Coping With The Anxiety of Covid-19 as an Atheist

So it comes in waves. You come across a particularly grim article, with forecasts that make you wonder what, if anything, will be left after all of this. And then maybe you see a tweet that makes you think, well, hey, perhaps this won’t be so bad after all. The waves go really low, though, and over time you find yourself sinking lower and lower into a pit of anxiety.

Usually, I’m a pretty optimistic person. I prefer to focus on the positives when bad things happen. I’m always looking for the silver lining and reminding myself that this too shall pass.

But usually, there is something positive to grasp.

Usually, there is a silver lining.

I’m having trouble finding one this time.

I mean, I’ve gone over it and over it in my head. Maybe we come out of this with a universal basic income, and that would be cool. But is that a silver lining for Italy? Do you think any single Italian would care?

Maybe you finally oust the orange tyrant occupying the White House over this. That would certainly be a positive, right? But does that matter to Spain?

Maybe we collectively realize that grocery store clerks and truck drivers and other essential workers are worth more than minimum wage. That would undoubtedly drag our civilization into the twenty-first century. But how many Chinese citizens would feel better about all of this as a result?

My guess is none. There is no outcome of this pandemic that will make things okay again in Italy. There are no silver linings for Spain or China.

The worst part is that this is just getting started. Now, the USA is creeping up the Covid charts, threatening to take over the number one spot for hardest hit. I’m in Canada, but that doesn’t make me feel much better. I don’t want to see you hurt any more than I want to see me hurt.

Two days ago, I braved Walmart because we’d run out of produce. I went to pick up groceries for other people as well, who are in a higher risk group than me. I had a list in hand and my disinfecting wipes in my pocket. I was prepared. Or so I thought.

I had trouble finding half the items on my list, and I began to get frustrated. Searching for these things was dragging this out much longer than I had anticipated. I was starting to feel panic at just wanting to get out of the store and back home as fast as possible, but also not wanting to get everything I could so I wasn’t wasting this harrowing trip to the grocery store. No one was smiling; everyone was keeping their distance. Some had masks, and some had gloves, and everyone had tension. You could feel it. No one wanted to be there, and we were all just trying our hardest to get in and out with what we need as fast as possible. But that didn’t happen. It was becoming increasingly frustrating, and I had to stop on multiple occasions to stop and remind myself to breathe. When it finally came time to checkout, there was one til open, and I had way too much to get through the self-checkout as I was shopping for several people. So I stood in line and stewed and tried not to think about the virus, tried to think of good things to fight back the tears—the overwhelming grief at the loss of normal. I wanted to go home and cry.

This was just grocery shopping. Grocery shopping.

Our world, as we knew it is gone. Who knows when and if we get it back. Many of us could have a wretched illness soon. There is no promise any of us will have work when we come out of this. There are so many things to be anxious about right now, and if I, who has it relatively good compared to much of the world, almost broke down grocery shopping, I can’t imagine what all of you are going through.

Especially atheists who have been disowned, shunned, excommunicated or kicked out of their home because they are atheists. I can’t imagine dealing with all of this without a good support system.

I want to help. You know how much I care about you.

The only thing I could think to do to help, though, is to connect with those of you who are struggling with this anxiety. To make sure you know you’re not alone in this. So, my friend Bridget and I, set up some hangouts for just that reason. It’s just friendly people talking with each other, trying to bring each other some comfort in an uncertain time. We’ll be face to face (although you do not have to show your face if you don’t want to), just chatting as friends. A counselor will be present to guide the conversation.

If you’re interested in connecting with me, Bridget or our counselors, make sure you sign up. If you don’t sign up, we can’t send you the Zoom link, so sign up here.

I hope to see some of you guys at these Hangouts. Stay safe, wash your hands, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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Coping With The Anxiety of Covid-19 as an Atheist