Moodsurfing offers a guest post by Deborah Michelle Sanders, JD. Deborah has had lifelong PTSD and has had Bipolar Disorder (first Type I, then II,) since 1984. She is a lawyer in three States. She was first home bound in 2015. We think that this article is a thoughtful perspective on our current situation. The views in the article are, obviously, those of Deborah and not of Moodsurfing. We are very interested in publishing guest columns from other readers and hope to make this forum the home of lively discussion and debate.Nancy and Peter
When I was in my middle year of law school, I was prescribed large doses of cortisone for a late-diagnosed severe bout of Bell’s Palsy. I became psychotic in response. If it had happened in or after the 1990s, I might have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, only this was the early 1970s. Ten years after that “toxic” experience, I was diagnosed with some form of Schizophrenia, in Israel. It took two years, and many trials of many first-generation anti-psychotic drugs, before I found, at McLean Hospital outside Boston, Massachusetts, a psychiatrist who correctly diagnosed what I then manifested as Type I Bipolar. He started me on lithium as an adjunct to a lowered dose of an anti-psychotic medication.
Soon thereafter, another psychiatrist responded to my complaints about dampened mentation from medication with wisdom that I believe we all need to hear today. Take it as ACT, the radical-acceptance type: “It isn’t going to go away. And the sooner you get used to that, the happier you will be.”
Yes, there may be a preventative medication to quell the pandemic found, yes, eventually there will be herd immunity. Yes, someday the global economy will roar to renewed vigor. But as to a monarchy, Benjamin Franklin’s “A Republic, if you can keep it” has run out of steam. It won’t be called that, but my President and heirs will be in power for decades. In a Presidential election, the Electoral College vote prevails under the U.S. Constitution, as in Bush vs. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000—FL recount.)
If it hasn’t already happened domestically from unemployment fall-out, the 2020 pro forma election that I expect will likely cause unrest. That unemployment alone can do it has been demonstrated globally. “…[P]rotests and looting have broken out amid frustrations from lockdowns and worries about hunger,” from “135 Million Face Starvation. That Could Double.” The New York Times print edition (April 22, 2020, p. A1.)
Those of us who voted for the right ticket in a way that is easily proven (e.g., mail ballot) will be spared various indignities. Of those who did not, essential workers will be yielded slack, and some will be pulled in as “family.” Much will go on as we were in 2019 used to–“the torturer’s horse scratching its innocent behind” (W. H. Auden regarding Icarus,) but certain freedoms will be by dissenters mourned.
Even as a deeply religious person, life-long, I certainly often resonate with the mood of “O Fortuna!” In Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and to Voltaire’s Candide as well. G-d may well be an absentee landlord.
There is the response to arrive of those in high socio-economic statuses: the deaths of despair (as studied by Anne Case and Angus Deaton) that have hit white men without a baccalaureate in recent years will shift to include those in high SESs, both males and females, and of all ages. How do we engage, as it were, folks in Auschwitz (as many feel equivalent agony) given the solitude of social distancing in the pandemic, augmenting the financial [don’t forget the supply chains,] and what I expect to become the political, shocks? The cumulative stress of all just cited is Auschwitz-equivalent tenor. I firmly contend that each one of us experiences the same third-degree stress in life, because those who had led a cushier life have not developed adequate coping resources.
Myself, I find “searching for meaning in life” as per Dr Viktor Frankl1 to be the view from a satellite. Whereas, on the ground, a person only searches for relief. Beauty can be the distracting agent, a target of focus (in meditation/prayer) can be it, or simply the shift from one torment to another can turn off the pain receptors for a brief instant. I think that the very physiology of the human organism should be attended to in its thrust to continue life. That pulsation should be amplified as psychotherapy.
I have great advantage in the current sheltering-in-place, being used to the home bound life. I solve one problem that had seemed overwhelming, and am Truly Happy for even weeks, before another hijacks my anxiety proclivity.
While the plague was just beginning to hit the USA, I found it hard to focus. For several weeks, I tried to supplement REM sleep with cogitation to process the dangers. For me, this occupied February and a bit of March. At this point I can sew and read and, of course, cook and manage my affairs. Now more than ever, I mainline Nature.
When life hands you lemons, you have two choices: concoct a beverage or suffer. The roll of the dice is immutable. How you respond—internally and in action—is up to you. To the extent that you limit your complaints, you will bring a measure of contentment to those around you as well. As an adult (unless psychotic), your degree of vulnerability is within your control, always. It’s vital to organize Plans B for the most fundamental needs that you have—certainly for a roof over your head and for medications and medications management if applicable. If you continually attend to moments of relief, and possibly add on a habit of noticing times when you can feel grateful to the Universe or G-d, you likely will be happy much of the time.
May you find your own solace.
Frankl, Victor E., Man’s Search for Meaning (Original English title was From Death Camp to Existentialism) (Boston, MA: Beacon Press paperback, 1959 to 2006.)