COVID 19 fears

I am writing today about the reaction of people to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many this is a very stressful time. There are many whose mental health and wellbeing is being affected by the development of this pandemic.
There are those who fall into the category of highest risk for a severe, even deadly, infection. They have good cause to fear the infection.
There are those who have a loved one who is in the highest risk for a severe, even deadly, infection. They have good cause to fear the infection being caught by their loved one.
One such person is Amy, who is half way through her current course of chemotherapy for cancer. She has worked really hard over the past year to heal herself from cancer. The cancer is showing signs of retreating and she feels she is finally reaching a stage where she can believe she is going to survive this. Now there is an infection that could prove fatal if she catches it. She is worried and so are her doctors. Her oncologist has advised her to wear a face mask and goggles if she is out in public. For her this is a scary time. It has now become scarier due to the reactions of other people she encounters when she is out. Many people mock her for her “overreaction” but her precautions are appropriate for someone in her situation. She is frightened and finding herself overcome by anxiety and becoming frightened of leaving the house. She is managing this by seeing me. She has decided she needs to control her anxiety, because it is affecting her immune system. She feels safe in my rooms because I take the recommended precautions to maintain a high standard of hygiene in my rooms and wash my hands thoroughly between clients. I also monitor the people who come to my rooms. Of course, should Amy feel the need, she can have a session via video link as well.
Jody and Brad have also come to see me. For two years their 5 year old has endured many treatments for cancer. They have found the rollercoaster ride of health crises and set backs devastating. Their child is severely immunocompromised as a result of the treatments received. They have nearly lost their child 5 times and fear the very real threat of COVID-19. They are also taking precautions to protect their child. Brad is working from home and isolating himself in the house. Jody’s job involved interactions with members of the public and she is, at the advice of her child’s specialist, wearing a face mask and goggles. She gets funny looks from people, but most people have been understanding. She however is terrified she will get the infection and may pass it on to her child. She has already been severely traumatised by the last two years of her child’s illness. She and Brad have been seeing me through videolink to help them cope with the added stress.
Then there are those who find the presence of an infection they fear may be deadly causes them to face their fear of death.
Those who are not frightened often find those who are afraid, particularly those who stockpile food and hygiene items, are funny, or annoying, or inferior.
Certainly it is annoying when you run out of essential supplies because frightened people are hoarding things they don’t need to hoard. But compassion is essential here. Yes, the media is reporting every sensational twist in great detail and frightening people. Yes, the politicians are holding a lot of press conferences on the importance of taking this seriously. Some of what they say is important, and some is just political. It is very hard to know what to think when faced with information overload. You only have to look at your own facebook feed to see how obsessed people are with COVID-19.
We all have to die, but most of us learn to put that thought aside and get on with life. Some are better at this than others. A pandemic which possibly may result in death is something that can cause those whose fear of death is less well put aside to become very fearful. That fear is genuine. We will all die some day. For most of us, it will probably not be due to a COVID-19 infection. But the fact remains we will all die some day. For those who find that thought leads to deep fear counselling can help.
When we encounter a frightened person, we do not know the reasons behind their fear. They may be a cancer sufferer nearing the end of chemotherapy and extremely vulnerable to infections. They may be a parent whose child is very ill and has a weakened immune system. They may be frightened at the possibility of dying.
We don’t know what story lies behind another person’s reaction to this virus. This is where compassion is essential. Instead of mocking the other person, show them understanding. Don’t rush to judge, you don’t know why they are so concerned.

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