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Pep talk for the Perpetually Anxious

By Alice India.

Illustrated by Eddy Hare.

Isn’t it ironic. We sit alone in our rooms, with only the newsfeed and the Thursday Clap to hold us together. And yet, in isolation, with the lights out and the noises off, those familiar chatty little voices start creeping in.

  • It’s so weird how he hasn’t responded to your comment on his story?

  • Why did she not heart react that?

  • Oh shit did I laugh at the wrong time on Houseparty?

It’s like ‘rona isn’t even happening. Same shit, different medium.

The irony of suffering from social anxiety during social distancing is not lost on me. But, as a veteran of unwanted thoughts and obsessive compulsive behaviours, I know that anxiety isn’t adept at reading the room. None of this is your fault, but it is your problem.

First and foremost, whilst you are the world to me, you are nothing to the world.

The typos and the dropped signal and the badly timed log-ins and -offs are nought but 5% of a drop in a mighty ocean of online interactions. You my darling, and all your awkward cyber ‘mishaps’, are invisible.

You are not as dirty and gross and evil as you think.

Glance through the timeline of anyone you know - or don’t know - and you’ll see unwashed, permanently pyjama-clad, badly fed and hungover furloughers. Confused, crumb-flecked freelancers. Horny and restless. Beasts in their muck. Each more sticky and confused than the last. Desperately declaring, every mid morning, that today is the day they write their screenplay.

I went a week without showering and didn’t even realise. Before the crisis but my point still stands.

Pick up a face wipe and some Lynx Africa and be who you are, you smelly little angel. You’re doing your best and I am so proud of you. Brushing your teeth was a big deal this morning - and hey! - they look extra shiny today don’t they?

The other day I ate half a jar of pickled onions and some boiled pasta because the fear of what might be Out There was all a bit much pre-Propranolol.

Do you know what’s tasty and low effort? Frozen broccoli with a lump of butter. Splash some lemon on there if you’re feeling fancy. Are you feeling double fancy with a side order of “yes please monsieur”? Crack out some chilli flakes. You’re worth it.

Change your sheets and change your life.

Call your mum. Text your brother. DM me. When you’re down, someone you know is up. When the tables are turned, you know you’d be there for them. You are more than the niggling voice of your amygdala. I mean honestly. Who invited that guy?

And, perhaps most importantly: Same. It me. Big mood. Etc.

We will all crawl out of this, blinking at the light of precedented times, sharing a communal nod of understanding. An unwritten contract. We will never speak of what happened here. Because whilst Covid is a terrifying invisible evil, it is also, really fucking boring. Boredom is like clearing a space for The Thoughts to play.

Have you tried Words with Friends? You don’t even have to play with your friends.

And be honest, for just one second. When was the last time you were insulted by someone wanting to strike up a conversation with you? Who are you actively hating right now, during Covid? Who did you notice make a faux pas in your last Houseparty chat?

You’re invisible. Your anxieties are hiding under a cloud of everyone else’s. You are safe here.

Be bold and text your pal. Let them know what’s going on.

And if things get worse or beyond your ability to cope? Call your GP. You deserve whatever support you need to survive this.

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