Actually, I’m Not Okay

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Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

A warning for my fellow worry warts

As someone with anxiety, I’m aware that this may be an unsettling post. If you’re on edge about the COVID-19 pandemic, please do not read this post! 

Instead, seek out more uplifting content, like these articles from Elise from Live Hard x Love Hard or Court at Modern FImily.

This is a stressful time for everyone. Be kind to yourself and get the support you need.

Trying to stay positive

It’s been a time of upheaval in the world. In the blink of an eye, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned all our lives upside down. But, being the optimist that I am, I’ve tried to maintain my positivity.

I seize on good news stories and spread them to family and friends. I hope beyond hope for health, safety, and best-case scenarios for everyone. I’ve tried so hard to maintain that optimism, but… 

Actually, I’m not okay

To be honest, I’ve had some hard moments, filled with overwhelming sadness and horror. My family is fine, but I find it hard to turn away from the suffering of others. 

This has been the biggest toll of the pandemic on me—I worry so much for the well-being of those who’ve been severely impacted by this awful virus.

We’re fine, but so many aren’t

While my immediate and extended family are healthy and safe, I’m well aware that many others are not doing well. In fact, many are beyond stressed.

Some are wondering how they’ll pay their staff or get food on the table. Others are working around the clock to keep the rest of us healthy, safe, fed, and functional—all the while worrying about their own health and safety. 

Still others are grieving for sick, dying, or departed loved ones—whom they likely were not able to be with in their last moments. These poor families can’t even mourn or say goodbye with funerals and memorials. It breaks my heart.

Then there are those who are doing the right thing by physical distancing but are achingly lonely and isolated: single people who are cut off from friends and family; elderly in care homes who were already lacking human interaction. 

Finally, I have looming worries about poorer nations who’ve yet to face the full brunt of COVID-19. These countries are next-to-defenseless against this fast-moving virus. If we in developed countries can barely cope, how will they?

There’s so much sadness, so much suffering—and very little I can do to make an impactful difference.

So many everyday losses

As we do our part to flatten the curve, we’ve had to let go of so many everyday things:

  • School.
  • Work.
  • Family gatherings.
  • Time with friends.
  • Fully-stocked store shelves.
  • Meals out.
  • Travel.
  • Workouts at the gym.
  • Non-emergency (but still-needed) medical and dental procedures.
  • Dog parks.
  • Parks.
  • Playgrounds.
  • Beaches.
  • Weddings.
  • Funerals.
  • Birthday parties.
  • Graduation ceremonies.
  • Hand shakes.
  • Hugs.

Whether big or small, these changes represent a tremendous loss of normalcy—with no clear end in sight. We’re all doing our best to manage the disruptions, but it takes a toll, both emotionally and economically. 

What is this thing we’re battling?

Next, there’s the disconcerting strangeness of this whole COVID situation. It’s like we’re at war… but not really. 

Unlike an actual war, we’re generally safe from harm and still have a lot of individual freedom. Even in places that are locked down, most of us can safely leave our homes to pick up essentials or get some exercise.

But in some ways, this does feel like a war: we can’t gather with friends and family; we’re constantly fearful; all anyone can talk about is this battle we’re facing.

Manufacturers have switched over to make supplies for the frontlines. World economies and millions of lives have been put on hold. And many, many people are unwell or dying.

The scale of what’s happening is so massive and unprecedented—it’s hard to make sense of it all.

How bad will the financial impact be?

As financially savvy as FI-seekers are, it’s difficult to plan for black swan events like this. How many of us imagined a scenario this wide-ranging and prolonged? I have to wonder:

  • Will our investments come roaring back as we hope they will? 
  • Will this instead be a repeat of the Great Depression—with ten years of recovery ahead? 
  • How many of us will eventually lose our jobs? 
  • Will small businesses be able to recover? 
  • How will industries decimated by the lockdowns survive? 

Rationally, I know humans are resilient, and we’ll survive this. Bad things have always happened, and we’ve always bounced back.

My rational brain believes this, but things are too messy and crazy right now. My emotional brain doesn’t want to listen, and keeps me going back to the worries.

How the $*&! are we going to pay for all this?

I’m more than happy to see our tax dollars going to the frontlines and those in need. We’re in this together, and I’m thankful to live in a country that has the resources to help.

However, as a FI-minded person, I can’t help but think: where’s all this money coming from? Most of us are hardly spending, and many of us aren’t working or paying income taxes. 

