This ain’t my first rodeo there cowboy.
For the last 14 years I’ve learned to practice keeping myself safe from germs with some success. However, try as I might, I’ve gotten some really bad bugs. Some of them made work a nightmare. Some of them knocked me on my butt harder than a punch to the face. Some nearly killed me.
Even though I’ve had a rough go from time to time and always seemed to survive, there was only one time that I was really scared. I know everyone is scared about the Coronavirus. I can’t tell you that, “everything is going to be alright”, or that “just do X and you’ll be fine”. All I can say is be careful with your words and seek some help.
My first quarter of grad school ended with a whimper. I had worked 60-70 hours a week every week that December as a manager of a watch store, taken a 0 in a class because of morals (different story for a different time), and had taken on $9000 debit in a student loan for only 1 quarter. When January hit i thought everything would get better. I took the quarter off and started reconsidering my life goals.
Two weeks in, my boss shows up to my store in sweats. To be clear, I had never seen him outside a suit and he never visited a store without calling first. The look on his face didn’t indicate a happy visit.
He sat me down and explain that he was there to permanently close the store. Even though I had met repeated sales goals, the profit wasn’t enough to keep the store alive. I later found out that the decision was made before I was even promoted to manager. Before I was allowed to collect my last paycheck, my last act was to let everyone go. Still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Less than a week later, the cold I thought I had, became something more sinister. I started coughing blood and could barely move. This would go on for another four months. I saw docs regularly and went into debt trying to figure out what was wrong. Meanwhile, I had to face a graduate board due to not meeting the minimum grades allowed for my first quarter. (3.9+0)/2=less than the 2.0 minimum. No job, no health, and my education was on the line.
I was alone, tired, and running out of money. Medical specialists started in with options and gave me various percentages of death. Go figure, lupus makes surgery even more dangerous.
Everyone has these kinds of stories. There’s nothing new or special about it. The only difference was that it was happening to me and I didn’t know what to think.
Right now, many people don’t know what to think. Some are throwing out advice like candy, some are profiteering, some are losing something/someone every day. For the most part, it seems that many are just scared. They don’t know what to think and only have ideas on how to react.
Right now, more than ever, I see people going through the 5 stages of Grief. They’ve lost their social interaction or way of life. Maybe they’ve lost their job or a loved one. No matter the case, everyone right now is losing something. In an attempt to move through the stages many have started expressing themselves online. Being Isolated, their normal conduits of social rhetoric are cut off. This has resulted in something quite dangerous.
While what I went through was tough, I did it alone. There was no one to share the grief, no one to listen. Right now we are all sharing in this grief together and your words are more powerful than ever. Your words can fall on deaf ears, help someone cope, or hinder some from getting better. My point, while you might be processing by expressing your temporary views online, you might be causing some permanent damage to someone else.
Whatever stage you’re in, avoid certain phrases. I’ll list off some that I’ve read on twitter and in blog posts to be used as examples:
Denial – “The virus is a good thing”, “The virus was sent by God to punish the wicked”, “Thinning out the herd”, “cutting out the fat”, “cutting out the dead weight”, “making people better”
Anger – Acts of violence against Asian Persons, “They deserve it for being XXXX”, blaming the government, blaming their university administrators, yelling, or getting aggressive with those trying to help
Depression – This one seems the most common and is very obvious. I don’t need/want to give examples.
Bargaining – “Maybe if I’m quick to my office”, “It’s just a few friends over”, “We’ve had this baby shower planned for months”, “If everyone just washes their hands”
Acceptance – “You should do X and everything will be fine”, “My life hasn’t changed a bit, don’t know what everyone else’s problem is”, “Look at all those idiots, don’t they know any better”, “We’ll all be just fine”(To be fair, this one could also be denial).
There are now more voices online than ever. Many of them are filling the feeds with advice on how to survive. I’ve been sick, without a job, going into debt, and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel more than once. Death is scary. Living with the consequences of circumstance are scarier.
While I have lived through disease, debt, and loss of control, I cannot tell you how to get through this yourself. I’m still not sure how I have survived. Going out for a walk or playing a board game is not enough to quell some people’s nerves. There’s only two bits of advice that I want to give you for the events right now and please take them with a grain of salt. First, be careful what opinions you share. Secondly, seek help.
I’ve already dove into some examples on grief sharing. Any one of those can incite someone else’s feelings and exacerbate them into something worse. You’re alone, you’re scared, I get it, but don’t let the voices in your head convince you that your feelings are good ones to have. You might just need to process. You might just need to get to the next phase of grieving. Don’t let your unprocessed feelings hurt someone else’s ability to come to terms with their loss. Find someone to confide in, if you need to share.
This is also a time where you should seek help without stubbornness or pride. Don’t let yourself disassociate or carry on like nothing is happening. Find someone to confide in. Find emotional outlets. Find the help you need and what works for you. If you don’t know what to do, consider counseling, meditation, or prayer to find options. If anything, don’t do this alone. I’ll help if you need it, but I’m not a psychological professional, but I do know how to find one.
I can only imagine what some people are going through. For many others, I’m reading about it every day. You’re not alone in the grand scheme. The worst part about being isolated is you feel that no one can help you process through your feelings. That’s just not true. However, don’t just jump online expecting others to understand. What you may feel as an appropriate feeling might just land you in a worse spot than you are currently in or you might hurt someone else.
I hope that you all get through this and are better for the experience. For those of you that have lost someone or something already, I’m truly sorry.
Thank you for reading. Like always I hope you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire (even though that has really been flipped up on its head right now). If you need anything, including an open ear, feel free to email me. We can set up a time to video chat. Otherwise, have a great rest of your week.