I Don’t Like Living In Limbo
It’s not just my life — it’s everyone’s life.
Not just the people around me, but people I don’t even know. Limbo is one of the synonyms for anxiety. Although I’ve spent many times in a limbo state, I usually find a solution that will end it. This time though the corona virus, also known as Covid 19, is out of my control, and there is no solution. So my life is in limbo.
I don’t like how limbo eats at me and scares me.
This time with the corona virus spreading exponentially, there are no quick solutions that will negate my limbo state. There are no solutions period!
My mind flits from one thought to another.
I picture thousands of people in Asia, Europe, and Africa worrying about coughing, spewing, choking, gasping, sweating, and dying. As these uncontrollable thoughts grow, so does my anxiety.
I’m worried about specific people like the Iranian friends I made while traveling there in 2017. I heard that in Iran victims of Covid 19 were being buried in mass graves. I wonder if the virus has caught up with my guide in Ethiopia. And what about my dear friend Casilda who is frail and living in Cuba? There are so few resources in her country.
Then my thoughts became more personal.
What about me? My husband? I’m 76 and he’s 80. What about us? Should I wear gloves when I go out to buy groceries? When do I take off the gloves and wash my hands? Experts tell us not to touch our face. When my eyes itch, what do I do? It’s pretty hard to ignore an itchy eye, especially during allergy season — or anytime for that matter. And now as a San Francisco Bay Area resident, I am one of six million people who is required to shelter in place.
Do I accept the invitation to go to a friend’s home for dinner when I know there will only be four of us? I’d love to shed the cabin fever that comes with self-quarantine. But I question whether our would-be hosts have been living the new reality of social distancing. Do I accept anyway and show up wearing a face mask and rubber gloves? What about bringing a bottle of hand sanitizer? Will I insult them?
I’ve many questions, but the only question to which there is no answer is:
WHEN WILL THIS VIRUS STOP
I’m 76. My time’s not up.
When I dig deeper, I think about the worst case scenario. How will I know if I have the virus? How bad will my symptoms be?
And then when the mind games take over, I go deeper still. What if I die? Even though I’m 76, it’s not my time to go. I swam and rode bicycles all my life. I always go to the gym, but the question remains. What if I die?
As I write these words I feel the physical effects of limbo surge through my body. The shock waves begin in my stomach. They move rapidly to my chest. They are pervasive. As my breath quickens, I feel the waves coursing through my arms and legs. They grow heavy. Like in my new meditation practice, I focus on the sensations in my body. They are different this time. I don’t like how they feel.
My body shutters as I take in a breath and then I breathe out. In…Out. In…Out. I hear the calm voice of my meditation teacher saying, “focus on your breath. In…Out. In...Out.” I try hard to replace the scary thought of dying with something more positive. In…Out. In…Out.
Last week I canceled our upcoming trip to Florida and the Bahamas. Whew! That was easy. Limbo averted, at least for the time being,
BUT THAT DIDN’T LAST LONG.
My life, as I knew it a week ago, changed drastically. I canceled all the social engagements and unnecessary appointments on my calendar. Thankfully, they were all written in pencil.
Then the stock market took a deep dive, which meant another major worry — my investments. How can I make this anxiety go away? Sell my stocks? But that’s exactly what I tell everyone else not to do. The power of all these scary events kept me close to the bathroom. As I sat on the toilet wondering what I ate that “poisoned” me so quickly, I came to realize that it wasn’t something I ate. Instead it was something eating me. LIMBO!
Limbo affects everyone one time or another.
Like everyone else, Limbo has a way of coming and going and affecting my life, but certain events stand out.
Like the time I did something really stupid and ended up in a 72 hour hold in a locked psychiatric unit.
Yes, that was a specific time in my life when limbo was so powerful that I did something dumb. Really, really dumb. Oh, so you want to hear that story? OK, I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Even a few of my closest friends will hear this for the first time.
Twenty-five years ago my then-husband of eight years had a one-night stand with an old girlfriend from high school. She was someone he hadn’t seen or heard from in more than twenty years. Instead of hiding it like many husbands do, he shared all the sordid details. He was in a quandry as to what to do. It was either her or me.
He said he was in love with her, but I had my doubts. My assessment was that he was making decisions from his penis rather than from his head.
I, on the other hand, didn’t take this news easily. I felt victimized by his constant chatter and indecision. Should he go with her or stay with me?
Because of his indecision, my life was in limbo.
My psychiatrist thought pills would help. He wrote prescriptions for each of my diagnoses — insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Pills didn’t help. I continued to be devastated, distraught and desperate, all of which makes one do stupid things.
So one night, after my then-husband moved out to a nearby motel, I got drunk. Really drunk. So drunk that, in desperation, I called him and threatened to take a bottle full of pills. I really wasn’t planning to overdose on pills. I only said this to scare him — to jar him into reality. Yes, I definitely scared him.
I anxiously waited for him to rush home to express his commitment to me. I desperately wanted out of limbo. Instead he called 911. I didn’t have to wait long before I saw a flashing blue light shining through my kitchen window.
Do you know what happens when you threaten to take a bottle full of pills?
The police show up. My idle threat was used to get his attention, but the authorities saw it differently. You are viewed as a danger to yourself and possibly others. What happens next is they take you to a psychiatric facility and lock you up.
My story about spending 72 hours in a locked mental facility is worthy of a separate Medium piece.
Threatening to take an overdose of pills and getting locked up is not the best way to end a state of limbo, but it definitely ended. So did my marriage, and for that I am now grateful.
I am alive today and able to expose a secret I’ve held for years. I also plan to be alive next year to report how the corona virus ended. I want to tell stories about how our lives returned to normal. Although I can’t know what lurks over the horizon, I’m sure this Covid 19 situation will not be the last time I live my life in limbo.