Despite having a panic disorder, I’m coping surprisingly well as the pandemic ravages my city.
I was diagnosed with a panic disorder almost a decade ago when I was in the eighth grade. My disorder causes me to struggle with anxiety. At times I have been unable to leave my house or even function. My most recent episode was less than three years ago—it lasted months.
Staying indoors for weeks at a time and covering the virus as a reporter would be enough to push anyone to their wit’s end, but I have been managing. Usually, my anxiety leads to depression, and on rare occasions, panic attacks have made me physically ill. My parents are both high-risk for the virus, and ambulance sirens have constantly been ringing here on Staten Island.
I’d be lying if I said that this pandemic did not make me fear another panic attack.
To cope with it all, I’m cooking and baking. I’m not the only one.
Eater recently wrote an article about stress-baking, which has a cathartic effect on people. In the article, Kate Okamoto shared her feelings on her own baking, which line up perfectly with mine: “‘It’s a meditative process,” she says, noting that using her hands for baking means she is not on her phone or obsessing over the news. “It may not be the same serotonin as doing exercise, but it’s similar. I’m definitely doing it for mental health.'”
I’ve always loved cooking and baking, but now it helps me get my mind off the virus. I’ve been distracting myself in the kitchen since my university at CUNY moved classes online the week of March 11th.
Originally, my anxiety heightened thinking about how my commute on the Staten Island Railway, Staten Island Ferry, and Subway made me vulnerable to the virus. So, like any sane person looking for a distraction, I made brown butter chocolate chip cookies—and they were a hit.
As the days passed, I made foods I’ve never made before. The pasta came first, and then I got too ambitious trying to make ravioli. They turned gummy, but I wound up cutting the remaining dough and making thick noodles.
Then my kitchen soon filled with brownies, bread from my classmate Peter Senzamici’s post, flatbread, and depression cakes—yes, those are real.
Being in the kitchen is a reason to step away from my screen, but coronavirus is never not on my mind. Even when cooking, I’m thinking about how resources like yeast and flour are getting increasingly hard to find on Staten Island.
While I may not have had a panic attack yet, I’ve noticed changes in myself. This could be cabin fever, but I can never be too sure. My insomnia is getting worse.
I can’t wait for the day I can sleep sometime before 3 a.m. and bring all these baked goods to my friends, family, and fellow journalists who are killing it right now at my graduate university.