How can our governments continue to dole out massive amounts of funding when the revenues have all but dried up? It’s not hard to see that the math doesn’t add up. Once this is all over, what will the ultimate cost be, and will we be able to afford it?

How will disadvantaged students cope?

Many of us are fortunate to have wifi, devices, and someone at home to ‘crisis school’ our kids. However, a large segment of the population is lacking one, two, or all three of these homeschooling prerequisites.

Additionally, children who are already struggling will likely struggle even more at home. Parents, though well-meaning, are typically not trained or experienced enough to take on the role of teaching.

On top of all this, these same children are also missing out on the non-educational supports that schools provide: meals, a safe environment, emotional support, social interaction, and more.

As much as I support physical distancing measures, I worry so much for these children. Aside from donating to causes like Kids Help Phone (which I did using some of my Air Miles) I’m not sure how someone like me can help.

What other supply chain issues will we face?

This pandemic has already created so many unforeseen issues:

  • Cleaning supply shortages.
  • Prescription drug shortages.
  • Protective equipment shortages.
  • Toilet paper shortages (for consumers).
  • Toilet paper overages (for institutions).
  • Produce and dairy shortages (in stores).
  • Produce and dairy overages (on farms).
  • Gasoline overages.
  • Negative oil prices.
  • Meat processing plant closures (which may lead to meat shortages).

Many of these problems were unimaginable in February, but just a couple of months later, they’re the new normal. What other crazy, unpredictable issues could be coming our way?

When and how will this end?

It’s depressing to look at the facts and face the reality of what’s ahead. The hard truth is, we won’t see a full return to normal until a safe, effective vaccine can be widely administered. 

As we all know, that’s 12 to 18 months away. (Even then, that’s a very optimistic timeline.) Until then, we may be able to take baby steps to normalcy—but that can only happen if many other things are in place: 

  • Widespread, readily-available testing.
  • Serological testing (and possibly immunity certificates to go with it).
  • Thorough contact tracing.
  • Continued physical distancing.

It’s hard to fathom living this way for another year or more. Will we and our economies, governments, and countries survive this?

Closing thoughts

So, all of this sounds horrible. It’s a lot of doom and gloom, with nothing really hopeful to share. It’s true—this is darker and angstier than I normally get. But I’ve learned that the only way past our challenges is through them.

Until we allow our difficult feelings to surface, we’ll remain stuck with them. We need to experience them and talk about them in order to begin the process of moving on. That’s when we’ll start finding our own ways through—to eventually grow and triumph.

I’m slowly getting there. And I look forward to the day when we can look back on this horrible time and realize how much we learned and changed for the better.  

How are you doing?

How have you been holding up? Are you also worried about the same things, or are there other issues that concern you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and support each other.

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  • Reply
    April 28, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Chrissy, I think all these thoughts have crossed my mind at some point, too. I just spoke with a friend today who is barely hanging on to her job. It’s very difficult to witness so much pain and feel so helpless. I try to focus on what I can do and my priorities are to make sure my kids get through four more weeks of school and that my family stays healthy. We’ll see what follows.

    It’s okay to have good days and bad ones– I’ve had my share of lows. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reaching out. We need to check in on each other.🤗

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Ana—thanks for the supportive words and for sharing how you’re coping. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I also have similar worries for family and friends who may lose their jobs. Though it’s a tough time for all, it’s really nice to know we can turn to each other. ♥

  • Reply
    April 28, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, good days and bad days. Your worries are mine too. I cope by focusing on what I need to get through the next hour (when it was really bad), then the day, the week. I’ve been hearing a lot about self compassion – that we need to be kind to ourselves too – sounds obvious but often overlooked as we focus on others. Take care and thank you for articulating your thoughts so well.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 10:45 pm

      Latestarter—I think of you often as I know you’re on the frontlines and dealing with the stress that comes with that. You’re so right that we sometimes need to narrow our focus and just get through a tiny chunk of time, then expand from there.

      Yes, self-compassion is always important—even more so in times like these. I will keep this top of mind in the weeks and months to come. Thank you for the wise words and kind support.

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    April 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

    So with that intro, I thought this was going to be way heavier than it was (thank you for that shout out at the top by the way friend). Even though we are not really impacted directly (similar to you and your family), I too have these thoughts from time to time. To be honest, I stopped obsessively tracking cases online and looking up that latest news articles re COVID-19 a few weeks ago and it has helped SO much. It’s not that I don’t want to be informed, I found that it was just way too time consuming and not productive. Instead, I’m focusing on what I CAN control and really it’s selfishly because that’s that only way I can cope with what’s going on in the world. I’m trying to embrace this new slower normal in the world. So many more people are outside getting fresh air. Kids as actually using their swing sets or trampolines in their backyards that typically sit dormant. People are outside flying kites. (Hopefully) parents are digging into the benefits of homeschooling or unschooling and leading to less pressure and stress on our kids. We’re being forced into simpler times and I truly hope a lot of these adjustments continue in the future even once a vaccine is found. Thank you for sharing your raw emotions, you are not alone, and know that you have a support system here to help get through these tough times!

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 10:54 pm

      Court—LOL, maybe I’m too much of a Pollyanna, and my version of ‘dark’ is not a big deal for other people! Sorry if my post was anti-climactic for you, ha ha.

      Like you, I also stopped obsessively tracking cases after the first two weeks or so. If I hadn’t, I’d be in much worse shape today. However, I think I could do more of what you’ve done, and consciously choose to be more selfish with my attention. I’ll be more careful about avoiding the bad news stories and focus more on what I can control, within my own small sphere of influence.

      You’re right that there are two sides to this coin. We can’t overlook all the good that’s come as a result of the slower pace that’s been forced on all of us. It’s a really good thing that everyone has no choice but to slow down and find pleasure in the simple things.

      Thank you for being part of my support network, and for sharing your own experiences and realizations. It means a lot to me!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    I think you nailed it on the head when you wrote “There’s so much sadness, so much suffering—and very little I can do to make an impactful difference.” I feel this so often so I’ve tried to focus on local ways to help to ease this worry.

    You are not alone in your feelings. And i think it will be great for others to read how you are feeling so they are not alone in their worry. We are definitely all in this one together. Just all going through it in our different ways.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      Melody—it’s comforting to hear that you’ve had similar feelings. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s helpful for me—like a nice virtual hug!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    It has been tough locked up at home all this time but instead of focusing on what I can’t control, I’m focusing on what I can control. That means social distancing and staying at home so help flatten the curve. And not hoarding on food and supplies. Things will be tough until effective treatments or vaccines are available. But I am optimistic that the world will come out of this a better place.

    Maybe COVID-19 will help people realizing that…
    1. We can improve the environment and global warming
    2. We are tied globally. Stop see each others as nations but as a global community.
    3. We can do more to prevent this kind of global disaster moving forward.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      Bob—I can always count on you for a positive, pragmatic response. I also hope for the three global improvements you’ve listed. We needed these kinds of changes to happen long before this pandemic, and I hope we can use this awful situation to make our world better than it’s ever been.

      Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts. I hope you and your family stay healthy and well.

  • Reply
    Paul @ SideGains
    April 28, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Chrissy.

    I’m an extremely anxious person, and I share all of the concerns you have. Curiously it hasn’t taken a hold on me as much as I might have expected.

    I often worry about the worst thing that could happen. This seems to be more acute in the case of events for which I feel I might be able to influence the outcome but where there’s a chance I won’t actually be able. The risk of potential failure is the anxiety I normally suffer.

    This event is different. Other than the steps I can take to reduce the likelihood I’ll come into contact with the virus and as a consequence reduce the chance it’ll spread, there’s little else I can do. Strangely this sense of powerlessness has not amplified my anxiety.

    It’s heartbreaking how people are suffering, some far more than others, but there is little I can do that will change things for them for the better. This makes me feel numb more than anything else, not in the sense of unfeeling but perhaps somewhat neutered.

    I found the first reports terrifying and I did fall into a loop of watching / reading news and talking about it a lot, but since that time I’ve stopped obsessively checking. I read the news in the morning to keep myself updated, but I have to stop myself after that. It’s not that I want to stick my head in the sand, it’s just I understand how my mind works and I’m trying to avoid a downward loop. I can’t allow that to happen right now as it would not be healthy for those around me and for the people I love who I cannot see in person.

    The future is always uncertain but in normal times we are able to bypass this reality. Of course what we are are experiencing now makes the future for all of us far more precarious… but we will come through this, albeit in an extraordinarily painful way. As I say, for some it will be far worse than others and tragically we cannot change this.

    I think Tawcan’s comment above says it all. Of course there are dark days ahead, but there will be good things that come out of this. As you note, we have suffered devastating pandemics before, but with the technology at our disposal today we are far better equipped to survive the present challenges and return to a less threatening future than we were during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. This comes from a normally neurotic and anxious pessimist!

    It’s good to talk openly about your concerns in the way you have Chrissy since swallowing such anxieties leads to severe indigestion!

    Look after yourself and try to think about better days to come… because they will come.

    • Reply
      April 28, 2020 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Paul—it’s very interesting how you’ve successfully navigated this difficult situation, despite your anxiety. My assumption was that everyone with anxiety would be deeply affected, but I’m glad that I’m wrong.

      Reading your comment flicked a switch in my brain—I suddenly feel a lot lighter after seeing things from your perspective. It’s true; I can’t influence the outcome, so why am I putting myself through all this worry and suffering? What a simple but powerful mindset shift!

      I also have the same feelings of numbness. Interestingly, that’s when I feel in control and at my best—when I’m able to numb out the bad news and focus on my own life. In those moments, I see that we’re healthy and safe, and will likely remain so as long as we keep doing the right things. I think I fought the numbness out of feelings of guilt, but that’s to my detriment. Maybe that’s what my mind needs once in a while to cope with the horrors.

      “… swallowing such anxieties leads to severe indigestion!” is a perfect way to sum up my reasoning for publishing this post! Thank you for leaving such a heartfelt, thoughtful comment. You’ve certainly helped to shift my mood and my outlook for the better.

      I hope you look after yourself as well. I look forward to meeting you in Vancouver, in better, happier times!

  • Reply
    April 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    I don’t really have much to add to this except to say all these things have been on my mind lately, too. The line of work I’m in means I have been fairly immersed in the whole situation for the last several weeks, which means lots of time to think about it. In some ways, it’s been good — despite the incredible amount of uncertainty, I think being involved in response work in my province has helped me feel at least a little optimistic for the future. But it’s also…a lot to think about sometimes.

    What I’m trying to say in all this is that I get this post and even if it’s darker than you normally get, I’m glad you shared it. We’re all in this together, right? Take care.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2020 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Tara—it’s wonderful to read about your experience and the perspective it gives you. You’ve given me reason to be optimistic as well. Thank you for that!

      I think having purpose and a sense that we’re making a difference is a powerful way to ward off some of the bad thoughts. To me, you’re proof of that!

      I appreciate your kind words and support. Yes, we are all in this together. ❤️

  • Reply
    April 29, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Of course you, being the good human you are, will take the time to support your blogging friends, even while facing this challenge. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have noticed that this week, things are different, for a lot of people. We’ve tried to be okay. We’ve tried to be positive. And it’s all been building up and, for many, it may seem like there’s no end in sight.

    I keep reading the phrase “It’s okay to not be okay,” and it just resonates with me so well. Everyone is coping with this differently. We may even cope differently at different times. And it’s all okay. One thing I have found very uplifting is that even though we are socially distanced, in some ways I feel more connected than ever before with others. No matter who you are, you’re going through this right now. And most of us have thought all of the things you listed here at some point or another during this crisis. So let’s keep these types of conversations going. We’re all in this together.


    • Reply
      April 29, 2020 at 11:59 pm

      Hi Elise—I’m sure it’s no coincidence that we’re both noticing our own and others’ weariness, since California and BC locked down around the same time.

      At this point, the shock is mostly gone, and the reality has fully sunken in. Maybe it’s like the stages of grief—and we’re now in the depression phase. But the good news is acceptance is the next stage, and I’m already seeing glimpses of that. I’ll keep working on moving towards more acceptance and growth.

      “It’s okay to not be okay” is a perfect mantra to help me get through the tougher days. I’ll chant it to myself anytime I’m feeling down.

      And yes—how wonderful is it that we’re more connected to so many in our lives? I’ve never sent as many messages or been on so many calls and video chats in my life!

      Thank you, as always, for sharing your light and kindness with me and the world. Reading your and others’ comments has been so beneficial for me. I’m grateful that you and others took the time to share your thoughts.

      I hope you and Adam continue to be safe and healthy. (Would love to see more toilet paper run challenges! LOL, you two are so funny.)

