‘When I walked into the supermarket today, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of shame.’


The last emotion I expected to feel this morning as I yawned my way into the supermarket was shame. I sensed something was different as soon as I walked in – a heavier, charged atmosphere and many, many more trolleys and strained-looking people than usual.

The toilet roll aisle was almost empty, as were stocks of rice, UHT milk and baked beans. I’ve vehemently rejected the idea of ‘panic buying’, but felt myself caught in the whirlwind that circulated within the anxious microcosm of the supermarket this morning. I watched myself from above stocking up on ‘essentials’ too largely with my 17-month-old son in mind.

As a solo Mum, I feel isolated enough at the best of times. What the past weeks are showing is that the emotional security blanket of a well-stocked pantry is comforting for many.

Yet I felt such shame. I was no different from anyone else ‘panic buying’. I can honestly say it was not propelled by greed, nor even fear of getting the virus. I was just caught up in the contagion of anxiety and fear.

So I wonder how this crisis is affecting our mental health. As a sufferer of anxiety, I’ve felt an inner voice whispering an unintelligible hum of gloom in recent days. I’m not even sure what it’s about, but it’s getting louder. What is this doing to us? To our collective consciousness and individual mental health?

Christiane Gurner
Christiane and her son. Image: Supplied,

Despite being a sensible consumer of media and kept on top of the coronavirus updates, in recent days, I’ve had to turn it off and switch to podcasts. My anxiety radar has been picking up widespread community unease and fear like a finely tuned antenna. Interestingly, the anxiety does not stem from fear of actually contracting the coronavirus. It’s been simply absorbing the swarming dark cloud of distress, fear and uncertainty darkening the community.

It seems that ‘doing something’ tangible makes us feel like we’re protected and less vulnerable. And yes, doing something practical makes sense. But what of the inner work? The hard slog that is working with our busy brains and emotions to tackle anxiety, build resilience and allow a mindful assessment of our environment and situation.

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To try and combat my shame and seek any positives that could arise out of this crappy situation, I texted friends and neighbours and checked they had sufficient supplies and if not, I’m more than happy to share. Because I really am. If nothing else, these quite frightening times call for us to knit together as a community more than ever.

Is there a way that the excesses of stockpiling can be put to good and much-needed use for not-for-profits and charities? I don’t have the answers. What I do have is compassion and love in spades. And I’m happy to share.

Christiane Gurner is a qualified lawyer, social worker, writer and PhD Candidate who lives in a beautiful neck of the woods with her toddler and Audrey the Spoodle.

Feature Image: Getty.