In Search of Effective Coping

a potted plant growing towards the light
Image by Brian / CC BY

What can I say about 2020? Not a lot that hasn’t already been said. If I’d tried to explain the past few months to my former self, I don’t think I could have possibly understood. I’m not sure I would have been able to convince myself that it would unfold the way it has.

It’s unbelievable. There’s a joke going around that if 2020 were a television show that the writing staff would be fired. Because it’s just not plausible that so much would happen at once. Onset so suddenly. And persist.

On top of the pandemic, economic recession/depression, and civil rights protests, I’ve personally experienced an additional stressful event. A month into the pandemic, my father went into hospice and passed away two days later.

It’s been a rough spring. And now it’s graduated into a summer that looks like it’s going to be just as rough.

It is frankly exhausting, both what I’m going through and watching other people struggle with their own battles. And I’m finding that a lot of my normal coping just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Some Coping Isn’t Readily Available

Some of my normal coping isn’t readily available at the moment of course. I think instantly of public social gatherings that provided comfort, that I used to take for granted. Now, such affairs need to be quite sparing and protection worn.

Face masks save lives, although some are loathe to wear them. They cite (unwarranted) fears about de-oxygenation (if masks actually endangered people in this manner, physicians and nurses would suffer incredibly bad health effects from surgical mask use, and they simply don’t).

But really, I think what mask-phobes are pushing against is accepting that things aren’t normal. The mask reminds them that these are not safe times. Instead of accepting this, many would place themselves and those around them at increased danger, so they can feel a false sense of safety.

I’ve noticed that some who pushed places to reopen are bitterly complaining about being required to wear a mask there. And I suspect that these issues are in play. That they’d rather have the illusion of safety — of normalcy — than safety itself.

Reopening to them meant they could cope as normal, but regulations sabotage their coping, because they’re reminded that things are not normal and the best we can hope for is a new normal.

Other Coping Isn’t Working

Further, I’m finding that other ways that I normally cope that are still available simply aren’t working.

When my father first passed away, I was hit with a profound wave of anhedonia — i.e., a complete inability to feel pleasure, no matter what I did. Thankfully, that passed after the first few weeks. But I still have periods where I find that things that used to reliably give me joy fail to deliver in the moment that I need them.

I’m also finding that talking with friends isn’t as helpful as it used to be. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because the problems I have aren’t ones my particular friends can help me with. Or if this is again, a sign that what I’m coping with is too much to be tackled by regular means.

For a while, I did find solace in food. I’ll be real: After my dad passed, I ate my feelings for a solid month, sat in one place, and barely moved. And then one day, I discovered a disconcerting twinge in my back that undermined the stress relief effects of such a program. I started on a regular exercise program and then a few weeks later began to control my food intake.

I do have more energy as a result, and the unwelcome twinge seems to have slunk back into its hidey hole (hopefully to stay from whence it came, provided I keep on my program, which I plan to).

But I do struggle with sadness over losing the one coping mechanism that was working, ever so briefly. Emotional eating isn’t an adaptive way of coping, but it was something.

In Search of Effective Coping

What I have left is writing. This includes private journals, public blogging, and the slipstream mysteries I’m working on.

As I wrote in a former post:

For me, writing has always been a form of coping. A way of getting through life. Of finding something to do with extreme emotional sensitivity that otherwise had no other safe place to go.

Now, the nice thing about that is sometimes while you’re making something to cope with your emotions, you will produce works that you can share with other people. That will entertain or amuse them. Or help them cope somehow themselves. So then you share it.

But most of the time, you keep it to yourself.

And for me, it’s never originated from a place of self-love but of self-survival, although I suppose others might round self-protection and coping up to self-esteem or self-love. Not me though. To me, they feel different. Distinct. I don’t love myself, although I am compassionate towards myself.

I cope when I write. That’s about the only thing that’s working. And what I’m noticing as I write — as I cope — is that the writing is raying out in a certain direction, guided by a subconscious that is in search of effective coping.

Because I wish I had more varied forms of coping at the moment, but I’m down to the wire now and am happy to have anything at all.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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