Pizzas of Defiance

FROM A DISTANCE - Veronica Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Fear, dread, uneasiness, panic, doom, danger. Just the everyday state of mind of someone living through the first pandemic of the 21st century or a mental disorder? The offer of a Pizza of Defiance came as a welcome break to the engulfing worry of our time.

I’ve found that as someone who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder several years ago, these times are oddly less anxious for me than everyone else. The counsellor I was seeing told me it was the most common mental health issue and yet the least diagnosed, because being anxious was generally not seen as a problem. He told me he had a lot of clients who said being anxious was part of their personality, or explained their job required anxiety; I was the same, not yet recognizing that it was an unhealthy state of affairs.

Anxiety is something everyone experiences at times, and feeling anxious is a perfectly natural reaction to some situations. It’s when feelings of anxiety are constant, overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation and even affect your daily life that it might be worth pausing to figure out what is behind these feelings.

It’s gotten even more complicated since the coronavirus outbreak which has affected all of us in different ways and has got a lot of people worried. If you’re trying to run a restaurant business, for example, and you bought your ingredients in anticipation of the lifting of restrictions last week, only to have your hopes squashed and your money wasted, and putting your business in even deeper trouble, no-one could blame you for being a little troubled. But even trying to navigate things that used to be perfectly safe, normal and legal activities (like going to the grocery or meeting friends), now that they are suddenly fraught with shifting government restrictions and conflicting analyses of infection rates, is enough to make anyone wonder how to proceed.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can try to help cope with anxiety. The tips I was given to manage the way I felt even before the pandemic have been incredibly helpful since the bug has disrupted life as we knew it. There are simple things that we can all do to help manage the way we feel and take care of our mental health and wellbeing.

There are loads of health websites that have good information. My first check is always the UK’s National Health Service site. It says anxiety can show up in a variety of ways. This can be as changes in your body, in being constantly worried or changes in your behavior, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety. Some items on their list of possible signs of anxiety had been around for years before I realized the connection. Trouble sleeping? Tick. A sense of dread? Tick. Avoid situations or put off doing things you are worried about? Yup. It took a definite shift in my attitude to my self not to revert to my default sarcastic facetiousness: “I mean, have these people never heard of existentialism? Alienation? How is one supposed to respond to the injustices, inequalities, etc. of our time?”

Anxiety affects everyone differently and can be brought on by different situations or experiences. It is our body’s natural reaction to perceived danger, focusing our attention and giving us a rush of adrenaline to react, sometimes called the “fight or flight” response. The way it was explained to me is that this is how our species evolved to protect itself from a sabre-toothed tiger, for example. Even though there aren’t any sabre-toothed tigers around any more, our biology hasn’t evolved further to cope with modern perceived threats.

You get the same response even if the cause for the stress is because you don’t think you’re going to be able to hand your homework in on time, or you’re not sure if you will be safe from COVID-19 if you go to the grocery double-masked, face shielded and hand sanitized.

Sometimes it can even be difficult to know what is making you anxious, which can be upsetting or stressful in itself. That’s why learning to recognize what is making you anxious can help so you can deal with the uncertainty better. Some people naturally react more than others, and there are times when everyone may go through stressful situations and feel anxious because of uncertainty or perceived threat. There are lots of things that can influence our mental health, such as our upbringing, childhood environment, things that happen to us and even our temperament.

Even so, if you’re feeling anxious, there’s a good chance you’re thinking things are more dangerous than they really are. Left alone to ferment and bubble, anxiety is a form of lockdown in itself; it can keep us safe and it can keep us from conducting normal life, especially now that “the new normal” has become a catchphrase and what’s abnormal is being normalized.

“Rica,” my friend said. “Want to get together for a pizza? A pizza of defiance?”

As soon as they said it, I knew exactly what they meant. Everything nowadays seems to be militating against doing stuff that’s human and fun, like having a pizza with your mates.

I googled “pizza of defiance” and discovered there are pizza restaurants in a place called Defiance, Ohio. I started thinking about what a pizza of defiance might look or taste like. Super-delicious – so delicious, I concluded, that you would be willing to risk dicing with possible death by actually GOING OUT and SEEING PEOPLE to have some. I could almost taste the world’s best tomato sauce on a Rome-style chunky bit of pie, topped with…

I threw caution to the wind, dear reader. (Well, not quite. I still wore a mask, touched no one and washed my hands a lot.) The pizzas were fantastic.




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