Old fears, new loss: Anxiety and PTSD during the pandemic

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Old Fears, new loss by Myla Corvida

Content warning: Mental Health (PTSD), descriptions of panic attacks

It started with a question. “How can we help you?” My left hand grips the telephone tighter and I can taste metal on my tongue again. I whisper: “I’m not ok. I need help.”

They start to ask more questions, but I can’t hear them anymore. The anxiety demon has started up again with its claws, ripping up my insides, lumbar to cervical spine. The sweats begin.

I know I should say something, anything. They sound worried, the person on the other end of the phone.

“It’s alright, it was a mistake, sorry.” I mutter while quickly hanging up.

The claws are in deep now, my hands are shaking badly, and I fight for breath. Not again! I wish I had some sense! Why can’t I just be normal like everyone else?

I go to the bathroom to splash my face, prolonging the inevitable. Instead, I curl up on the bathroom mat and let out short gasping sobs. An old acquaintance comes again. Some other distant part of me wishes someone had informed Anxiety about social distancing.

I hear the door go, the postman is here, the loud noises scare me even more, I hear the phone ring next to my head.

Too much, too much, too much.

Instead I curl tighter, wishing for this to end.

I wasn’t prepared for this pandemic on top of everything else. No one was.

It’s ok. It is going to be ok. I whisper over and over to myself.

The phone has stopped ringing.

The postman has gone.

Eventually the panic subsides, the claws retract, I breath again. Slowly.

I can breathe again.

I am alone.

I crawl out of the bathroom to the closet, ironically where I spend most of my time in fear these days.

Just like I did when I was younger.

I remember the instructions from my mother again.

“Stay here until I come get you. You’ll be safe here.”

It’s no surprise then, when I found a home, the major prerequisite     was a walk-in closet.

I go to the back, where the longer dresses used to be. Where the sari my grandmother wore most is hanging. It should be in a box, but… it still smells of her. Nivea cream and attar.

I’ve left my phone in the bathroom.

I go to the back, where the longer dresses used to be. Where the sari my grandmother wore most is hanging. It should be in a box, but… it still smells of her. Nivea cream and attar.

In my head the words come back to me again.

“Stay here. You’ll be safe here.”

I breathe in my grandmother’s lingering memories.

I have nothing left of my mother’s.

The other men in our family aren’t as sentimental.

Eventually, after what seems like hours, I brave the unsafe spaces of my house again.

I go for my phone first, two missed calls and a text from the boyfriend asking when he can come round again. I want to text back “NEVER!”, but I ignore it instead.

Heading downstairs to make a cup of tea I notice a white envelope and a red “sorry you were out” card glaring at me.

I ignore them.

Instead I go to the kitchen and pull out some Yorkshire tea. The ritual of making something calms me further. The familiar sounds and smells take me again to my grandmother.

Two taps with the teaspoon on ceramic, the tinkle of glass bangles and the soft quiet sound of cloth moving as she made it.

To memories of when I was small, when she would hoist me up onto the counter to watch her make the tea for others. I would be fascinated by the ritual she would make of it. Two taps with the teaspoon on ceramic, the tinkle of glass bangles and the soft quiet sound of cloth moving as she made it.

I find myself pinching my own cheek like she did before picking up the cup of tea. Instead of drinking it, I sit at the table and stare at the perfect colour in front of me. Same movements, almost the same sounds. Never tastes the same as hers.

It goes cold after a while and I pour it out.

Time to get the post.

I should probably get a dog to help me feel better, get me active. Everyone else is. No dog would put up with me though. Maybe.

The red slip requires a signature. Great. He’ll be back tomorrow then.

The white envelope…. I turn it over and laugh.

“Stay alert” is blazoned on the back.

How much more alert can I get?!

In the bin it goes with a resounding “Fuck you” to Boris J.

I drag myself back to my room, pull the cover off the bed and go back to my cupboard.

Where it’s safe.

Maybe tomorrow everything will be ok again.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually answer the door.

Maybe I’ll even get a dog!

Another text from the boyfriend.

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“I’m going back in the closet and staying there!”

He didn’t seem to understand the joke.

I stay there for the rest of the day, camped out like I used to.

My phone runs out of battery.

I feel safe for now.

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A photo of Myla Corvidae wearing a black blouse wtih flower collar and smiling at the camera.

Myla Corvidae has worked in script writing, poetry and spoken word for the past two years as well as writing articles for Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums. Myla’s spoken word poetry focuses on past reflections mirrored through the political landscapes of today and mental health.   

@Mylafish 

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