Corona Blues

We’ve entered the mental health stage of the crisis.

The Korea Times reports that there is a wave of “Corona Blues” and says “many people are seeking psychological counseling due to anxiety about the COVID-19 outbreak here, according to the state-run trauma center.”  Kwak Geum-joo, a professor of psychology at Seoul National University, says that “the coronavirus epidemic causes social panic, which is the state of a community group reacting negatively to unexpected changes in society. If you keep thinking about the issue, your anxiety and distrust of people will only worsen.”

Not thinking about the virus isn’t really much of an option but one must avoid fixating on the bug. If you wish to lessen your anxiety, perhaps turning to the exciting world of American politics will help you . . . On second thought, maybe not that.

This anxiety is some real shit. Not just anxiety about catching the bug. It’s not always or even typically that direct. Just as often, it’s just the basic stress of uncertainty. The stress of watching your life falling apart in slow motion, having no idea where the pieces are going to land, while you quietly go to seed in your apartment. There’s a stress of doing nothing.

Even when you’re supposed to do nothing, when nothing is the best thing you can do, nothing is hard to do. One way in which the response to this situation could be improved is by providing some way to let people actively help each other. This is tricky because we have to increase social distance but it’s necessary. And I don’t mean just donating money. One wants, needs even, to help in ways that are a bit more active and personal. Something that feels more involved than hitting a button on a machine. I’d like to be able to get a bunny suit and start scrubbing something, you know? Put me to work in our collective struggle! PLEASE!!!

There’s also the financial and employment based strain of this anxiety. That anxiety is everywhere. Whatever you or I or anyone is going through on the money or job front, someone else is going through much worse. Just about everyone is going through something. But I hesitate to call this psychological. Like most economic and workplace issues, that’s a form of stress that should be dealt with in reality rather than through psychological adjustment. Bad feelings can be normal responses to real shit. The problem isn’t in the feelings but in the reality. We need solutions to that situation.

In the meantime, the good news, I guess, is that this misery is basically shared. Is that good news? I don’t even know. I’ll take it. We can get through it together, I hope.

But, even without being in quarantine, the anxiety and stress of this entire situation is constant and erosive. There’s articles out there that pretend this stress is over-reaction.

One example of this exciting new genre, which I won’t even dignify with a link, claims that “You Already Live Under Quarantine.” Why? Well, we already spend so much time on our couches watching Netflix and ordering food. This is the sort just plain dumb horseshit that only some sort of academic, who has never been in anything like quarantine could even think, let alone write down. It’s also further evidence that writers should very rarely be allowed to have opinions on anything but especially on life, which they seem to know very little about. Claiming that you’re already adjusted to this situation is like claiming that the people on a quarantined cruise ship are simply having a longer vacation.

It’s okay to be stressed. It’s okay to have some anxiety about this situation. Stress and anxiety are not an excuse to go grab the torches and pitchforks but you are allowed to have these feelings. Just not too many of them. We’re all trying to get along here. Everyone is having these feelings. You’re going to have feelings and you have to deal with these feelings. You sort of have to treat them before you get them. Prevention where possible. Modification when necessary.

On the practical front, the idea that you can just watch Netflix until this goes away is straight trash. It’s just bad advice. For starters, have you seen Netflix? It’s kind of shit. Like, what a total festival of mediocrity. The other thing is, you –at least, I– get antsy staring at that screen for too long. You want to do it for days? That will fuck you up. You’ll start feeling like you’re totally going to seed. This will make you anxious. This will fuck you up.

You’ve got to think of other ways to amuse yourself. You need to give yourself challenges. Like Edward Everrett Hale said in his story, The Man Without a Country, “every man should have a diversion as well as a profession.” If you find yourself in this situation, and you don’t work from home, you might only be left with your diversions. You may need to invent professions. Having a challenge, no matter how dumb, helps your state of mind.

The challenge might be doing a set amount of exercise. It could be learning to Samba. It might even be, God help us all, reading an entire story by Edward Everett Hale. But one of the best ways to make yourself feel a bit better is to challenge yourself with something.

For example, my dear wife seemed a little bit blue yesterday.

Now, I’m going to speak to the young men here, so ladies, please look away for a moment and plug your ears. This doesn’t concern you. You can pick up again after the italics, if you so wish. Are you looking away? Good. Young men? Paying attention? Good.

