(This CNN article was just forwarded to me by my cousin who is an avid reader, staying afloat in quarantine as a single person through her endless curiosity for information and ideas. I thought the article perfectly captured the dilemmas we all face now in this pandemic, and I couldn’t have covered it any better, so I’m sharing it with you here).
Opinion by Jill Filipovic
Updated 11:11 AM ET, Wed April 29, 2020
Are you losing your mind in quarantine? Because I am losing my mind in quarantine.
It can feel trite, even crude, to talk about our own discomforts, frustrations and longings in the midst of a pandemic that has infected more than three million people worldwide and killed more than 200,000 including nearly 60,000 in the United States, with numbers climbing.
Across the globe, families are grieving friends, family and community members. Husbands, wives, children, parents and partners are saying goodbye via iPad, unable to hold a loved one’s hand in their final moments. It’s a grim, ghastly time.
Those of us who are just stuck in self-isolation, and not hooked up to a respirator or the next-of-kin of someone who is, are the lucky ones. And no, what’s being asked of us is not excessive: We just need to stay home.
So why does this feel so hard?
Around the world, people report feeling stressed, anxious and generally discombobulated by this whole mess. Parents and other caregivers for young children are particularly stretched thin. People have canceled trips, concerts, weddings; new babies are being brought up without the help of extended family or community members; big life milestones like graduations go publicly uncelebrated. We miss the friends and family we can’t see. We miss dinners out, parties in, museums, live music, theater, even the gym.
I miss being able to walk through my neighborhood without the stress of staying six feet away from bikers, joggers, cooped-up children gone wild on scooters, and other pedestrians.
It’s not just working from home. I’ve worked from home for close to a decade, in many different cities and multiple countries. But the general rules of work-from-home life no longer apply. For example: Do something social, or at least that forces you to interact with other human beings, every day, even if that’s just going to the grocery store or the gym. Or: Create a separate dedicated workspace, even if it’s only a particular cushion on your couch; reserve your bed for sleeping (and other recreational activities). Or: Get outside at least once a day.
That’s all harder when your whole family is stuck inside on top of each other; when there are no gyms to go to; when, at least in dense cities, even going for a walk outside is a stressful (and masked) experience.
No, we are not being asked to go to war or survive one. But what we are being asked to do is profoundly antithetical to our natures as human beings; it is profoundly destabilizing and difficult. There is little more human than the desire for connection, touch, stimulation and novelty. This is all so hard because in going without those things, it’s not hyperbole to say we have to find new ways of being — or at least feeling — human.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and best-selling author, tells viewers in a brief but compelling video for The New York Times that it’s no wonder we are feeling a sense of grief and anxiety. It’s not just that we’re missing out on travel, dates, or dinners. It’s that we’re also losing the meaning behind all of those things. A date isn’t just a date; it’s the possibility of a romantic future. A trip isn’t just a trip; it’s a new and stimulating experience, a chance to understand oneself in a different context, an opportunity to see things that before you could have only observed through a screen. A dinner out isn’t just a dinner out; it’s a moment of indulgence, pleasure and connection with the person across the table. A longing to hug a friend, a loved one, a far-away child, your mom is more than just “I want a hug” — it’s a primal and fundamental longing for the way touch is so often short-hand for everything we don’t find the words to say.
Even in the midst of catastrophe — war, natural disaster, destruction — human beings continue to forge connections; we perhaps especially forge connections in the most trying of times so we can survive. In the most dire of circumstances — in war zones and refugee camps, in towns leveled by earthquakes and communities pocked by violence — people create art, paint in bright colors, plant seeds. They play music. They feed their beloveds. They tell stories. They fall in love.
The isolation that this pandemic has forced upon us doesn’t prevent all of those things, but it certainly hinders them. In the days after September 11, 2001, New Yorkers defied stay-at-home suggestions to congregate in bars and restaurants; the city teemed with life and energy (and, for once, not with car horns — a little bit of softness in the aftermath of such brutality). That collective gathering was very much a collective middle finger to those who attacked us: No, we are not scared. Yes, we are still here, and guess what? We’re going to live.
What is being asked of us now is not quite so satisfying; it does not meet our need, in a time of anxiety and grief, to come together and seek comfort. To touch each other. To even smile at a stranger — you can’t see a person’s expression behind a mask.
Compared to illness and death, these are small things. Being alive matters more, and so of course we have to continue to live this way for as long as is necessary to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.
But it’s also OK to grieve the pieces of life that we’re missing, to express the feeling so many of us have that we can’t take it anymore. It’s necessary to understand that missing the fullness of life, including pleasure and connection, doesn’t make us selfish. Feeling destabilized and disoriented or pushed to a breaking point doesn’t make us flaky or weak. It makes us human.
And perverse as it may sound, those of us who are anxious, frustrated and disoriented can be grateful for that exact experience — in disorienting and disconnected times, this reaction is a rational one. It means we’re warm. We love. We’re curious. We seek pleasure, and we revel in it when we experience it. It means we live.
