If you made it through the first two parts and still walk the land of the living in corporeal form then congratulations! Even better if you managed to help out friends in trouble. With our first Pandemic in living memory stacking up the bodies there are a lot of people who will have a hard time coping with the loss of many things they took for granted, and as a result their sense of self is undermined. This is especially true if they bought into the system extra hard. You know the type.
It might be difficult or impossible to physically check in on vulnerable people that you might know. Heck that is usually the case with our normal busy lives, but now is a very important time to put up your antennae and see if you get the kind of vibes from members of your crowd who could be walking the line. Likewise it is critical that we keep a watchful eye on our own emotional states since it is all too easy to get hit by a wave of unpleasant feelings once something shakes our foundational belief that everything will work out okay in the end.
The most important thing we need to keep in mind is that humanity has been through all this before, and we have always come out the other side more or less intact. So put those scary zombie horde fantasies aside for now, pull up a chair, and let us come up with some ways to cope with those depressing thoughts and worries that often pave the way to premature dirtnapping.
There are literally thousands of ways to start training your body and get your emotional self in shape as well. One of the best I have found is Yoga, which really has a lovely way to breaking into old emotional patterns that have long outlived their usefulness yet insist on tagging along in our bodies and draining our energy.
Sound too hippy dippy? Lift weights! Punch a something inexpensive that won’t break your hand. Practice with a weapon (in a safe way of course that takes into consideration your surroundings and others in proximity). The point is to create movement.
Look at it like water. Your body is made up of 95% water or something like that. What happens to water that sits around and does not move? It gets stale and full of sludge, especially if there is a lot of contamination taking place. Your job is to bust the sludge and get things moving before making any long term existential choices.
There is no way to prove this as far as I know, but my guess is that people who attempt suicide and immediately regret it suddenly realized that a shot of adrenaline to get things moving makes life seem slightly less terrible. On the other hand risk taking behavior is also a sign that someone is having a difficult time, so if you are already overdoing it then it may be time to look into some professional help.
The risk takers are at least dragging it out a little longer, and are at a slightly less precarious situation than the near catatonic despondents. It is a step in the right direction, especially at a time when professional mental health services are not available like they usually are. Assuming that those services are still a thing where you live.
Ease up on the Party Time
There is also a version of suicide that drags itself out over years, and that is alcoholism. Few alcoholics would consciously mention that they are trying to kill themselves, because death is scary, so they take the slow way.
Booze can be a real lifesaver during a shelter-in-place event, but the bad habits are very easy to build upon. Demons-be-quiet-juice can change our personality in very unfortunate ways if we allow ourselves to overindulge and/or use substances as a crutch for coping with uncomfortable emotional states. Same goes for cannabis, although smoking yourself into oblivion is much easier on the liver. Lung cancer may get you, but pot is still relatively harmless compared to most of the other chemical alternatives people use to escape the uncomfortable confines of their mentally miserable meat suits.
Time in Nature
This is my favorite. It is one of the things that really turns my head around when I start wallowing in a fetid pool of the grumps. If I fell angry I pull weeds. If I feel hopeless then I plant seedlings. If I have some heavy heapings of bovine excrement tying up my noodle then it must be time to make compost. If I am feeing worried about the future then nothing feels quite as reassuring as harvesting something from nature and turning it into a delicious meal. Some people schedule their farmy time according to profit cycles, but I leave a little bit of wiggle room for my emotional states to decide the best plan of action for the day.
Lisen to Music
There is literally so much good music out there waiting to be discovered than it is impossible to get to all of it in a single lifetime. On the other hand there is a whole lot of bad stuff that you have to wade through to get there, but hey that is a great metaphor for life, yeah?
I like to cruise Bandcamp looking for cheap good tunes, with emphasis on cheap, and turn it into a mission of discovery. Panning for gold would be an appropriate comparison. Lots of garbage needs to be sorted through, but it feels really good to have a private dance party to some thumping tunes that barely anyone else knows about. Plus when you hit a vein of the good stuff it can change your life in very positive ways.
There is a reason so many sad love songs are on the radio. When people are in a bad mood they like to listen to sad music, and it puts a little sweetness into the bittersweet. The last thing you want to hear after a breakup is the song Happy. Of course with its decending chord progression it creates the opposite effect of Happy, which makes it kind of creepy and ironic if you think about it.
The point is that straying away from the Clear Channel approved programming is an exciting adventure that will inevitably do your tastes a world of good.
I had not grinded Bass guitar in years, but recently I felt compelled to pick one up and it really blew my mind the quality of instruments these days for the price point. You can literally get a cheap knockoff of a multi-k guitar that sounds 3/4 of the way to the original. That goes for a lot of other instruments (although not all) as well. Practicing daily and seeing your own progression is a great reminder that life is a lot like learning to play an instrument. Most of the time our failures are more about getting practice, and if we stick through it and try to figure out the lesson then we can see some of our most difficult challenges actually make us stronger better people.
I saved this one for last because, like the adrenaline shot, it is a very sharp double edge sword. Gangs, cults and terrorist organizations have a much easier time recruiting the malcontent, and doubtless there are many among their ranks who would not be around without their passion for the cause. But just because shoe bombers exist does not mean you should avoid being critical of the way the people in charge often seem totally corrupt and incompetent.
Donald Trump has a lot of anti-fans that loathe him, but sometimes it makes me wonder if that hatred is part of what keeps blood pumping through their veins. Decades of neoliberalism have flushed our standard of living down the toilet resulting in a sky high suicide rate, but Trump does seem to attract an unusual amount of positive and negative attention that distracts people from the misery of their own lives. In that sense he may be the perfect President for the times. Just don’t tell Auntie Becky I said that.
Local politics is where it’s at if you actually want to make a difference. There are so many groups and committees and organizations to join that once you sign up for something you care about it is difficult to NOT build a network, and our networks are critical for getting through difficult times. Plus you get to externalize some of that frustration and take it out on The Man. It’s okay. He has it coming.
Seek Professional Help
This article series assumes that either you do not trust professionals or they are not available to you. We like to think we can handle everything ourselves, but if your house is on fire do you pull out a garden hose and wave off the trucks with the flashing lights?
Our minds can seem incredibly strong and yet so delicate at the same time and the honest truth is that i can be difficult fo find a quality professional shrink. A lot of them seem more interested in collecting copays and pushing medication than helping people move on from trauma, and if you live in a small town or a poor community then you might not have any other options. Thanks to budget cuts that is the state of mental health services these days, and judging by the massive mismanagement of our healthcare system I do not expect it to get any better.
What we do have are suicide hotlines staffed with people who care enough to break through the ice to those who are struggling and need to reach out to someone. A lot of them are staffed with volunteers, which means they probably do not have the same level of education as the professional prescription pushers, but it also means they are less likely to be jaded and can direct you to other resources besides the local pharmacy counter. Some people do benefit from medication, but most of us would probably be better off talking with actual human beings rather than pointlessly boosting big pharma profits and contaminating the ground water with streams of NSAID-laced urine. If that sort of carless pollution and profiteering seems unacceptable to you then please see the Getting Angry section above. The world could really use your help.
I am debating making a Part Four as well, but it will have to do with practical applications. My concern is people who are having trouble coping who should not continue on to that part. It is more for the kind of scenario where a zombie hoard is tearing down the door and you only have one bullet left. Maybe it’s better to hold off on that idea for the moment, at least until this whole lockdown thing is over.
In the meantime I will leave you with the immortal words of Winston Churchill. If you are going through hell, keep going.