Of course, as an anxiety sufferer the news on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected me (mentally).
I’ve begun scanning the online papers every day – mostly CNN and The Washington Post – for bits and pieces of information on the spread of Ebola in the United States and other countries outside of West Africa.
Every day I check on the condition of the three people currently infected – the NBC cameraman and the two nurses – and send them positive vibes, hoping to bend and shape the Universe toward an outcome that works in their favor.
But if I’m being honest, while I feel terrible for these three people (and everyone affected by the crisis in West Africa), I question my own motives for so fervently wishing them well.
So far, “only” a handful of people have had Ebola in the United States. And so far, “only” one of them has died. Those are significantly better survival odds than we’re seeing in West Africa, and I’m pushing my diseased mind to cling on to the two facts that have so far brought me comfort:
1) Putting aside the well-publicized blunders of the Texas hospital where Thomas Duncan (the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the US) died a couple of weeks ago, most people who are treated in this country actually recover. Perhaps the level of immunity, living conditions and medical advances available in the US make the disease less deadly here than in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Or perhaps the experimental medication these people have been taking is weakening the virus enough to tip the battle in their favor. Either way, the odds don’t look quite as horrible by my count within this small sample size of six (seven if you include the Spanish nurse in Madrid).
2) Four members of Thomas Duncan’s family stayed in close quarters with him for days while he was symptomatic. They were quarantined for 21 days after he was diagnosed, and have not shown any symptoms of the disease since then. This tells me despite all the “Outbreak” scenarios the media would like to throw at us, the disease is not that contagious.
Why am I telling you all this?
It’s because the night the first nurse from Texas was diagnosed with Ebola, I had one of the worst episodes of anxiety I’ve had in the last eight years. So I’ve had many days to ruminate on this, using my coping tools not to let it affect me.
This time, though, my anxiety has been different. In that, it’s actually not directed at me.
When I thought about the possibility of contracting Ebola and dying in some scene out of the zombie apocalypse of the imaginary near future, it was pretty easy for me to shrug it off and say – “eh, I’m going to die eventually, if it’s not this it will be something else.” But when I thought about my son contracting Ebola and being taken away to some place where I couldn’t hold his hand, calm his fears and say to him – as I usually do – “it’s OK to be afraid” or “I love you” – I came close to losing my mind.
Yoga has helped. And exercise has helped. The difference in my mood when I do something physical and get the adrenaline going is palpable. Pretty soon I will force myself to stop checking the papers in the morning. And I’ll start working on accepting that just like I can’t control my own fate, I also can’t fully control my son’s.
Such is life in the time of Ebolapalooza. Now I’m off to yoga.