thumper that loves bananas and pretzels. Elizabeth’s favorite place to visit is Gulf Shores, Alabama because her parents are there and so is the beach!

Elizabeth’s work can be found at www.littlefishpics.com


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