Fellows, when I was a young man, maybe even younger than you, I sort of bought into that whole story about how mysterious women are. I mean, it’s a thing you hear all the time. You can’t understand them, so on and so forth. I’m sure you’ve heard it too.

Thing is, it’s not really true.

Generally, the moods of women are easily noticed –a woman laying on the ground and moaning for example, may be feeling a little upset– and, quite often, these moods can explained. In many cases, these moods have been caused by something we’ve done. What may appear as moodiness is often the face a woman makes when she’s engaged in a heroic struggle not to stab us up and leave us to bleed out. But, as nice and rewarding it is to blame ourselves, women do have their own moods and reasons for them too.

For example, in this case, I hadn’t done anything wrong. My wife was just experiencing some perfectly understandable anxiety and boredom. I noticed it when she said to me “I’m so bored and I’m experiencing some anxiety” and I thought, “that’s perfectly understandable because I am feeling much the same way.”

Without getting too gender essentialist about the whole thing, I like to think that I’ve learned a few things about women over the years. I’d like to share some of this with you as I think it may be of some benefit and I wish someone had of told me. Keeping in mind that this stuff is all very general, here are the main things I’ve learned about women:

A) Women are very hungry. You might be surprised how hungry women are. They are very hungry. I cannot emphasize this enough. HUNGRY! I really suggest that you learn to cook.

B) Women are incredibly morbid. Women spend a surprising amount of time (maybe not so surprising if you stop to think about it) thinking about murder and also how to get away with murder. In my experience, women typically like shows about murder, or horror shows, and, if not those specific things or in addition to those things, they are also into some shit that will just plain break your mind and send your fragile little soul scurrying back to its man-cave, where you can pretend to be brave. I’m telling you – they are MORBID. That sugar and spice thing? Not true. You think men were buying all those books about Jeffery Dahmer in the 90s? I’ve got some news for you. Your girlfriend knows how to dispose of your body.

C) Women have excellent taste. This is a bit more general but if only men like a thing, it’s probably a bad and stupid thing. Things that only men like are terrible. They will embarrass you in ten years. Things that only women like? Men will probably like it too in ten years. This goes for music, shows, people, all of that. If it’s a thing women like, it’s going to be a cult classic. If it’s a thing men like, it’s Limp Bizkit. Assign their opinions a disproportionate amount of importance on matters of taste. They’re probably right. You probably just don’t know it yet. Like don’t even bother thinking anymore. Don’t argue. Just listen.

And the final one is this:

D) Women want to put makeup on you. I do not know why this is. I have just found it to be true. They really like putting makeup on you. Like, don’t get me wrong, they don’t want to do your makeup every morning or whatever, but, as a treat? They are into it.

Having now benefited from my experience, what should you do if you’re looking to cheer your special lady up? (Assuming that it’s not just a matter of stopping doing whatever idiotic shit that you’re doing at that moment or in general and apologizing for all of that and never doing it again.) Did you say cook a good meal, ask her to choose what murder show or open heart surgery live-feed she’d like to watch during dinner, listen, and, then suggest that she put makeup on you? That’s right! You’re learning!

Okay ladies, welcome back. Sorry about that.

I’ll pick it up where I left off. My wife was a bit blue yesterday. It was the normal stress and anxiety associated with this situation. The Corona Blues. I suggested that she put makeup on my face. There likely ain’t no cure for the Corona Blues, that seemed to help.

Of course, she had a lot of complaints about my face. More complaints than my mother even, and Mother was so distressed by my “nasty little fangs” and “rat-eyes” that she made me wear a bag over my head for six straight weeks in the eighties.

You’re probably picturing a paper bag. You’d be wrong.

But whatever sort of bag Mother put over my head and whether this bag was filled with bees is beside the point. The point is, you need to find some way to challenge yourself and keep yourself busy. The situation is on one level normal but it is ultra-normal. It is stressful and boring and that’s okay. I’m sure caterpillars feel the same way. And many of them are eaten by birds! So what did they ever have to worry about anyway? Not much as it turns out.

But these blues? They are legitimate, they are allowed, and it’s okay to feel this way. You’re not crazy and you’re not alone. We’re in the shit, yes, but we are in this shit together.

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