By Victoria A. Schmidt
Depression and anger are little-discussed side effects of COVID. We would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to have had a least a small bout of depression during this time. As independent people we were not prepared for this in any way. Now, I’m not talking politics in this piece, I’m talking about human nature. We have never gone through anything like this. Before, we could get up in the morning and choose our day. We could go anywhere, do almost anything we wanted to do. Suddenly we were invaded by a rapidly spreading, invasive and potentially lethal virus.
It changed everything. For every inhabitant on the planet. Overnight, we were faced with decisions we never had to make before. Is it as bad as they say it is? Is it real? Are people overreacting? Each day seemed to bring more bad news. Do we stay? Do we go?
Then came the lockdown. Suddenly other people were making decisions for us. You can go here, but not there. You have to wear masks, use hand gel, and distance yourself from strangers. It was difficult for those making the rules, and difficult for others to follow the rules.
We started the lockdown thinking it wouldn’t be for long. And now that it’s six months later, the questions keep coming and we are still under restrictions. The public is pushing to “get back to normal,” while the governments are trying to push ahead.
But the problem is that the virus keeps on. Different doctors and scientists are researching this elusive virus. New symptoms are being discovered, testing is still developing, and we all anxiously await a vaccine. But when there is one, can we trust it?
These issues cause problems, physical, psychological, and economical. I cannot cover all these issues in one editorial. But I want everyone to realize as we move forward, while these issues DO affect everyone, we all deal with the challenges differently.
Some become angry and rail at their circumstances; their normal behavior may change to less understanding and more aggressive. Others may become depressed and more resigned. And don’t forget, depression is anger turned inward. For those who live alone, loneliness may be the most challenging side effect. And for those in the more vulnerable groups, the elderly and medically compromised, running errands and keeping appointments have become very real danger zones.
Older people living alone seem to have more difficulty caring for themselves. Especially if they don’t cook, are financially challenged, or have memory problems. There are people getting sick, not because of the virus directly, but because they forget their medications. Having friends “check in” with them via telephone is not enough. Their decline may be slow. We need to check on each other physically. If you have an elderly neighbor who is living alone, help them. Check on them, see if they are getting out. Ask them if they are eating and staying hydrated. I know several cases of people who have been hospitalized as a result of their health deteriorating because they “decompensated.” One passed away from heart failure brought on by the absence of basic care.
Rest is a necessary component of basic health care. Make sure they are getting enough sleep. And don’t forget, if the person is sleeping too much, it can be a sign of depression. There are many therapists in the area who will take on clients, although waiting lists are common. But the best way to defeat depression is to establish a daily routine. Get up, get cleaned up, eat a good breakfast. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Spend time with your pets if you have them. Call your friends. Be sure to take your medications. Straighten up your house, make lunch . . . and eat it! Read, watch TV, spend time on the computer. Play games. Work on a long-unfinished project. Make sure you keep regular doctor and dental appointments. These types of activities are normal, and a routine will aid you in preventing depression. In our house we switch the TV to comedy to shift the focus from the doom-and-gloom broadcasts that run 24/7. These activities benefit the solitary elderly as well as those who are younger and partnered.
We can get through this if we are responsible about taking care of ourselves, and we can try to be there for each other. Practice safe visiting when you check on your friends and neighbors. Take along an extra mask in case they’ve misplaced their own, maintain distance, and wear your own mask while visiting. In other words, create a win-win environment for yourself and your friends, and we’ll all be around to welcome the brighter day when it arrives. Eventually. And it will.