This blog post is adapted from a paper written by UsagiMed’s Lynn Hubbard.
The prolonged uncertainty and anxiety drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in substance and alcohol abuse, with the CDC reporting in June 2020 that 13% of Americans claim starting substance use as a way of coping with emotional weight related to COVID-19. While COVID-19 cases in the U.S. seem to be dropping, the aftermath of the pandemic still impacts us, especially those struggling with addiction. From closed businesses to lost loved-ones, substance abuse is another far-reaching effect of COVID-19 that has changed lives across the United States.
What if I told you that you could punch COVID-19 in the face?
COVID-19 has been in the United States for at least eleven months now, and we don’t know when this nightmare will be over. But what if I told you that you can help the United States to get “back to the new normal” faster? If you’re reading this blog post, you probably already volunteer with an anime convention. You know all about how to put on a large event and keep thousands of folks moving and grooving all day and all night. So helping to get shots into the arms of 500 to 10,000 people? That’s small potatoes for you.
That’s right. You can help with vaccinations. Hear me out:
How Could Something So Cozy Be So Dangerous?
Here we are in early January of 2021, and the hangover from the 2020 holidays continues to darken our skies. People have grown tired of the 3 W’s: Wearing a cloth mask, Waiting 6 feet apart, avoiding close contact, and Washing hands frequently. Instead, people travelled far and wide to see their loved ones for the holidays, gathered together for meals and lodging with folks they didn’t live with, and didn’t wear their masks. “What could be the harm? It’s just me making this trip the one time.”
The problem is that most people don’t know they’ve been infected with COVID-19 for several days, during which time they are infectious. And humans believe in patterns – if someone has managed to evade the virus for 9 months so far, they may think they are somehow safe now. But the risk has only been going up and up as the prevalence of COVID infection increases. The days are short, the weather has been inclement, and folks don’t want to only meet up outside. They want to celebrate together, and with Americans, that often means food. Food means removing your mask to eat, often sitting down in one place for a while. How could something so cozy be dangerous?
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the con,
No anime stirring, no art was drawn;
COVID-19 hung over everyone there,
We dared not stir–too deadly to share;
Our people were nestled in costumes they made,
Disappointed pandemic had squashed what they played.
I was going to write out an entire poem like this called “A Visit From Totoro” about COVID avoidance tips for the holidays. But then I read a headline about the Yankee Candle company being bombarded with negative reviews because people are claiming their candles have no scent, and I just couldn’t do the poem thing, anymore. (Loss of the sense of smell is an early sign of COVID-19.)
Look, I know the holidays demand a certain kind of attention and energy. I know people expect that holiday gatherings should happen. That the whole gift-giving and food-sharing thing is a matter of strict tradition. And while I know that a lot of families out there played it safe, it seems clear that a lot of them did not. We should all find this frightening and saddening.
This piece was co-authored with Jennifer Clark, LMSW.
Ah, the Holidays. The “Silly Season.” I do wonder how much more mad the regular holiday madness will be as we continue to contend with issues of COVID-19 and other global stressors.
Pandemic puts a big magnifying glass on existing stressors. The frustrations that one normally feels–the family stuff, all the feelings of sadness, loneliness, or grief–all of it is likely to feel worse than usual. I’m not telling you this to induce despair. I’m telling you this so you can be ready and rationally know that what you’re feeling is likely normal, and that there’s actually less reason for despair than you want to make yourself believe.
But, the Silly Season being what it is, some of us will simply have a harder time of it than others. Seasonal Affective Disorder may kick in, further complicating things. So here’s what I’m asking you to do: