SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: Read more tips like this in our Mental Wellness section and keep an eye out for an upcoming KSAT town hall livestream on mental health this month.
Have you ever been so afraid of something that it held you back in your life? People around you acted like it was no big deal, but to YOU it was an astronomically big deal?
Fear and anxiety are these unpleasant feelings that occur when you are worried about something happening in the future. Our brains are adapted to go to the worst-case scenario first. While some people move past these negative feelings quickly, others get stuck in the feelings so much that it negatively impacts their lives.
This was me when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine.
For most of my life, I’ve had to deal with anxiety and panic on a daily basis. At a very early age, I was diagnosed with panic disorder. So for a large part of my life, I have been dealing at times with debilitating anxiety. A large part of panic disorder has to do with a fear of dying and a fear of not having control, so you may be able to imagine how extremely challenging the past year has been for me. I am acutely aware that it has been a mentally challenging year for just about everyone.
I’m not a big fan of shots. If I’m being honest, last fall was the first time in my life that I got the flu shot. When the COVID-19 vaccine was first announced, people around me rejoiced at the thought of getting back to normal life. I, on the other hand, starting going through all the questions: Are the vaccines safe? Is there enough research about this? What does it mean to get back to normal life? Why is this happening so much faster than other vaccines?
I saw a lot of conflicting information online about the vaccine that produced unwanted fears and prompted my brain to imagine all of the bad things that could happen to me if I got the vaccine. I thought for sure I would have an instant anaphylactic allergic reaction, even though only 2 to 5 people out of a million have an issue.
What was interesting to me was that when I spoke to people who don’t live with a panic disorder, they were having similar fears. The more people talked about this fear, the more normalized the emotion became. It made me realize that we are all in this unknown situation together, and it gave me a bit of comfort.