  • Reply
    The Thrifty Hustler
    May 1, 2020 at 4:05 am

    Hi Chrissy,

    It’s indeed a scary time for everyone. These are the emotions that I’m feeling as well. My earnings stopped as soon as the lockdown in my country was announced because it also meant that couriers who I heavily rely on to deliver my products are temporary closed. Luckily, I don’t have that much debt before this pandemic happened, however, I’m slowly accumulating some debts as weeks go by. I’m trying to keep my head above the chaos of this pandemic by minimizing my exposure to the doom and gloom that we see on the news. I’m also trying to use this time to learn from FI blogs such as yours. I’m new to FI and I’m also new to blogging. Reading your blogs about your financial journeys and what you guys have already achieved in FI gives me something positive to look forward to.

    Thank you for writing this post. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing to say, but this post made me feel that I’m not alone.

    Stay safe!


    • Reply
      May 2, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Alex—thanks for your honest and revealing comment. I’m sad to hear that your income has vanished, and to know you are so affected by this pandemic.

      I hope that wherever you are, you’re able to access government or other assistance to get you through these tough times.

      I’m glad to hear that my post helped you feel less alone. I was hoping that I would be able to do that for others, and also for myself. I’ve felt so much more at peace after publishing this article and reading the comments of others.

      It’s helped me realize how we’re truly in this together, even if we live continents apart.

      Take care of yourself, and know that there are internet friends hoping for the best for you.

  • Reply
    May 2, 2020 at 5:17 am

    Hi Chrissy

    Thanks for being so open and honest and sharing how you’re actually doing. We need more people being honest in the personal finance space rather than presenting an idealized version of themselves. I loved the article!

    • Reply
      May 2, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Hi GovWorker—thank you for the kind words. As much as I try to be upfront and honest on my blog, it’s only natural to shield others from the challenging moments we all have.

      However, I’ve found that when others talk about their less-than-perfect life situations, it’s often more helpful and inspiring than reading all good news all the time.

      It’s scary to put ourselves out there, but it can do a lot of good when we do.

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    May 3, 2020 at 10:11 am

    I will leave with one simple reminder
    Focus what is immediately within your circle, focus on what you can do and 100% block out all the rest.
    Prior to this I did these things which have helped during the COVID crisis;
    – delete twitter/facebook off my phone
    – unfollowed/unliked every single facebook page for news or tv
    – unfollowed/unliked every single click bait info page like Victoria Buzz or Huffpost Vancouver etc
    – build a skill of hitting the mute button on facebook for friends that share conspiracy crap or too much news
    – only follow Canada Health and BC Health on social media, I only listen to our one source

    Seriously…so much of this is outside of your control, you gotta let go of it. Take a break

    • Reply
      May 4, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Chris—these are great tips for anytime, not just during this pandemic.

      It’s funny though—I did all these things pre-pandemic. But since it hit, I allowed myself (to my detriment) to go down the news rabbit hole far too often. It’s time to go back to my old ways!

      You’re right that focusing on what I can control is the answer. I’ll keep reminding myself of this.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing your wisdom, friend.

  • Reply
    May 4, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    I was more anxious before, but I’m a bit better now. I think because the big wave didn’t actually show up (yet- until the second wave I guess) in Vancouver like it did for NYC or Italy/ Spain. This is probably because of social distancing and also because people are not going to visit ER in hospitals like they were before.

    Now as you mentioned, I’m worried about the economy and how we are going to pay for all this.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Hi GYM—we have been doing really well here in Vancouver. Let’s hope we handle the second wave as successfully.

      I also worry for the economy and how much we’ll all owe in taxes once this is over. But I’ll try my best not to dwell on it.

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    May 5, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for being so open and honest in this post Chrissy.

    Like everyone else I have my good days and my bad. As my husband insightfully pointed out one night, none of us are okay – how could we be with everything going on? We are all trying to adapt to this and no matter what we are showing on the surface everyone is struggling in one way or another.

    It’s important to continue to have constructive discourse around this. Not to dwell on the doom and gloom but to support each other through it. There is strength in knowing we are not alone.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Maria—your husband is absolutely right. Okay is tough to reach some days. I love what you said to me on Twitter, that it’s okay to not be okay right now. That’s a calming sentiment, and one that reinforces that we need to let the sadness and worry out sometimes.

      Sharing my thoughts was scary, but I feel so much more connected and far less anxious. It’s healing to know others, like you, are out there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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