‘As Coronavirus skyrockets in US, so did stress and depression.’ This was a headline on CNN.com this morning. It’s hardly news, because most of us have been through the experience already.
People’s earliest expectations were defeated quite quickly. The writers and artists I know posted that this would give them time to ‘hunker down’ and get some ‘real work’ done. Isolation actually made us less productive and stifled creative process. It provided us with greater opportunities to be distracted. People were generally encouraging each other to reach out to the shut-ins, the elderly – anyone in need – and make sure they had all they needed. This soon turned to angry darkness (as it had been before), and no uplift at all.
As a writer with Complex PTSD, Chronic Depression and Anxiety Disorders, the beginning of my COVID-era was accompanied by reduced creative productivity, and regular panic attacks. People were hording strange things like toilet paper (I still don’t understand this). The cost of food skyrocketed, certain items became scarce, and grocery shelves were cleared out completely. Who wouldn’t panic? For someone on a fixed income, even with additional financial help from the Commonwealth, the situation was terrifying. In my marrow, I was not sure I would survive. Living in isolation, it seemed fairly certain I wouldn’t.
Concerning support and concern, I have family in the next city. I’ve never received calls from anyone locally, asking if I’m all right, and with the advent of COVID, this hasn’t changed. I’ve had a couple of inquiries from people in cities hundreds of miles away, and in other countries, but local concern has been a fizzle.
Now that COVID has been in place for seven months, it isn’t surprising that depression is increasing. Even though certain problems have righted themselves, the ‘quarantine’ has extended itself indefinitely. People are relying on Social Media more and more, and many have posted that Social Media has become their greatest, and sometimes only, access to human contact.
COVID wasn’t something we did to ourselves (nor was done to us by the Chinese!) This isn’t entirely true about stress and depression – we do it to each other, to some degree. It’s always a struggle to push aside the desire for our own insularity, safety, and sufficiency, but perhaps we might take up what so many of us said we’d do in the beginning of this plague: be there for one another, and care about someone besides ourselves.
The benediction of smiles is now hidden behind masks, but a kind gesture can brighten a whole day.
Paul TN Chapman
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