Coronavirus crisis: New phobias in the time of lockdown (from the diary of a neurotic woman)

Coronavirus crisis: New phobias in the time of lockdown (from the diary of a neurotic woman)

by a neurotic woman.

Phobias are not really something that I have ever suffered from previously. I really don’t like rats or mice but I don’t think that this would be classed as a phobia. I don’t have an irrational fear of them, I simply become a little hysterical should I discover one scampering around in the near vicinity.

I went into lockdown a couple of weeks before the government decreed that we should all do this. I did it because I am an older person and my daughters felt some anxiety about my well-being. However, the experience appears to be enabling me to develop some strange phobias that I think may be completely new to the world of psychiatry.

One of the main fears that I have had since lockdown is the fear of not being able to get dental treatment should I need it. I would argue that this is not a phobia as I consider it to be a perfectly normal thing to be worried about. However, my daughter disagrees and insists that it is irrational. I have no anxiety about needing to visit a dentist whatsoever. I have had most types of dental treatment known to humankind over the years, almost all of which have been painful to one degree or another,  and I accept that a visit to the dentist may result in some pain with near equanimity.  What worries me at present though, is that, if I do develop a dental problem, there appear to be very few dentists around which are still open. I have read up on this and apparently, if one is unable to deal with the problem at home, the correct recourse is to ring 111 who will direct you to wherever help is available. I, though,  am trying to minimise the risk as much as possible by eating very little of the things that we all know are bad for our teeth. If I should be overcome by a need for a Rich Tea biscuit to dip into my cup of tea, immediately after finishing I rush to the bathroom and give my teeth a good brush. With this level of dental care, who knows, by the end of lockdown, hopefully I will still have all of my remaining teeth. 

I am very fortunate in that I have a back garden. Whilst not large, it is certainly big enough to take a stroll around when the mood takes me and to admire the plants that had all but disappeared over winter but are now starting to grow in some abundance. Since the start of my own lockdown though, I have barely stepped outside of the front door. As a direct result, my home has become a fortress, the only place where I feel completely safe and, as a consequence, I now have a bit of a phobia about leaving the safety of my house to venture out the front. I don’t have many reasons for going out there, I just need to take the wheelie bins to the edge of my property and, as my car is not being driven, I need to sit in it for a while with the engine running in order to stop the battery from going flat. When the occasional excursion out of the front door is required, I look through the glass panel first to check that no one is coming along the road and then make a quick dash to the side gate on wheelie bin day or to the car, which is parked on my forecourt, and get inside it with all the speed that I can muster. I sit with the engine running whilst doing a crossword so, once inside the car, I can feel quite relaxed. After twenty minutes or so, I need to switch off the engine and make the precarious journey back through the front door. I repeat the same procedure of looking left and right to make sure that no one is approaching and make a dash for safety. Unfortunately, either on the journey there or on my return, there always seems to be a jogger running past who has approached so quickly that they were nowhere in sight when I first stepped away from sanctuary. This disturbs my peace of mind somewhat and  is responsible for this particular phobia. It isn’t agoraphobia which apparently, is actually a fear of having a panic attack when outside of one’s house; it is much more a fear about people’s breath floating in my direction when I am outside and, probably, is irrational.

My third offering relates to my appearance in a mirror and here I admit to stretching the definition of phobia a little to include shuddering. I am the sort of person  who much prefers the appearance of their face when I am wearing some makeup. My makeup is, I think quite subtle; it doesn’t run to false eyelashes or heavily made up eyebrows, but I have always applied it on a daily basis. A week into lockdown I was still applying it when it occurred to me that hardly anyone was ever clapping eyes on me and that, moreover, if I carried on using makeup at that rate, I would soon run out and it could be tricky to replace it. I therefore made the decision to go barefaced. Now I avoid looking in the mirror for fear of bringing on the aforementioned shudder and I find myself wishing that I was rather like Dracula and had no reflection. Somewhat gallingly, the only person who seems to have noticed the difference in my visage is my three year old grandson who, when he first saw me without makeup during one of our regular video chats, asked me why I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I was puzzled by his question at first as I don’t normally wear glasses until I realised that he had noticed that my eyes, bereft of mascara, looked bare and he mistakenly thought that this was due to the fact that I was not sporting any spectacles. Perhaps my previous wearing of makeup doesn’t enhance my appearance as much as I have always hoped that it did.

Finally, let me end with something that is actually the opposite of a phobia. I have never been bothered by spiders and I am quite happy to co-exist alongside them unless they are in the way, in the bath for example, and then I just capture them and put them out of the window. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that a small black spider is occupying a corner in my kitchen near to the backdoor. Whenever I approach this area the spider scuttles off in one direction or another but it is always there. I have  come to think of the presence of this spider as a little comfort and I go to some lengths to ensure that it doesn’t come to any harm so I will carefully vacuum the kitchen floor ensuring that the spider isn’t sucked inside to its certain demise. I don’t know what it is doing for food so it is quite possible that this comfort may not last very long; however, whilst it does, I will continue to appreciate it.

I recognise, of course, that all of the above is just my mind inventing things for me to focus on and thereby leaving me less anxious about the much bigger situation with which we are all faced and, therefore, these newly invented phobias are serving a useful purpose.