Stress by association
Let me start this by acknowledging how fortunate I really am. I have at least partial employment; I have a roof over my head; I have groceries; I have parents who care and want to help; I have a sweet boyfriend who is always trying to help.
That said, I also have anxiety and depression, and even with a laundry list of blessings, both of those can give one very dark tunnel vision.
I think one of the most apt things I've read recently said: "You're not working from home. You're at home trying to work through a crisis."
Honestly, even before COVID 19 and the resulting economic crisis, when I'd work from home some days I'd still feel that way. Anxiety doesn't care about your routine or to-do list. It just seeps in whenever. Same with depression.
At this time, with so many people hurting for so many reasons, it's no surprise these two have been trying to stake claims while I'm mostly isolated at home. In a time when my income is greatly reduced, I'm relying on some help from family and left with too much time to think, it's no wonder my brain has begun playing the greatest hits of 2017, including the real banger: "You're a Burden on Everyone You Love."
Raw, uncomfortable and probably even insane for some to hear, but it's been on repeat for a few weeks now.
All that really cranked up the moment I realized the effect of my stress on Merlin. If I'm negative — feeling it, talking it, acting it out — he feels it. And the resulting look on his face only turns what was initially stress or anger into guilt and anxiety.
And that is in no way his fault, but my anxiety and depression feed on that shit like they've been starving in the desert for 40 days.
This secondhand negativity I've begun labeling stress by association. Because if you name it you can process and attack it, right? It's seemingly one of the worst effects of my working-while-at-home life to date. Before this my job already made leaving work at work difficult since I'm a roving reporter and maybe a little too passionate about my work. But now it's so much harder to compartmentalize my life. Even leaving my work laptop and responsibilities in my home office doesn't seem to keep my work stress and agitation from coming with me to the dinner table, the couch, the bedroom. While leaving work things in a designated space remains, in my opinion, a good idea if it's possible, I still have yet to discover how best to keep my work-related emotions as well compartmentalized.
The best analogy I've thought of, which I know pet owners will understand regardless of how goofy it is, is this: My work emotions are like a dog. It doesn't matter if what you're doing/where you're going is inconsequential to them; even if you're going to the bathroom, they want to follow you.
The difference of course is my work-related emotions aren't cute or well-meaning; they're often very hurtful and have at times negatively affected people I love.
So how do I make these intangible actors dissipate as I leave a physical space?
I don't know yet.
But, I do realize I'm probably not alone in these feelings right now, and that's why I wanted to write this all down. I don't claim to be an expert on mental health, or on much of anything for that matter, but if just knowing you're not crazy or alone in your mental illness in this time brings any comfort to anyone, I'm going to publish posts like this.
Be kind to yourself and your loved ones in this time. Though your anxiety and depression might not be new, much of what we're experiencing physically right now is very unprecedented.
Reach out for help if you need it.