Prepare For Impact: The Only Way Out Is Through

I have been listening to a morning news podcast as I usually do, and today it was really scary. Every possible thing you could imagine was being threatened by the coronavirus. There was, of course, people’s health — not enough test kits, no vaccine, no coordinated response to it, hoarding of masks, and so on.

Then the people on the podcast started getting into the economic impact: The stock market is temporarily closed because oil futures plummeted 1500 points. People are being told to stay home from work. People can’t stay home from work if they want to get paid. They have to get paid if they want to eat. When or if the market continues its crash, what will the world economy look like. Nobody knows, but no one seems to think it’s good, except people related to the White House (and I assume they don’t either, really).

Putting those two things together, there are all the un-insured and under-insured in this country, who won’t be able to pay for treatment and who will do what they have always done: not get treatment. Plus, there’s what happens to society of we can’t get together in public. Politically, the reporters reminded us that all three Presidential candidates may have health affected by the virus. Congress is considering not meeting for awhile. Ted Cruz and another person who attended a conservative convention (CPAC) are now self-quarantining.

As a therapist, I see this type of problem all the time, by way of a metaphor. I have a client who has been mandated by his company to get treatment. He’s an alcoholic. I suggest to him three options: 1) Go to detox and deal with it fully. Start recovery with a clear mind. 2) Get antibuse, a medication that will prevent you from drinking by making you ultra-sick if you drink. This offers a steep learning curve for alcohol treatment. 3) Go to AA meetings and get support from other people. He has these three options. His company has given him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or be fired. I have offered him two ultimatums: 1) stop drinking or lose your job and the ultimate one: 2) stop drinking or die.

My client has had weeks to decide, and it looks like he has made attempts at all three. Has he stopped drinking? No. Why not? There’s always some technical reason. Besides, he’s … “trying” and it looks like he might get treatment. Has he gotten treatment? No. He has not. When pushed, he likes drinking and he can’t imagine the “boring” life without it. He’s depressed as well, so — to cope — he drinks, which makes his depression worse.

It is at this point that he has to make a decision, and it’s going to hurt. He has to decide for reality — a reality he doesn’t like. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if he likes it, though. It is still reality. This is the point that people in AA would say, “The only way out is through”. What they mean by that is that you have to face the problem, that your one coping mechanism doesn’t work, and the denial behind that one coping mechanism doesn’t work either.

We are a country that, in large part, is using coping mechanisms that don’t work.

  1. Many of us believe that having money solves all problems. As long as you’re rich, nature can’t get to you. This virus doesn’t know or care about your wallet.
  2. Many of us believe that power, in and of itself, can keep bad things from happening to us. Ted Cruz is a prime example that it is not true.
  3. Some of us believe that health insurance is not important. The sick among us know differently.
  4. Many of us believe that belief matters more than facts, that philosophy is more important than science. The problem is that the virus doesn’t care what you believe. It simply doesn’t. The virus doesn’t care what you post on Twitter or Facebook, what political party you belong to, or how much pretending you can manage. Wishing it were so, doesn’t, in fact, make it so. Facts are reality, whether we like them or not. We’ll have to get over ourselves.
  5. Many people believe that we are not connected to each other, and what affects someone else doesn’t affect us. When Bill or Mary can’t show up to their work, it will become clearer that that isn’t true. Even people in China, whom you’ll never know or meet, impact your life when they can’t go to work, or to the farm, or out of the house.

So, here’s the reality of our coronavirus: Some people are going to die — not everyone but some people are going to die. Quite possibly, a lot of people are going to die. It will hurt. The economy will hurt, possibly a lot. We will be different at the end of this than we were at the beginning of this, but we will survive. Even in the very worst case scenarios, 97% of us will survive.

Can you do anything about it? Like everything, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t.

You can control your own hygiene, and how contagious you are, with the knowledge we have. See the “Nurses Talk About Coronavirus” post from last week. Do what the nurses say. They live with it. I can, and do, trust them. If new knowledge comes up, we’ll update the page. Talk to your primary care doctor. Talk to someone at a walk-in clinic, but talk to someone you actually know and trust in real life.

Your local or state authorities can give you any information they have. As far as I know, you can trust them. That said, if you have reason to not trust your elected officials, don’t. Trust the World Health Organization for the large picture. They don’t care about American politics any more than any other country’s politics. The federal government, at least regarding this issue, and for the foreseeable future, is of no use. They will not be save us, because they can’t. They can’t decide about facts, they cant decide how to get the information, or how much they’ll share with us. Because they can’t do that, they can’t formulate a plan to deal with it. Because they can’t formulate a plan, they can’t deal with it.

For all of the reasons I have listed above about denial, our government — a reflection of much of our culture — isn’t willing to face issues around us. Until it actually does face up to those issues, there will be trouble. If it can’t choose between good options now, it (and we) will have to face bad options later.

So, in the end, what’s important? Money? Power? A certain political belief? individualism without apathy? A good fantasy life? No. What’s important in life, the illness can’t touch: facts, logic, people you can trust, and caring for each other, so that everyone has what they need. The only way out is through the crisis, armed with those things. Will it always work? Probably not. We don’t know what we don’t know. On the other hand, we definitely won’t survive without them.

Resisting with Peace,



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