Most everyone in the world, for some time now, has been experiencing the anxiety, losses, uncertainty, and constraints of social distancing related to Coronavirus. We know we’re living in an apocalyptic scenario, we hear all the gory details on the news and from each other every day. The people who seem to be surviving best in this new “normal” are the hard-core introverts, and even they are weirded out. I am not a cryer, but have done my share in the last few weeks, so I get the trauma in all this.
However, there are also some pretty bizarre and funny things going on which I think it would be therapeutic to notice and share. We’ve gotta find some humor amidst this crisis, so I will be doing my part here to spread the word about what’s laughable and inspiring in our current reality.
“Big Night Out – Suicidal Grocery Shopping at BJ’s”
After a few weeks of this self quarantining my husband and I noticed a serious lack of freezer paper, cheese and Half and Half. We could deal with staying at home 24/7, being online 24/7 for all work and social contacts, the losses, the ongoing experience of Russian Roulette about who would die next, but no freezer paper? No cheese? No Half and Half for the gallons of coffee we’ve been drinking? No way! Besides, it was Friday night, and time to go out!
I’d heard from a few clients who are high up on the medical chain that yes, we should be wearing face masks to protect each other, but my idea to strap a huge towel around my head wasn’t so great – too much possible absorption of respiratory droplets for me while being socially altruistic. They both were adamant that glass or plastic face shields are what docs use in certain surgeries and risky situations. And yes, a motorcycle helmet would be fine. So, here I am above, following medical wisdom, preparing for our Friday night foray to get “desperately needed” supplies at BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Imagine Darth Vader walking around in front of you in a store. It was the perfect setup for social distancing! People around me probably thought I was either a psycho or someone about to rob the place, so nobody came near, even the customer service people who ordinarily assist when you’re useless at the Self Check Out line, as I generally am. It didn’t help that I was also wearing a giant scarf to seal the bottom opening of the helmet, so my hair was plastered down with sweat and the plastic shield was all fogged up from the heat condensation. Then at BJ’s you have to look for half boxes to pack your groceries in – uh oh, cardboard! More Coronavirus droplets about to pounce! My solution was to get this Big Night Out over and done with at top speed so my immune- compromised husband who was waiting in the car, wouldn’t worry that I’d succumbed to evil Covid-19. Of course it was pouring outside, and he’d parked right in front of the store, way too close to other people who were loading up their cars. He was less than 6 feet away from them, ready to help me! Of course I starting shrieking warnings at him from inside my Darth Vader getup, now soaked from the rain as well, so those people also backed off. (Handy)……….
I think the “insanity posture” may be very effective for our Covid-19 existence. It certainly worked when I lived in Manhattan, would be coming home from work on the deserted subway late at night, and approached by some menacing creep. I’ve never carried any weapon except the ability to appear totally crazy, loudly shouting out psychotic rants, which I’d witnessed at Bronx State Hospital where I’d worked on the ward with folks who were in a different state of reality. Nobody wants to screw with an insane person, so in my later middle-of-the-night homeward bound subway rides I never got mugged or attacked. Shady characters would always back off. It was my perfect New York defense. If you’re not too self conscious I’d highly recommend it when clueless people get within 6 feet of you nowadays, especially the friendly ones.
The good news is that we had our Big Night Out and now have lots of freezer paper, cheese and Half and Half. Hallelujah!
To all current and prospective clients,
I hope you and your family are all well and managing this crisis reasonably well.
In the interest of safety and social responsibility I’m no longer seeing clients at the office, but instead via either
phone or video conferencing through Doxy.me, an easy to use, HIPAA compliant setup.
All you’ll need to do is to wait for an email from Doxy.me/SusanLager telling you I’m ready to begin
your session, click on the link enclosed and you’ll be in my virtual “waiting room” until I let you into your session.
There’s no need for you to download any software or join anything. A Chrome or Firefox connection is best, but
Safari works as well. A laptop or iPad provides much better reception than an iPhone.
If you prefer, we can do a phone session if you don’t have access to a computer or would be more comfortable
with that. Just let me know what number you’d like me to call.
*You will just need to call my VM at 603-431-7131 ahead of time to let me know your preference,
so we don’t take up your session time with these logistics.
I’m recommending that all clients who would be coming in for sessions under normal circumstances continue
their therapy this way, especially in these times of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, loss and isolation. All you’ll need
will be a private space and a laptop, iPad or phone for 50 minutes. This will allow you to continue our work in
the safety and comfort of your own home or private space.
If your are a current client I would expect us to maintain all sessions moving forward, especially in light of the
possibility that this crisis will persist for the next several months, according to infectious disease experts. Waiting
until this pandemic recedes to schedule a next session at the office may just be too ambiguous, creating a prolonged
limbo state for your relationship work. The same is true if you are a prospective client.
It’s of paramount importance to me that my clients have tools for support and continued growth during this highly
stressful time which challenges everyone’s fanciest coping skills, especially for couples who have already been
wrestling with relationship or family issues.
I hope you’ll avail yourself of this “new normal” way of working.
Stay healthy and safe,