Living In Fear

Okay. It’s time to feed the elephant in the room. I’ve got my bag of peanuts ready.

I suppose I should preface this blog with telling the reader I have an anxiety disorder. My anxiety has a lot of external components that were/are present, but I don’t think it’s an excuse. Sometimes we have to admit we are responsible for how we feel.

I’ve always said I would not live my life in fear. That’s been true. I haven’t been afraid of dying in a terrorist attack, not that it’s likely in Henderson. I wasn’t afraid of a school shooting when I was a teacher. I’m not afraid to swim in the ocean despite the fact that oceans contain sharks and jellyfish. I’m not afraid to go into a “bad neighborhood.”

Is this bravado? Am I just playing the odds? Terrorist attacks, school shootings, and getting killed in a “bad neighborhood” are highly unlikely. They’re not as unlikely as being eaten by a shark, but they’re close. It’s easy to say I’m unafraid of things that aren’t likely.

Covid-19 has changed all that. I’m terrified. I’m terrified my wife is going to get it. She’s immune-compromised, but she can’t shelter in place if it comes to that in North Carolina. She provides an essential service. I’m terrified my daughter will get it. She’s a Type 1 diabetic. Where she works is also considered essential. I’m terrified my son is going to get it from one of us. Also, I’m terrified for myself, and that’s the rub.

I’m one of those people who has underlying conditions. I have diabetes. I’ve had a heart attack, and my heart isn’t a hundred percent healthy. I’m obese. I’m hypertensive. I have type A blood, and people who are type A have a slightly reduced immune response. I’m over fifty, and the closer one gets to sixty, the more vulnerable one is. A lot of people in their fifties with underlying conditions who contract it have died. People with three or more underlying conditions are even more likely to die.

It’s even more likely in Henderson, a relatively small city in a rural county. I recently learned how many ventilators and ICU beds the local hospital has. It’s microscopic compared to the size of the population. Essentially, if anyone in the region the hospital serves contracts it and become deathly ill, they’re on their own if they can’t get to a bigger, better-equipped hospital. This is assuming, of course, that the bigger, better-equipped hospital isn’t overrun itself.

Covid-19 kills one to three percent of those who contract it. The data from China suggests that seven percent of diabetics who contract it die. I haven’t seen data for people in my condition but, anecdotally, it isn’t good. One percent or three percent or seven percent are acceptable odds for not landing on Boardwalk when it has hotels on it or rolling three doubles in a row. Even the slightest possibility of dying is shitty. It’s not as bad as cancer, of course, and I don’t mean to minimize the odds of people who have the myriad of possibly mortal illnesses to which human beings are susceptible. As with everything, it could be worse for my family or me, and of course I’m grateful it isn’t worse than it is.

I’ve had a front-row seat when it comes to grief, but death has always been an abstract concept when it comes to myself. I’ve been lucky. I know someday I’ll die, but it’s always been at some nebulous time far in the future. I don’t have to think about it because I feel fine. I have some symptoms of aging, but they’re minor. I’ve never had to face my own death. I’ve never had to face the possibility that I could die and die very soon.

I’ve always wondered what I’d feel when death is imminent. Now I know. But this is a defining moment. This is a time to be brave. This is a time to be brave for one’s family and for oneself and for the whole world.

I hope readers feel confident they won’t get Covid-19 if they take the necessary precautions. I hope they feel confident that if it comes down to it, they and the ones they love will be among the eighty percent who have mild symptoms or none at all. I admire that.

I wish you life and health and courage. Be well. Be better.

1 thought on “Living In Fear

  1. I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing, so I’m carefully avoiding opening the wrong boxes each day. I’m *very* worried underneath it all, but channeling my inner Scarlet O’Hara to get through the now and declaring “I can’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Luckily, my apocalypse outfit does not include hoop skirts, so that’s one thing that isn’t in my way.


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