Coping with Uncertainty

We’re living in dangerous times. Some people (like my girlfriend) seem to be able to cope with it better than me. For me, though, a lot of the things going on in the world have me feeling very on edge.

It’s impossible to really know the thoughts and emotions of others. At least that’s my opinion. I often compare myself to others, think other people have things so together, that they seem unflappable. Of course, this is usually not the case.

The pandemic has created a lot of stress. Various statistics show people in the U.S., especially young adults, are feeling more anxiety and depression, and the rate of overdoses and suicides is increasing.

My emotional state over the past few months has been a rollercoaster. As someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a rollercoaster of emotions is typical for me. The pandemic and onslaught of bad things happening right now have added a new element to the mix.

Toward the edge

That brings me to the topic I wanted to write about: uncertainty.

I’ve been lucky enough to not have experienced a major bipolar episode since March (so far). I had moments in the Spring where I felt manic, and I contacted my psychiatrist to adjust my medications. That helped big time.

What I’m struggling with most right now is anxiety and depression. I’m learning the anxiety comes first, then it usually causes depressions and days of feeling hopeless.

I’m anxious about many things: money, health, etc. In March, I was anxious about the virus – what if I caught it? What if a family member caught it?

(Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash)

Ironically, I’m not too anxious about the virus anymore. I’m still taking precautions, wearing a mask, not leaving the house much.

Increasingly, I’m more so anxious about the divisive politics, social unrest, and poor economy in my country (America). As I’m writing this, I’m reflecting on this statement.

I grew up during a relatively peaceful period in one of the richest and safest countries in the world. There has always been violence in the U.S. (we have our fair share of mass shootings, school shootings, and road rage).

But as a white man who grew up solidly middle class, most of my problems in life over the years have been “first-world” problems, as we say in our culture sometimes.

I suppose I’m reflecting on this now because, it feels to me, America is morphing into something I no longer recognize. Politics have always been a contact sport, they’ve always been nasty.

But at the moment, the country is speeding toward the edge of something dangerous. There is deep anger and resentment.

Dangerous times

For example, I read last night that protesters gathered outside the lavish mansion of Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, with a guillotine. The report didn’t specify if the guillotine was real or just a prop.

The protesters demanded that Bezos raise Amazon’s minimum wage from $15 to $30 per hour. They have a very good point.

It was just announced that Bezos is now the richest human being in modern history, as he is now worth an absurd $202 billion.

To put that in perspective, federal statistics from 2018 show the poorest neighborhood in my city of Philadelphia is Fairhill, where the median household income is about $16,000 per year.

One of the protestors outside of Bezos’ house pointed out that, right now, the Amazon CEO earns about $4,000 per second.

The reality of vast income inequality in America and the world is not shocking news. However, I think it explains the sheer populist rage.

And this is what I’ve been anxious about: the prospect of more tension, unrest, battles between police and protesters. The specter of violence, bloodshed, revolution, civil war.

Americans like myself have always watched these things on TV, scenes from other countries in the world. Now, they’re happening on our own streets. Perhaps this is a case of karma.

Politically, I don’t see things getting much better. Both parties are locked in a fierce stalemate. The interesting thing is Democrats and Republicans still basically believe in the same principles and platforms, from what I can tell.

The difference is there’s a radicalism that’s taken over, both on the far-right and far-left. People are locked, stocked, and ready for war.

In a city in Wisconsin recently, chaos erupted after another brutal police shooting of a black man. A 17-year-old joined the fray, came to the city with a rifle, and gunned people down. There are reports he was part of a militia and he’s been spotted at Trump rallies before.

Meanwhile, recently in West Philadelphia, a group of people calling themselves anti-capitalists dressed in black clothing and black masks and unleashed a wave of property destruction on local businesses. They spray-painted walls with the slogan, “Nerds Call 911.”

During the Democratic National Convention, Democrats said Trump was an existential threat to American democracy. During the Republican Convention, the Republicans said, if elected, Joe Biden would allow lawlessness and chaos in America.

So, each party sees the other party not simply as rivals, but as evil, as bitter enemies, as something that must be destroyed.

Dangerous times.

Acknowledge, accept

The presidential election is in November, and I can only imagine what will happen then. Probably a contested election, more violence.

So, as this stuff continues, what happens to the people in our country with mental illnesses? The people who already suffered with mood episodes, deep anxiety and depression, suicidal ideation?

I’m not quite sure.

I know for myself, writing out these feelings has been helping me.

(Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash)

Perhaps I publish this post on WordPress and people think it’s crap. But, for whatever reason, throwing this onto the internet is helping me cope. Like putting a message in a bottle and sending it out to sea.

Maybe this is all a bit melodramatic. But I’ve always been a person who is far too sensitive to what’s going on around me. I’ve tried to change that over the years, but it’s just part of who I am.

Part of my anxiety is seeing this madness and jumping to worst-case scenarios. I ask, “What if?” I imagine catastrophes. Rachel has been helping me talk through these things, to see it more rationally.

Scrolling through ugly news stories about shootings, hurricanes, and wildfires won’t prepare me for whatever happens next, even though I’m drawn to it like a flame. The only reasonable thing to do is stay in the moment, do what’s in front of me – keep calm and carry on.

Cope with the uncertainty. Acknowledge, accept.

Who knows what the future holds?

The only thing for certain is the uncertainty.

(Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash)

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