Feeling Irritable Lately? This May Be Why

You're not the only one feeling this way

Hi, I’m Adele, and I’m irrationally angry all the time. I mutter obscenities under my breath at people baking banana bread on social media, and roll my eyes at the people who make a big show of stepping 2 metres away from me on my daily walk.

I’m irritated by people who are following the government’s guidelines and policing everyone else and their actions, and I’m definitely irritated by the people who are disregarding it all and parading around like there’s nothing wrong. I’m a member of a club that I assumed was very elite, the ‘everything irritates me so don’t try to do anything to set me off’ club, but, as it turns out the club is actually a lot larger than I thought, in fact, we’re kind of all members of it at the minute. 

By now we well know that ‘pandemic panic’ is very real, but what we fail to acknowledge is the effect it has on us, yeah we’re all a little less motivated and a little more sensitive than usual, but picking a full blown fight with our poor partners for not unloading the dishwasher the right way is something that probably could do with addressing. We’re living through a major moment in history, we’re being presented with stark contrasts from everywhere, and the effect it has on our moods is just as contradicting.

One minute we’re standing at our front doors, clapping to say thank you to those risking their lives for us, and the next we’re ranting about Sarah on Instagram who just loooves to shite on about the new yoga poses she’s mastered each day. On a personal level, a lot of us are feeling like the worst versions of ourselves at the minute, myself included. We know deep down we’re good people, but the constant arguing with those around us is making us doubt it. 

Before I start feeling guilty after my 6th rant of the day, psychoanalyst Karina Melvin tells me that my behaviour is actually completely rational, and is something she has constantly seen presented in her (virtual) clinic in recent weeks, “It is actually entirely healthy to feel this way, we are experiencing such a roller coaster of emotions because the status quo of our realties has been obliterated” she says.

Explaining why it is that we may be a little extra irritable lately, Karina puts it down to an overall loss of control. The predictability, cohesion, and certainly that we usually experience in our lives has now completely gone to ruin, leaving us vulnerable and lashing out at those closest to us in a bid to relieve the tension we’re feeling. 

“I’ve argued with every family member in my house now” my friend Claire* tells me. After having a huge blow up with my brother, I took to the group chat to ask if I was alone in my covid tempers. To my relief, it seems that I most definitely am not, as words of encouragement of fellow dickish behaviour quickly began to flood my screen. “I’ve found myself nit picking at my boyfriend, it’s like every single thing he does is wrong and I just can’t hide my anger at it. I try to keep my cool but eventually it all comes out, and we won’t speak for a few hours, sometimes more” my friend Rachel* tells me. While we present ourselves as all sunshine and rainbows on our daily work Zoom meetings, our group chats are a totally different ballgame. A place for us to take off the happy mask and vent until our heart’s content.

When discussing our domestics in my own group chat, I come to realise that there are two types of people in this pandemic, the clear divide that exists in most walks of life, there’s the good guys and the bad guys. The good ones, let’s call them the ‘pandemic nice guys’, are the ones that are are happily ticking along, they never seem to have a covid wobble, they’re cooking up a storm in their kitchen 7 nights a week, they’re reassuring everyone that before we know it we’ll all be together lashing the pints into ourselves again, and they’re even letting you go ahead of them in the supermarket queue.

There’s nothing wrong with being a pandemic nice guy, just for the others, the covid cynics, they can be a little head melting. The covid cynics, on the other hand, are taking a much more realistic (some might say pessimistic) approach to the situation. They’ll be found muttering phrases like “this will go on for years, you watch” under their breath, they point out things their fellow inmates have done in an eye-rolly way, and often their only form of escape from this current nightmare is watching TikTok videos, usually of fellow covid cynics, turning their own misery into a sarcastic skit. 

The most frustrating part of the whole scenario is that sometimes, we’re all both of them. Like a modern day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, some mornings I’ll wake up upbeat, ready to seize the day, Denny sausages style, and one slight inconvenience will set me off, sending me into a mardy spiral, that nothing but a DM from Harry Styles himself would get me out of.

Just as soon as I think coronavirus is turning me into a softer person, feeling mushy when I watch videos of nurses dancing, one irritating action from someone around me will propel me right back into my sullen state. But again, psychoanalyst Karina tells me that this rollercoaster of emotions I’m feeling is to be expected, “The oscillation between everything being ok and then everything feeling overwhelming, is a bit like the mourning process. In moments we find we are ok and then we remember the situation and feel exposed, anxious and realise the sense of loss of normality.”

While the way so many of feel right now is frustrating within itself, Karina recommends simply riding the wave for now, reminding yourself that this too shall pass, “Be kind to yourself and enjoy the times when you’re feeling good and tolerate the times when you’re feeling down, trusting that they will pass.” When it comes to trying to avoid putting your fellow inmate’s head through a wall (you’re lying if you say you haven’t been at that stage before) Karina shares a little tip, ensuring that domestic bliss will remain in tow, “It is extremely helpful to consciously focus on all the things we like about the person. Instead of getting caught up focusing on the things that are really irritating you, decide, ideally the night before, that for the following week (yes a whole week) you chose to only focus on the ‘good’ and ‘positive’ aspects of the person you’re frustrated with.”

Karina believes that actively being both kind and respectful towards the person you’re disputing with will lead them to soon mirror your behaviour, going on to result in an overall peaceful living environment. So, the next time you feel your blood boiling from watching your partner use the tea towel as a hand towel, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you love them for a reason, letting Mr. Hyde know that it’s not time to come out today. 

*Names have been changed.

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