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Year of the Plague – 26 – COVID-19 and Stress: Trying To Deal With It (The first of a series)

August 11, 2020

I just call it “Oy vey – Now What Do We Do?” Munch’s “The Scream”… it’s become an icon… but nobody does it better than a depressed Nordic


What follows is just some personal musings; I am no psychologist or therapist and don’t claim to be. What follows are more inquiries than “prescriptions” either on a personal or society level. People are hurting – alone and in whatever grouping they feel apart of. More and more indications of stress and depression. For the moment, for whatever reason – call it temporary insanity – I’m not depressed. I’m not worried. That will pass. And although it has not been constant, at different moments I’ve ate, slept with, wrestled with stress and had to come up with a plan to address it, which I have done, sort of – inelegantly I might note – but all the same.

How to get through “this mess” – the pandemic, climate change, the danger of nuclear war, the explosion of racism and anti-immigrant hatred we’re experiencing – in my personal case – my worries about the world my daughters, their partners and our grandson have in front of them? Have a few insights, nothing serious frankly, but thought I’d look at ways of dealing with stress and depression individually and socially.

Of course nothing would help more than replacing the current system we live in with Socialism… but  we need some intermediate strategies until then.

Cheers, Rob P.


COVID-10 and Stress. A stressed out nation in an increasingly stressed out world. I read where there is the anti-depressant Zoloft in the water supply of many cities, so much of it that soon people won’t have to buy anti-depressants with prescriptions, all they need to do is drink the water.

People get depressed, “stressd out,” “burnt out” but this is a certain annoying variety: But what we are now facing is stubborn, persistent, nasty. The  thing won’t go away not even with Zoloft. Damn!  Not the stress of some temporary situation. It’s long-term, it won’t go away for a while (if ever) – it’s as they say – “structural” in nature. How to live with it? How to overcome it? It’s both a personal and societal challenge.

(A Facebook friend, former philosophy prof at Regis College, John Kane, has started writing about dealing with it – perhaps I shouldn’t but I think of stress and depression somewhat interchangeable. Certainly the one leads to the other. Anyhow, I mention it because it was his very (as usual) thoughtful post which got me thinking last night and this morning).

Yesterday I ran into several examples – names are not important.

Stress is everywhere and among all sectors of society. Here are a few examples I ran into yesterday:

The first – It started on driving to Aurora to work on the shed David Fey and I (mostly David, but I do help are building in Abbie and Logan’s backyard… mostly an excuse to see our grandson, Teddy. On Park Ave near downtown Denver a tent colony, on both sides of the street and branching off into near by side street. It seemed more crowded than last week when I took the same route, tents jammed together, garbage on the street and sidewalk as there are no city services provided to otherwise dispose of stuff. Why can’t the city provide showers, some health services, more organized meals – and of course – shelter from the storm.

Add to that what I can only describe as a growing viciousness of how “mainstream’ Denver looks upon the homeless.

A hard bitten form of hatred. Not much kindness here. And I thought “what a stressful life”! How are they dealing with it? Individually? Collectively. At least the homeless has Denver Out Loud! one of the best, most organized homeless rights groups, as politically sophisticated and well organized as any. How would I deal with it? But then again, I’ve never been homeless and so I really don’t know.

The second – Someone who hadn’t shown up for work for nearly a month. Only later this manager discovers, the employee was laid low in bed, afraid he was going to die of Coronavirus. Living on work compensation as a result of an industrial accident, he’s “concerned” – even though he has proper documents – about ICE, but he didn’t die and it appears – if the tests are right – he didn’t have Coronavirus – only some kind of flu. But he was nearly scared to death.

He’s ok now, thank God, but he wrote out his will.

The third – a friend who provides computer-internet services. He’s very good at what he does and business has expanded over the years as a result. But his children – 6 and 9 – are going crazy being restricted in doors (as are millions of others), his wife has auto-immune deficiency conditions and many of his clients don’t give a hoot about social distancing when he visits them – like doctors of old still doing home visits, he goes through six masks a day an had worked through bottles of disinfectants… until he has – what used to be called – a nervous break down, today referred to simply as “burn out.” He’s better now, though shaky.

