The height of the pandemic left a lot of stores, restaurants, and recreational places closed. The hustle of New York City had come to a screeching halt leaving its residents scrambling on what to do next. Just like the rest of the world, we were forced to work and live in our houses on a 24/7/365 basis, and we were clueless for how long any of it would last. Making the best of the uncertainty, my wife and I decided to fill our weekends with as much as outdoor time as we could. Living and working in our four walls was more than enough during the week so the weekends needed to be broken up with fresh air and getting out of the house in the safest way we could find. It became a weekend ritual to walk the property of our local cemetery. It was kind of morbid looking back on it, but I was grateful to be in the sun and grass and trees at the time getting my mind off the present moment and developing a deep appreciation for nature that I’ve never had before.
The cemetery itself stands on acres of land that stretches throughout the neighborhood. You could walk through it and be on a completely opposite end of the neighborhood by the time you finished. It was great exercise but also amazing views of Manhattan in certain areas as well. When Covid felt bleak and my life as I once knew it felt as if it wouldn’t return being there and seeing that view provided a lot of comfort. The city skyline felt like something to shoot for, to look forward to and it was a much-needed reminder of sanity when everything felt rightfully insane.
This past September started my return to my so-called “normal life”. I went on vacation for the first time in five years in September. We flew to Disney World for our delayed honeymoon and stayed for a week’s time. Upon our return, I was asked back to work on a hybrid schedule. All this is way more overwhelming than I expected it to be. I dreamt of this day and yet I was so nervous to return to the hustle of the city life. The fear of the unknown was overwhelming to embrace. Who was safe? Who wasn’t? Will I get sick? A million questions flooded my mind. I began to feel guilty about questioning all of it. I was getting what I wanted for so long, what I had prayed for yet I was so paralyzed by the fear of the obvious unknown in front of me. I had this whole vision in my head of my triumphant return to New York City where I would rejoin my beautiful city and relish in everything that I missed so much. When my expectations weren’t met it sucked, and I was devastated and left drowning in a whole new pool of anxiety and all the symptoms that came with it. It was a hard lesson to learn in managing my expectations. We plan and God laughs, or at least my God does. Returning to Manhattan and all the of the life that came with it wasn’t how I imagined it to be yet I’m still doing it even if I feel like a baby deer learning to walk most days.
I’ve hesistated to write a lot about my feelings as of late. I don’t want to appear self-deprecating but I also don’t want people to feel like they’re alone in their struggles. We are all rejoining a world full of uncertainities and question marks. We’re being told that the pandemic is “over” and now we’re meant to go about our business like the world still isn’t sporting a giant band-aid over itself. It’s scary, overwhelming, but it’s something we’re all collectively facing so it feels almost remiss not to speak my mind on how what I’m going through. I want to end this piece with it does get better, it has gotten better. Every day presents a new change and my anxiety is never permanent. It’s a state of flow that I’m now hyperaware of which is both helpful and a little jarring. Life is weird but it’s just a matter of getting through one moment at a time.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written about the state of my mental health. A lot of instances of my reporting were the high points returning. I have seen a lot more highs lately versus lows but I have also come to terms with the normalcy of the lows that sometimes come my way. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year around this time and I am proud to say that I am feeling a ton better since then. This time last year I was desperate to find a way to be cured from my anxiety and never have to deal with it again. There had to be a way to completely shake this debilitating disorder and I was hellbent on finding on it. I hated feeling like I was a constant burden to myself and to my family and friends. Thankfully, I found a therapist that I could be comfortable with and began the bulk of the healing work that needed to be done. I use the term healing because I am a lot better off than I was last year. It is a blanket term to describe the progress I’ve made from my lowest to date to the empowerment I feel through therapy and the acceptance of my emotions that come and go.
Will I ever be fully healed? No, I will not. However, the acceptance that anxiety is a part of the human condition has been an incredible relief. I’ve had too many days and nights thinking I was somehow broken because I couldn’t walk two feet without feeling dizzy or feeling like I would die at any moment. The physical symptoms and intrusive thoughts were terrifying at first encounter but now I am able to name these things and realize that they are something I can handle when they come up, rather than fear the unknown. I am able to use the tools I’ve learned in therapy, the tools I’ve learned in the Dare Program and meditation with headspace and find ways to become grounded at my baseline again.
It’s been a tremendous road of ups and downs and I still have downs some days. Rejoining a world in a pandemic sometimes leaves me terrified but I now have a strength that I never had before. I have the strength that moods and feelings all pass like the metaphorically storm that they are and whatever comes my way will be handled. I am eternally grateful.
