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The other day I invited two friends over for a visit. We formed a woman’s group that usually meets monthly, but we hadn’t come together in months. All of us are seniors and they are both more cautious than I am regarding the coronavirus. So, I suggested we could sit either outside or inside (not having checked on the late morning temperature).
When they arrived, one friend (call her “E”) came to the front door and told me that my other friend (“R”) was walking around the side of the house to enter by the lanai side door. Clearly, she had decided she preferred to sit outside, in spite of the early morning Florida heat and humidity. We moved our chairs into three spots of shade we found and visited for 1.5 hours.
The entire time we spoke about nothing but the coronavirus, or topics related to it, such as scheduling doctor appointments and haircuts. In our defense, there wasn’t much more going on (unless you count the civil unrest). I realized at one point the narrow framework of the conversation; it never occurred to me to suggest we talk about the larger implications of the virus or its effects on our lives.
When it was time to part, I asked about scheduling a next meeting (which we usually did month-to-month). “R” said she wasn’t willing to meet inside a house, and it would clearly be too warm outside in August, even with our outside fans. So, we decided to check in with each other in a month or two.
Later in the day, “E” and I set up a time for me to visit her at her home.
In thinking about “R”s behavior, I felt concern and alarm for her. I could understand her wearing a mask everywhere. I also know that she has some medical conditions, although she takes very good care of herself with proper diet and exercise. Still, her fear was palpable, a woman who usually deals with life practically and rationally. I wondered if her anxiety could have long-term effects, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I decided to do a little research, and the results were disconcerting.
If you are concerned about those you love (or even yourself), here are the symptoms of PTSD:
Anger, often of an inappropriate type; depression which appears to have no basis in fact; loss of concentration; increased startle and hypervigilance; avoidance; isolation; emotional numbing; lack of trust; suicidal ideation may be present; insomnia; distressing nightmares
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs describes the potential of PTSD as an outcome of the coronavirus, makes the following recommendations:
Consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
Look for opportunities to practice being more patient or kind with yourself, or to see the situation as an opportunity to learn or build strengths.
Celebrate successes, find things to be grateful about, and take satisfaction in completing tasks, even small ones.
Give yourself small breaks from the stress of the situation by doing something you enjoy.
Draw upon your spirituality, those who inspire you, or your personal beliefs and values.
These approaches make sense, especially for a person like myself who is only moderately stressed by the current virus situation. But I wonder how they would work for people who are already awash in the emotions and fears regarding the virus?
Certain issues related to the virus are difficult to deal with from a rational perspective: the fear of the unknown. One author lists some of those concerns:
How the virus is communicated
How long is the period of incubation before symptoms
What is the fatality rate
Can it be caught more than once
How long can it live on surfaces
Will quarantine be needed and for how long
Will personal finances be affected
Will the virus jeopardize our economy and will our financial institutions begin to fail
We’ve been told that some of these issues have been answered, but have they? Do we really know very much about the virus? Just today there was a question about how far droplets can travel; whether masks are helpful or not; whether children should go back to school; whether the number of cases or the death rate is more important; and the questions continue.
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Then there are the questions about whom to believe. Do we believe the “experts”? Which ones should we rely on? How certain can we be about President Trump’s guidance, when Dr. Anthony Fauci calls touting the death rate a “false narrative”?
And then there is the media, which we know will mostly promote the worst-case scenario for the virus, but is anything they tell us true? Where can we go for reliable information? Let’s not forget the other stressors beyond the coronavirus. The riots, shootings, lootings, which have been doing on for weeks, continue unabated. We see occasional periods of quiet, but we have to wonder whether the media is intentionally ignoring certain dangerous events because they don’t suit their agenda.
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We know that coronavirus may very well be with us for a while. Even when the situation appears to be improving, too many people are invested in hyping the deadliest information. I worry about my friend and those like her who are especially vulnerable and at some level sense the possibility of death.
How will she and others be affected in the long-term?Published in