I want to share my thoughts in this blog post about the new normal imposed on us by the coronavirus. Through conversations with my patients, I have come to appreciate how prior experience in managing emotional and physical vulnerabilities equipped some individuals to adapt better to self-isolation. For example, a young woman who battled an aggressive cancer shared that she has already experienced the conditions the rest of us are grappling with. She faced an unpredictable disease; she lived through the trials and tribulations of creating a germ-free atmosphere; and she came face to face with the possibility of death. Hence, the measures she took to protect herself and her family during this quarantine were easier to implement. Having lived through the ordeal of her disease, she feels much less anxious about hunkering down to confront this new challenge.
On a lighter note, I want to share another patient’s experience. I have worked with this woman for many years—she struggles with depression and anxiety. She has great difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. One part of her wants to get up and get going while another part feels angry about having to do anything she does not want to. Trying to manage her “inner Ike,” as she calls him (named after Tina Turner’s abusive husband, Ike), is a daily challenge. Understandably, a steady diet of this inner conflict results in self-loathing, hopelessness, and self-abuse. This patient’s method of coping with her emptiness and sadness consists of binge eating to numb the unforgiving, relentless psychic torture. She regresses into an old adolescent state during which she was unable to leave her house, go to school, or hold a job.
Consequently, during a recent online session, both of us laughed about how being sequestered was a blessing in disguise for her. She looked relaxed and happy. She said that she no longer suffered from her psychic cabin fever because everyone around her struggled with the same issue. She was relieved of the burden of keeping appointments and other commitments. Her torturous inner Ike was quiet. Her angst about measuring up and her crippling social anxiety was dormant. She felt free to enjoy her time and space as she pleased.
Those of us who use therapy to understand our deep-seated issues might be more capable of accessing a sense of solace and peace during a quarantine. Nonetheless, not being able to visit loved ones is heart wrenching. The dark clouds of fear and isolation caused by this pandemic may contain a silver lining for many of us. I encourage you to find yours and share it in the comments below.