The last professional wrestling show I went to in-person was April 2019, it was a WWE Event at Madison Square Garden with my younger brother. We had a blast at the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania. It’s a coveted show to WWE fans because that’s usually an eventful night for their fans. Today was supposed to be my long awaited reunion with the wrestling world. Today I was supposed to head to New Jersey for my first All Elite Wrestling event and my first time watching wrestling live in over two years. Unfortunately, due to protcols in the arena, I needed to consider mine and my wife’s first and ultimately decide not to go.
While we are without a doubt healing from the Pandemic, we are still actively in one. Our world has not been eradicated from Covid-19, so when venues don’t offer any sort of Covid protocols, it makes me question my attendance there. This isn’t a dig at protocols or what’s right or wrong. I don’t like to publicly shame anyone for how they carry themselves. This is merely a reminder for myself that this new normal is very real and choices like these will continuously be presented.
Did I want to go tonight? Absolutely. I’ve been waiting for this day for over a year but knowing that I’m going to be getting on a plane in less than a week’s time for our honeymoon left me unable to go through with my plans tonight. I was given the choice to potentially jeopardize our honeymoon and attend or to stay safe in an environment that will allow me and my wife to travel on a vacation together for the first time in 5 years. This decision was not easy to make but a necessary one nonethless. Our world will be full of stops and pauses to think, is this safe? Am I putting myself and my family at a risk? It’s the reality of our new world and a very eye-opening idea for me to take on. It makes me sad that is how it needs to be but I am willing to do whatever it takes for myself and my family’s benefit. We all will at some point have to resume our daily lives but it doesn’t come without a known risk. I just hope we can all do our best to continue to help ourselves and others along the way.
There is always the moment in history that people will retroactively ask you about. Questions like where were you when it happened? What were you doing? How did you feel? September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center towers fell was my major historical experience. I can remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt. I was 12 years old on that day, I was supposed to be in school but I had stayed home not feeling well. I slept most of the morning away with cramps but was awoken by Dad after the second tower was hit. He explained to me what had happened and that it was important that I wake up to see all of this. I went into my living room and sat by the TV and watched it all unfold. My mother was already getting my brother from school and I was sitting at home paraylzed by the sight in front of me. I’d never experienced anything like this before. I had only read about events like this in books which led my already anxious mind to a million questions, would there be a war like I had learned about in school books? Would this unknown enemy be here to stay? I was just shy becoming a teenager so my mind couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I had a lot of questions and very few answers to them were immediate.
Now as a 32 year old woman, I have been working in the Manhattan area for 14 years walking the same path that so many did on that day. Every year I find myself feeling extra somber on the anniversary but always grateful to have never met the same fate. Twenty years is a long time but I know as a New Yorker that I will never forget that day. I will never forget the fear I felt, I will never forget the uncertainty, but I mostly will never forget how New York banded together to help each other anyway they could. How food drives started, how collection of medical supplies began, and how so many people helped each other get home when the city was in chaos. Looking back on that day as an adult and when I share the stories with the generations after, I always moved by the generousity of others in times of tragedy. We were all fearful and afraid and so many had been lost, but hard times created so many kind stories.
To anyone who experienced this first hand, my heart will always be with you.
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all lookin' pretty
No place in the world that could compare
- Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (Ft. Alicia Keys)
The term “people-pleaser” is one that I learned in the past year through therapy. It’s a term that feels accusatory but it’s fitting with my anxiety and behavior patterns. This was both alarming but also disheartening to really deep dive into. My need for therapy homework struck again and the therapist suggested the book, The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet B. Braiker. This book gives a detailed breakdown of habits of a people pleaser, a break down of how it applies in everyday life, and a detailed program created by the author to assist the reader in breaking these habits. I immediately began to overthink things and attempt perfection (which is a whole other beast) in ridding myself of these habits. 32 years of habits aren’t just going to go away over night. I was being driven by shame and anxiety that if I didn’t shake this that I would be further doomed than I was before.
While the anxiety has slowed, I still battle people pleasing. The need to control situations for my own comfort or my need to overprotect loved ones still happens to me. I’d love to sit here and say therapy and a book was the cure all but it’s the application of the tools from therapy and the book that help me with this daily struggle. Finally, realizing why I do some things and that I’m not responsible for the happiness of anyone else but myself is freeing. However, it doesn’t make it any easier when situations come up. I want to help, I want to fix and knowing that I can’t always do that for everyone or even myself with my own emotions is scary to feel. It’s not easy to just let go but I know it’s going to foster better relationships with myself and the people around me.