I am not the sort who usually worries about the little things in life. At age 18, I arrived in Chicago with just 150 dollars and got a job waitressing. Twice in my life I have given up a career job to travel to remote parts of the world, and in my mid-40s, I relocated to Luxembourg.
Yet some weeks ago, I started having a weird feeling, like a cross between morning sickness and tummy butterflies. It wouldn’t go away, so I went to the doctor. She got me tested for everything from Covid to hormone imbalances, and packed me off with anti-nausea tablets.
Weeks later, and whilst the severity has subsided, I am still getting these tremors, which I can only put down to a growing anxiety about life.
When I go to bed, my brain runs through everything I have done, everything I’ve forgotten to do, and what I have to do tomorrow, on an endless loop. Even my dreams are filled with worries that the kids will lose their phones or that the cats will get run over. What is going on?
Well, the hint is in the title. Generalised anxiety. I am in a constant state of irrational panic and dread, over which I appear to have no control.
Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed
Figures from medical journal The Lancet show that since the start of the pandemic, an additional 76.2 million people have anxiety disorders and another 10.7 million more of us have major depressive disorders. That’s a 25% and 27% increase respectively in just one year, and it’s mainly women who are suffering from both.
To give context, the Lancet report states that after the Greek financial crisis, the numbers in the country suffering depression two years later had gone up by 3.3%. That figure was a 4.3% after the Hong Kong financial crisis. So 25% or more is an unprecedented rise globally.
When the first lockdown was announced, I had a Dunkirk spirit about it all, enjoying the back to basics of walks in the unexpected April sunshine and some family bonding – even with home-schooling. So long as you didn’t look at the mounting death toll, it felt like those in charge were doing a sterling job.
Then the second wave of lockdowns and a prolonged period of not seeing family, put a dampener on last Christmas. The kids were tired of wearing masks at school.
But hope springs eternal. Even Brexit and the application for my biometric residency permit didn’t get me down. What’s more a vaccination was being rolled out, even if ever so slowly.
Then summer came, and the sun barely visited Luxembourg. A trip to Ireland to see my mother in law ended badly when her care home went into lockdown. By October, it felt like everyone was grumpy and angry with government policy being either too harsh, or too lenient.
That’s when the worrying started.
When worrying takes on new proportions
When we had friends to stay, I worried about what to feed them, and how tidy the spare room was. When my car had its first technical inspection, I had a week of sleepless nights imagining it would fail because of some noise I thought I heard from the engine.
Currently I am stressing about another pre-Christmas trip to Ireland. What if the test results don’t come in time? What if Ryanair cancels our flights home and, whilst we are stranded in Dublin, my mum arrives in Luxembourg and has to break down the front door? What if I forget to lock the backdoor and someone steals all those electronics I’ve bought the kids for Christmas?
And now as I write this, I am worrying about how much I worry all the time.
I’ve ordered some mindfulness books, but I know that the underlying fear is not knowing what’s going to happen next. I like things to be predictable, I want to make plans.
On a daily basis, I am scrolling through heated debates between those anti and pro vaccination. There are a lot of fearsome, angry people living in Luxembourg right now, and even everyday questions are answered with antagonism, as if we’ve all lost our patience.
As a result, I find myself retreating slowly into a world which revolves around my open plan living area in which I also work. My insular life means I have little to talk about except the kids or the cats or the comments on Facebook. I have stopped reading the news or even reading books.
Can Christmas save the year?
Christmas is my salvation. I’ve got a lot riding on it right now. I will plan nothing, not even meals. I will not organise a single thing that might mean I have something to worry about. I cannot control what is happening around me, or the day to day trials of life. But I can switch off the world for a few days, and turn down the volume on the voices shouting around me.
It is perhaps a cowardly thing to do, but for my sanity, it is what I will do, and hope that those butterflies disappear by the start of 2022.
Happy holidays everyone. Be kind to others, but most of all, be kind to yourself.
If you are concerned about your mental health, or that of someone you know, read our article Feeling Alone for information on support organisations in Luxembourg.