From an abuse survivor, former believer in the end times/rapture, who has lived through crisis moments where it felt like there was no way out
1) First, forgive yourself, preemptively. After enough time has passed, you might not remember that it felt this bad. You might think that of course you’ll remember, of course you’ll always know that this pocket of your life was horrible that you could barely function, but you might not, and it’s so easy to hate your past self because you forgot what you were dealing with. So forgive yourself, send a message to your future self that it is that bad, that it feels as horrible as it feels. Make your future self promise to forgive you. I’ve often found this helpful whenever I want to hate myself for times in my life when things were hard. I can’t; I promised myself that I understood that I was doing the best that I could.
2) Second, know that however bad it feels, you will get through this. Even if you think that this is how life will always be, even if you rightly understand that life has been irrevocably changed, that feeling that you are in stasis, motionless, that you are dangling off the edge of a cliff, that will pass. There is a future you, and that future you will not always feel as panicked and hopeless and full of dread as you do now. If you’re working on something, and present circumstances make you feel like it’s pointless, know that it’s not, believe that it’s not. It’s okay if you can’t do anything right now, it’s also okay to know that doing something does matter. If you were in the middle of a project, it’s okay to keep doing that project. You’re not disregarding the gravity of the situation, you’re understanding there’s a future we’re getting to.
3) If you can, if at all possible, try and figure out what future you would want out of this moment. Since it will pass, since you will reach a point where you will feel better than you do right now, sometimes the worst moments are knowing that you believed it was the end when it wasn’t. You operated like there was no more future, and then the future happened. Conceive that your future self exists: where do they want to be after this moment in time?
4) It’s okay to just…get through. Harm reduction matters, and harm reduction can look like a lot of different things. If there’s something that feels like it’s bad for you, but it helps you not panic, or spiral, or spend all day reading the news and staring blankly at the wall plotting your death, then do it. I’ve done a lot of things that weren’t good for me, but they let me live and (since I made my future self promise) I don’t regret them.
5) Start a new project. It doesn’t have to be cognitively difficult. Color. Take a single picture every day. Journal. It can be small, but it’s a way of defining the days. They will blur together, possibly. You’ll feel like they melted away and you won’t know how to find them again. Sometimes that’s how you keep a record of hard points in your life, just do something that you can point to and be like: I did that when things were bad, and then I got through it.
6) Talk. Even if it’s silly or pointless, even if you can barely say anything. I have done the “the world is coming to an end I will fall silent and never speak to anyone” thing, it’s bad for you, it is objectively bad for you. Even if you feel like you have nothing worth saying, even if you feel like everyone is ignoring you, just keep talking. It’ll matter.
7) If you cannot believe that there is a future point at all, give yourself arbitrary deadlines. This sounds bad, I know, but sometimes I have gotten through horrible moments by just saying, “I only have to live for two weeks,” and then two weeks will pass and you’ll realize you have more in you that helps you keep going. Right now, much of the panic comes down to the uncertainty of it all: what’s going to happen? How bad is it going to be? What is the risk that I’m in? When will this end? and the fact that we don’t know the answer to these questions can make it feel impossible to keep going. So make deadlines, even small ones. I used to have a counter on my computer during the worst of my suicidality. I’d pick a thing that I wanted to live to, and literally count down the hours that I had to live through to get to it, and that’s how I survived years. Right now, I’ve been going by closure deadlines. Just live that long, and see what happens after that.
8) Let yourself have something new, if you can, and don’t feel guilty about it at all. Panic and dread sometimes need new stimulus, something different and novel that makes you feel better. If you can find something, anything at all—a new video game, a new notebook, a new recipe, anything that just holds your attention and let’s you forget, do it.
9) Your world right now is at your feet. Sometimes it feels like you need to pay attention and panic over absolutely everything, especially during a time when the whole world is dealing with this. But your world, your actual world, is the things you can do. It’s okay to focus on yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community. That is your world. It’s not selfish, that’s how we do anything. It’s okay right now if all you can say is, “I can’t,” and turn off the news, and lose yourself for awhile. You will not save the world by consuming every bit of news, and you will not destroy it if you stop.
10) You are moving through time, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I put this one last because maybe it’s obvious for other people, but this one is something I’ve clung to my whole life. When I was being bullied in school, it was often on the walk home from the school bus, and I would tell myself: every step that I take I am moving through time and space and then I will be home and this will be over for the day. Take a breath: another second passed. That second will accumulate into more seconds and those seconds are creating a history that you are living through and then it will be done. It will be done, and you will have survived.
It’s okay if none of this is helpful to you at all. But this is how I’ve gotten through the worst moments of my life, this is the way that I am still alive, and I hope that by sharing it, it helps other people stay alive too.
If this is helpful, I’ve got a zine project I’ve been working on; the first issue is up on gumroad.