He (literally) cannot stand hearing the word “Trump.”

The forth – a cousin back east. Built a home-cleaning business that kept life and limb together and as a single mom (for some time now) has raised two (from my perspective) extraordinary children. Comes the pandemic, business collapses (essentially) and one child stranded with its over parent. She hasn’t seen him for months. She takes to baking french bread and selling it to friends far and near.

Impressed with her toughness, resourcefulness – and in spite of being on the edge of abject poverty she soldiers on, strengthened by her mother’s indomitable spirit … but know there is a price.

And despite the fear, angst or whatever – these people for the most part have it better than so many others, about to face eviction – what is it? 20, 30, 50 million people? Those thrown into ICE cells – you must have seen the photos of those little kids, ripped from their parents, living in ICE cages, sleeping on the ground in cages. Little kids!

Unfortunately neither the fear of catching COVID-19 – the utter stupidity and selfishness of so many Americans who won’t wear masks or social distance, the “challenges” of making a living when the economic livelihood it’s taken a lifetime to build, the fear of being evicted, thrown into an ICE cell, forced to go to work to make ends meet in a meat packing plant, caught in a nursing home where people around you are dying like flies, terrified of being evicted – none of it – is going to end soon.

The darkness will continue and deepen. This is a simple fact. We cannot deal with the crisis unless we understand its sources and manifestations – be it personal depression or the societal convulsions. Denial, an ostrich approach, head in the sand – or more aptly – up your butt is a dead end. Anti-depressants might help, but at best they ease the pain to help manage it, that is about all. They don’t get down to “the real enchilada,” “the heart of the artichoke,” nor do speculations about how your “next life” will be better than this one – this is it folks – or that your religion alone will get you through. Not that I “like” war but I always appreciated the expression “Praise the Lord….but pass the ammunition” – seemed to merge religious belief with practicality.

Need both.

Faith will help; but without a plan, personal and societal, we’re “lost in the rain and Juarez” at Easter time – as Bob Dylan put it. And there’s something else we need – and here I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I can’t help  it – the need to sacrifice for others – be it financially, socially, physically. We, Americans, at different time knew how to do this but it’s more difficult now for most of us. We’re soft, spoiled and our minds addled with individual utter nonsense.

“He did it his way?” Frank Sinatra? – Hogwash. He did it on the wave of struggles and sacrifices of nameless people fighting the Great Depression, of those who gave their lives fighting German, Italian, Japanese fascism.

He did it his way? No way.

He did it because in the 1920s and 1930s, it was not just racism against Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Jews that were fought – but discrimination against Italians and Catholics in general that was exposed for the rot that it is – and neutralized. So he had a good voice? Big deal. That doesn’t mean squat in the overall plan of things nor does he. He gets a point for having a nice voice. My mother loved him; I can’t stand him – neither his music – minus one or two songs – or his life of debauchery, selfishness.

Stress is material, economic, social, spiritual. The situations vary in extremity. Of course it is one thing to figure out what to do with the kids today in an apartment or home – and quite another to answer that question living out of a van – or a VW bug. What can we do together – Individualism those pickled in Ann Rynd’s bubble of selfishness “it’s all about me” stuff won’t cut it – what can we do together, in tandem both at the moment for damage control, and to turn the situation around for the better, replace the darkness with light?

I asked a Palestinian friend how is it that he, they can deal with all the trauma – what psychological, social cures are there? He looked at me: who has time to worry about such things? he said. “We just find new ways to survive, exist. See, for some even worrying, self-introspection is a luxury!

What can people do individually? What is society’s, the state’s role, responsibility to help?

Will try to address these questions in future entries.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarge Cheever permalink
    August 11, 2020 1:19 pm

    Maybe I got it from you–“Americans are more into rights than responsibilities.” From Aldous Huxley:   Tainted means lead to tainted means.  Overheard in the country store of my mind:   “It won’t work.  It’s like trying to cross a Chihuahua with Saint Bernard.  It doesn’t matter who’s on top–It just won’t work.”     Fun to imagine, though. You write really well.  I’m jealous. Best, Sarge

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