Dealing with Depression and Anxiety During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The first three words of The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck are:  LIFE IS DIFFICULT.

I have always liked that statement because it tells us that no matter where we go or what we do in life there will be difficulty.  So many of us in America have grown up with relative ease compared to what many in our country and around the world have experienced.  Difficulty is a subjective term.

COVID 19 has created a new dimension to that word.  Being isolated, away from friends, family, work friends.  Losing the freedom to roam independently as we are so accustomed to doing has created so many difficulties.  It is estimated that over half of our population or are suffering from depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and anxiety.

Many who were already suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Compulsive Disorder, or any of the addictive disorders, Alcoholism, Drug abuse, or pornography abuse are suffering so much more than before.  An estimated 40% of these have relapsed in the past 90 days as COVID has gone from an unknown disease to the greatest killer of human life in our nation.

Is this normal?  Should we have expected this difficulty? Is there a way we can get back to some semblance of a normal life?  The answer is Yes, we can.

Let us first look at loneliness and solitude.  I have asked many for their definitions of these words and how they differ.  In order to find solitude, we need to understand that it is ok to be by ourselves!

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone

Solitude expresses the glory of being alone

I have a friend in a Federal prison who describes his feelings about these two terms.  He is an avid reader and prefers as much time as possible reading.  He is one of the most informed and intelligent people I know, simply having read thousands of books over the years.  He suggests he is never lonely when he has a book to read because it is that medium that takes him into a world where he is a part of something, a world of imagination.

There are many ways to stay in touch with friends and family, face time, google hangout, zoom.  All these allow us to use our imagination to find ways to not be alone.  I know of families who have meals together with tablets or phones standing up so everyone can see each other.  There are groups playing bridge, book clubs, Netflix discussion groups.  It is a choice to be lonely.  It is a choice to find meaningful activities.

As these difficult times continue, I will be posting a new series accepting where we are, called Here and Now.  Please check back next Wednesday for Part 1, be safe, take care, tell someone you love them.

Dr. Fred