Accepting a Loss of Control

For the past six months, ever since the first mention of COVID-19 hit the news and the entire world as we know it was flipped inside out and backwards, I’ve been at a loss. Unable to offer answers, plan ahead, or feel like I’m in control.

I’m the type of person who needs to have control over my life. I struggle with making decisions and embracing spontaneity because if something isn’t planned, I won’t know every single potential outcome. And if I don’t know every potential outcome, my brain goes haywire. If I’m unable to mentally prepare, the chances are, things won’t be perfect. Which is unacceptable for my anxiety-ridden, perfectionist brain.

I’ve seen too many headlines in the form of the daunting phrase, “Things Will Never Be The Same.”

This means that whatever vision of the future I had in mind before could be chucked out the window in the blink of an eye. I’ve had to avoid a lot of the news outlets lately because being stuck at home with infinite time to marinate on that possibility leads to a significant chance of an existential crisis. I can hardly stand to write more than a paragraph on it before spiraling into a mental freak-out. If I struggled with a loss of control before the pandemic even began, how am I supposed to make progress when my life lacks the comfort of a routine?

I admit that things have improved since the initial shock, but my struggle to accept the chaos has morphed into a desire to pick up seventeen new hobbies, submerge myself in the peaceful island life of Animal Crossing, and bleach and dye my hair because it is something I can control. Now I am far from a psychologist, but I’ve been to enough therapy to know that distracting myself and burying the hard emotions will only lead them to simmer under the surface and worsen later on.

So how can I find a balance between keeping myself busy to avoid the deep dive into apocalyptic panic, and paying attention to my emotions and letting myself experience them so as to not repress the fear and anxiety and whatever else I may be feeling?

I’m not sure I have the answer. The one thing that has helped, however, is knowing that other people are feeling the same way. As every single professional email has begun in the past 2 months, “these are unprecedented times.” Naturally, there is no way I can attain complete certainty when the workings of the world change every day. But neither can anyone else. That may seem a little dismal, but we’re all in this together. Leave it to High School Musical to create the perfect phrase that, while incredibly cliche, remains true.

For the time being, I’ll try to walk the line between processing my emotions and keeping myself busy, and continue to notice the good. Notice the good that comes in an unplanned day.

Catching up on much-needed sleep. Seeing flowers blooming in people’s front yards on my daily walks. The warmth of the afternoon sun that seeps through the window. Having time to read books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for months. Writing, and not for the sake of completing an assignment.

I’m fortunate to have the time. Although I’ve been struggling to treat myself with kindness, preparing to finish my final year of college has been more of a fight than usual, and going out riddles me with anxiety, I’ve made it this far. And I’ve made it through worse. Little by little, I’m learning that there’s good to be found in the uncertainty.

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Helena Ducusin

Helena Ducusin

Putting thought to paper and hoping it’s coherent.