Apartment Floods and Quarantine: How I’m coping with my anxiety

There’s never a good time for your house to flood, but having it happen during a pandemic is in my top 5 for “bad times”.

Though I was lucky that the water didn’t damage any of my personal belongings, it did cause a lot of damage to the floors and drywall. Even worse, the cause of the flood was a 65 year old pipe that had finally given out. This means an extensive re-pipping job that will take a lot of time and a lot of construction to fix. The worst part? Quarantine means I am largely stuck in my construction-zone of an apartment, and work may be delayed due to slower supply lines.

As you can imagine, this is not an ideal situation for anyone, least-of-all a person with generalized anxiety disorder (G.A.D).

Within 48 hours my quiet, clean, comfortable nest of isolation was in chaos. Plumbers and contractors were coming in and out. Machines were wailing, walls were stripped out, and floors torn up. Furniture is piled in the storage room, and my desk and work computer has been re-located to a family member’s house so I can continue to work without industrial fans and power drills whirling in the background. Estimates for the construction “end-date” range from a few weeks to a few months, and my work place as decided to make our “work-from-home” situation permanent. So much has happened in just the last week I’ve felt myself teetering on the edge of an anxiety attack.

I know everyone is going through a high-stress time.

I want to be very clear that I do not consider myself a victim in this circumstance. I am lucky to still have my job, and a steady income. I’m also very lucky to have family nearby that have allowed me to set up my office in their home for the foreseeable future. I am healthy, and none of my loved ones have tested positive for the virus. I have a lot to be grateful for right now, and I don’t want to discount that at all. Unfortunately, anxiety does not care about rationality or relativity. Logically, I know that my situation is enviable and stable, but that does not mean I haven’t been tense, irritable, and verging on a breakdown over the last week.

How am I dealing with it?

For starters, I keep reminding myself of the good things that I listed above. I remind myself of how lucky I am in this situation, and how it could be so much worse. I also remind myself that this is temporary.

For another, I’m keeping busy by controlling what I can. I moved my work computer so I can work in a better environment. I’ve taken myself and my cat out of the house until it’s safe to re-enter, and setup a plan moving forward.

Finally, I’m letting myself acknowledge the stress, then let it go. For years I wouldn’t even allow myself to acknowledge my anxiety. Instead of actively dealing with triggers and stress I’d try to ignore it which would result in a host of unhealthy symptoms. After some therapy and self-discovery, I’ve learned that acknowledging anxiety is the first step in managing it. This week I’ve stopped potential spirals a few times by saying “I’m stressed, and I’m stressed, and that’s okay. Let’s deal with that.” While the stressers don’t disappear, and tension is still high, simply saying that has helped me focus enough to work on other anxiety management techniques such as breathing exercises, count downs, or cognitive disruptions.

The truth is, I am still anxious and will be anxious until everything is done. I will be temperamental, tense, tired, and spiral-prone until the final dust of the repairs have cleared. I don’t want to pretend that managing my anxiety means that the symptoms aren’t there or that my anxiety isn’t an issue anymore, because that’s not the case. Nor do I want to pretend that having G.A.D. means that I’m a complete wreck who is incapable of dealing with set-backs or stress. I just have to take things a day at a time, and manage things the best I can.

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