Insomnia, Worry, and Fear: Waiting for the Storm to Hit

Insomnia deepdream part 1 (by Lubomir Panak; CC BY-NC 2.0)

It’s 2:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for over an hour now. I can’t sleep, and in five hours I need to get ready to head back to my job at the university after a much-needed, four-week vacation.

I’m worried about the coronavirus epidemic, which seems to have already tipped over into a global pandemic. I went through my adjustment reaction early, and I’ve done all the preparing I can, but on a night like tonight, it all just feels so hopeless, building a tiny boat made out of paper to ride out a tsunami (or “flunami”, as one witty person put it).

I have, in my usual obsessive librarian fashion, pored through all the newsfeeds and discussion groups, to compile lists of credible, authoritative resources to share with friends, family, colleagues, and you, my blog readers (the most up-to-date list is at the end of this particular blogpost).

The major scientific research paper which estimates the overall case fatality rate of SARS-CoV-2 at 2.3% (which has been widely reported by the mainstream news media) was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb. 24th, 2020 and is available here: The title of the paper is: “Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72,314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention”.

Some sobering statistics from that study of 72,314 cases, the largest conducted to date, are:

  • 81% of cases are mild, 14% are severe, and 5% are critical (the case fatality rate for critical cases was 49.0%; in other words, half of the critical patients died)
  • the case fatality rates were 8.0% in patients aged 70-79 years and 14.8% in patients aged ≥80 years (I worry for my parents)
  • the case fatality rates were 10.5% for people with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for diabetes, 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease, 6.0% for hypertension, and 5.6% for cancer

As someone who is older, significantly overweight, and has several underlying health conditions (hypertension, asthma, type II diabetes), I know that I run a significantly higher risk of a severe reaction if I should become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and get COVID-19. So I’m afraid.

As of Feb. 29th, 2020, the World Health Organization is now recommending that people that fall into these categories limit their exposure to crowded areas and to people who are already sick:
“If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.” Source: (scroll down to the 5th tweet in the series where this quote is taken from).

I’ve already got my bag packed and hanging from the doorknob: Lysol disinfectant wipes, Purell hand sanitizer, some surgical gloves, a couple of 3M respirator masks, some eye protection to fit over my glasses (even though I doubt I will be using the last three items, they are coming with me regardless).

I’ll be packing my own lunch (something I never do) and lugging a large thermal travel mug of black coffee, instead of standing in line at Starbucks. I’ve got this all planned out, exactly how to limit my exposure to other people. And all this elaborate over-preparation is happening in a city (Winnipeg, Manitoba) which is still very far away from any of the SARS-CoV-2 cases currently popping up in North America.

Now it’s a quarter after three. I was kind of hoping that writing all this down, getting it out of my system, would make me tired so I could go to bed and finally get some sleep. But it’s not working.

I’m worried and afraid and I am wide awake, waiting for the storm to hit.

UPDATE 8:25 a.m.: Well, I never did get back to sleep, so I will probably be dragging my ass come quitting time today. But I am feeling a bit better and a bit less anxious than I was last night, which is good.

And yes, I do well realize that my coronavirus coverage has taken this blog on an unexpected tangent, and probably one that is more confusing to my regular readers than any previous tangent I have taken. Please understand that my blogging about it just my way of venting (as this blogpost is).

And I will endeavour to continue writing about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse on a very regular basis, I promise!

And, to address my anxiety, I recently signed up for a two-year subscription to Calm Radio, which I am listening to right now…they’ve got a 30%-off sale on at the moment, but you can also listen for free if you don’t mind the occasional advertisement about their streaming music service. I can recommend them highly! (Even the ads are soothing!)

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6 thoughts on “Insomnia, Worry, and Fear: Waiting for the Storm to Hit”

  1. Have you tried or considered trying mindfulness meditation to reduce your anxiety levels? I’ve found the approach of Sam Harris (Waking Up app) to be extremely helpful in allowing me to step ‘outside’ of anxiety and other emotions, and rob them of their ability to dominate my thinking. ymmv

    1. I also vouch for Sam Harris’ app. It would be something positive to focus on instead of all the negative. Part of prep for the virus is self-care, and you need to sleep. A simple exercise is to focus on your breath in bed each time your thoughts start to churn. Count: 1 on inhale, 2 on exhale, repeat, 1, 2, 1, 2…

    2. Thanks Neil, I will investigate.

      Brinlea, the good news is that I have gotten lots of sleep over my vacation. I guess I was just all keyed up before returning to work today.

  2. I mean your blog has basically become coronavirus plus a bit of virtual social worlds (with even most of those posts obsessively repeating the same information over and over). Of course, its your blog and do with it what you will of course – if anything I’d be quite interested in seeing more from you about social VR and virtual worlds and how they interact and link with other interests you might have, rather than focusing so much on updates about the platforms themselves – but it seems to me that you’re outright obsessing over the virus at the expense of other parts of your life. That being the case, its patently obvious you will be making yourself anxious over it, possibly to the point of outright sickness (it seems like thats the plalce you’re at right now). Absolutely some level of anxiety and pre-planning makes sense in your situation (and I get it – I’m worried about family and friends who are elderly and have the same kinds of underlying conditions and I’m not so sure about how I would fare either), but it seems to be all you’re talking or thinking about lately and obviously thats going to eat away at you quite significantly.

    I dont want to sound as though I’m being mean or anything so please dont react negatively to this, and I really do hope everything is ok. My point is that I’m mostly concerned really. I know what anxiety to that level is llike (I’ve had periods of outright not sleeping for a week or so, and thus becoming quite badly ill, because of anxiety). I dont know what to reccommend but honestly what you’re doing right now seems like its leading you on a downward spiral of sorts. I just hope that doesnt have to happen to you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, bliss. I am all right, but even I know I have gone a little bit overboard with respect to the coronavirus epidemic (possibly because I am at high risk of a severe case of COVID-19).

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