Mental Wellness and 71-Word Challenge

Hello everyone, how are you? I hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. Things are kind of scary right now for us all. My state just announced their first case of COVID-19 and it makes me want to bury my head in the sand. But freaking out isn’t going to do me any good. I think this is a good time to reach out (by phone or internet, not physically!) to people you know around the (your) nation and world, especially those in heavily affected areas, to see how they are. I did this the other night, messaging family members whose contacts I have. I know some people might think me awfully dramatic (guilty as charged) but my spirit compelled me! I have family in Washington and when I thought about them I wondered how they were, so I asked.

I think it’s especially important to reach out to the people you know who are at higher risk for contracting the virus as well as people you know who have mental illness. I suffer from anxiety and I have a particularly difficult time worrying about matters of health. Some people call me a hypochondriac. Based on the definition, “a person who is abnormally anxious about their health”, I most certainly am. I’m not proud of this fact and I know it’s irrational but when my mind gets to whirring those thoughts around about what these constant headaches, chest pains, sparkles in my vision are it is extremely difficult to just shut them off. My best bet is to ask myself some questions:

  • Is this an emergency, as in I need urgent care? If not then,
  • Is there anything I can and should do about this now? In other words, if my doctor’s office is open, can I schedule an appointment? If not, then calm down, leave it alone, call when you can.
  • Can I simply monitor this myself, thereby taking a strong stand as my own advocate?

If an appointment is necessary and scheduled, then I need to distract my thoughts away from the worry while I wait for my the day. This all seems pretty common sense but it can be really stressful. What’s my point? During this pandemic people like myself are probably experiencing even more than our usual every day anxiety. It wouldn’t hurt to check in with a text or e-mail or phone call and see how people are doing. I’m alright. I’m keeping myself up to date with the latest news. I’m washing my hands when available to me and using hand sanitizer or wipes when I can’t wash. I cancelled travel plans and plan to avoid people as best I can. This means my trip to the store yesterday afternoon will turn into late night or early morning trips to avoid large crowds, all the while being safe about my surroundings. I’ll gather some food supplies to avoid having to go out more and be prepared should I need to hunker down. I am not freaking out, I’m being cautious. Freaking out would disable me, making me more dysfunctional than not. I’ll also see what I can do to get another month of medications. I have extra pet food as well.

We all have to do what we can to stay healthy and keep those around us healthy. Not all my worries are irrational or extra but staying healthy means I also have to look out for my mental health. Keep exercising, continue yoga, and probably make some time to meditate or whatever to calm my mind. Let’s all make sure to remember it’s important we care for our mental health as well.

In case you’re wondering, and in case it would help to share, here’s an example of a mild hypochondriac panic attack:

Almost two weeks ago (maybe?) I was at a big box grocery store. It was really busy. We didn’t have any cases in my state yet so I was less nervous but still concerned. As I made my way to the dairy section to get some cottage cheese I noticed a woman cough into a tissue balled up in her hand (not covering her mouth with it or her hand, but balled up uselessly in the middle of her hand). She was with another woman by the yogurt. Instantly my heart rate increased. I thought oh my God why is she in the store! Okay, calm down, she might have allergies or some kind of breathing or lung matter. Maybe she’s not sick.

Regardless, I decided I’d leave my cart where I was at and quickly walk over to the cottage cheese, grab a container and hustle back to my cart. That’s what I did. Then as I turned around I saw them walking towards me. Heart rate, up, more. Oh God, oh God, oh God she’s coughing! Hold my breath, hold my breath. Do you know how difficult it is to hold your breath while you’re anxious? I went back to my cart holding my breath until I couldn’t and was far enough away to believe I was safe. But the fear did not leave me. The incident did not leave me.

I bought my groceries and left the store. I used my sanitizer then just sat in my car replaying the situation over and over. Little evil butterflies flew rampantly in my gut. I decided then that what I should have done was walked in the opposite direction and went all the way around the next aisle to get back to my cart. Over and over I thought this. I pictured myself doing it. I imagined how I wouldn’t have come close to them had I done that. I worried that I had made a critical mistake. Then I thought, no you just should have ditched the cottage cheese all together as soon as you saw that woman cough. She probably doesn’t have the coronavirus but what if! All the way home I thought about this. At home I thought about it. And still I remember it. That incident for me was distressing to say the least. Once it was over, I then also had to imagine what if I were to contract it and then visit my elderly aunt?

I’m sharing this to give you a snap shot. Like I said, I’m fine but having anxiety means I’m a greater risk to mishandle real fear and make things more difficult than I need to. So maybe see how the people you know are doing (not in person), you never know when your compassion could help ease another person’s soul.

With that I’m going to issue a 71-Word writing prompt challenge. The theme is looking passed fear.

via GIPHY

What should I do?

“You know what this means don’t you?”

I stared.

“Transformation. Metamorphosis. Change! You could be change.”

“But… what if -“

“You can’t hide forever. Your wings will show them there is hope in our future. When you finally fly you will be filled with their magic and it will fill your voice. Your voice must be heard.”

I flexed my double set of wings. They shivered. The thin butterfly wings changed colors.

via GIPHY

There you have it, my 71-word flash fiction piece. I encourage you to participate and try your hand at flash fiction, no more no less than 71 words. Post your story in the comments or a link to your page with your story. Please link back to me here. If you’re interested in my other flash fiction challenges as well as those I participated in over at Carrot Ranch, please follow the links below. Carrot Ranch Literary Community run by Charli Mills is who I have to thank for my doing these flash fiction challenges. I’m so grateful for the inspiration provided thanks to her 99-word challenges. This is a great thing for my writing practice.

Carrot Ranch 99-word writing challenge:

via GIPHY