The Price We’re Paying
COVID-19 continued its version of Sherman’s March to the Sea, contaminating everything in its path, with over 5.0 million confirmed cases and nearly 163,000 deaths in this country.¹ California joined the dubious ranks of New York (33,000+) and New Jersey (16,000+) as states recording more than 10,000 deaths. Congress had yet to pass a stimulus package, while 17 million workers remain unemployed. The wearing of face masks continued to be an issue, largely among Republican men who may bemaking a political statement and who believe they have the right to be ignorant and selfish.²
We learned from the president last week that children are ‘virtually immune’ to COVID-19.³ This revelation came a day before a 7-year-old boy with no underlying medical conditions died of the virus in Georgia⁴ and as schools continued to reopen throughout the country. We also learned that New Jersey’s mandate for social distancing and the wearing of a face mask are not required during a ‘political activity’ or ‘peaceful protest,’ especially when the event — previously described as a ‘press conference’ — is held at a golf club owned by the president.⁵
For those scoring at home, the virus does not care if it is a political activity or a peaceful protest. It only seeks unwitting human victims, which were in ample supply at the president’s event. That said, what might members of an exclusive golf club in New Jersey protest peacefully? Wilted lettuce on their BLTs? Towels not sufficiently prewarmed in the locker room? Being forced to wear a mask in New Jersey?
In a move seen to be politically motivated and, possibly, a threat to the November election, Louis DeJoy, the new Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, announced a sweeping reorganization last week. The move reassigned or displaced twenty-three executives.⁶ This followed his recent cost-cutting measures resulting in massive delays in mail delivery, which may impact all of us. Concerned that your mail service is deteriorating? DeJoy, whose experience does not include the postal service but does include Republican fundraising, is your guy. Given the pressure put on voting-by-mail in the upcoming election by the administration, this is a story to watch. (Thinking of voting by mail? Should your ballot arrive, vote very early.)
And, finally, in the ‘But, of Course!’ category, sales of alcohol⁷, marijuana (at least in Illinois)⁸, guns and ammunition⁹ have been surging in this country during the pandemic. Since talk of defunding police departments began, firearm sales are up a whopping 90% while sales of ammunition have increased 30% during the same period. There is now, due to high demand, a shortage of ammunition.
Guns, marijuana and alcohol sold in high volume. Like we didn’t have enough to worry about.
Speaking of not having enough to worry about, it will come as no surprise to anyone that many Americans are exhibiting symptoms of mild to more severe depression. For most, it’s not the clinical type, mind you, but the Coronavirus — Racial Injustice — Political type. A situational depression caused by the significant issues and struggles of our time. Symptoms may include: anxiety, fear or foreboding, low energy and/or chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, an inability to focus, sleeplessness, loneliness, feelings of hopelessness, and the dead giveaway: perpetual melancholy or sadness. Secondary symptoms include: not knowing the current day of the week, the belief that time has stopped, the perception that you’ve lived this exact day just yesterday (and the day before that), and, among others, an overwhelming desire to never, ever again utter the word ‘Zoom.’ Fear of death (yours or a loved one), fear of being unable to feed one’s family, fear of being unable pay one’s bills, fear of being evicted and far too much time alone, day after day for weeks on end with no end in sight, will do that. Not to mention the issues related to Black Lives Matter and the war being waged by the administration on half of the country. Count Michelle Obama among the victims of this form of situational depression.¹⁰
Some of us have no time to take a close look at our feelings, as a demanding job, children and family consume every waking moment. Others have little or nothing to do and all the time in the world in which to do it, which has a diabolical way of contributing mightily to feelings of uncertainty and angst. Adding to this is the pressure some feel that they need to be productive while riding out the pandemic. Am I using my time wisely? I’ve binged everything on Netflix and Hulu, including stuff with subtitles. Even The Bachelorette. Should I learn a new language? Take up a musical instrument? Hike the Appalachian Trail? Build an airplane? Write a novel? Or, hell, learn how to bake bread? I’ll look back on this, some of us think, and hate myself if I don’t do or produce something.
Many are experiencing the same emotions, the same pressures, the same fears. Many are not sleeping well, if at all. Many feel alone. Many are scared. I am.
We have never been here before. We are not built for this.
But we will survive. Here’s how:
- Admit that things really suck. For many, it’s the truth. No need to dance around it, deny it or fight it. Things do suck.
- Find someone to confide in. Admitting your uncertainty, your fears, your sadness to someone you trust is an important thing to do. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. Just someone you trust, someone who will listen.
- Do something each day that brings you relief, if not joy. Carve out an hour or more every day to do something just for you, something to feed your soul. TV, a movie, music, a walk, a book, puzzles, anything. The only criterion — and it’s a critical one — is that it’s something you like to do, something that gives you pleasure.
- Seek out someone who needs help. You are not alone. Your friends and extended family are undoubtedly experiencing similar emotions. Find them. Talk with them. Offer your support. Be yourself. No training is required. Helping others is a mitzvah, a good deed. It will help you help yourself.
- Get involved. There are only thousands of worthy organizations globally that would love your involvement. Find one and volunteer. Helping others is a wonderful — and incredibly effective — way to replenish your soul.
- Either stop pressuring yourself to use the time you have OR take Japanese. Shocking but true: you have absolutely no obligation to do anything productive during the pandemic. Your job is to survive it. But if you’re still in need of productive activity, take Japanese. It’s an elegant language and will keep you diverted for months. Ogenki desu ka?
If these suggestions are not helpful and/or your depression feels more severe, trained professionals are standing by at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter. Contact one today.
A few last thoughts: admitting fear takes courage and strength. Talking about your feelings is vital — and valuable. Remember, you are not alone. This is not your fault. This is being done to us. Take the first step toward solace. And then take the next.
¹ As of 9:00 p.m., ET, August 9; https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-us-maps-and-cases/ These data are from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), so who knows?