Early in the summer I received an email from a frantic woman in Texas. She was halfway through reading my memoir about prescription med withdrawal-- Accidental Addict--and had to know, DEMANDED to know: Was I well? Honestly well? She needed me to answer her immediately or she just couldn't go on.
Of course I was happy and grateful to be able to deliver the prompt reassurance that yes, despite the desperate depths of my illness in those years, I am now fully healed, and she will be too, given time. In our subsequent exchanges, I asked about the state of the pandemic in her area. She thought the whole thing had been exaggerated, and she was out the door to meet a friend for lunch at a restaurant. I asked if she didn't find it pretty convincing that 60,000 people had died, the tragic number at that point. She didn't answer this directly, but in a later letter referred to my "fear of the Covid."
I wasn't afraid of Covid. I just believed it was real. And I've been determined from the start that I wasn't going to get it. I bring this up because it made me realize this was my first and only personal contact with a person outside the lovely bubble that is my own very blue Benton County, Oregon.
I'm proud to say we still have one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Why? Because we're a highly education and solidly Democratic population and nobody believed President Trump for one minute when he said we had nothing to worry about. We hunkered down immediately and when masks were shown to be helpful, everybody started wearing them. That's it. We are blessedly free of yahoos in jacked-up trucks, flying flags and Trump banners, mocking masks and calling people chicken for trying to keep themselves and others safe. In fact, my friends and I have noticed the handful of Trump lawn signs actually coming down in recent days.
As the lockdowns began in the spring, prescriptions for Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications soared, and I shuddered for those people who started desperately swallowing the poison. Of course Xanax helps immeasurably right this minute, and who hasn't been freaked-out over everything this crazy year has delivered? But I'm so hoping those folks stopped these meds after the recommended limit of two weeks and found other ways to cope; otherwise there is going to be hell to pay as a sizeable portion of our population who may have eluded or survived Covid now go into benzodiazepine withdrawal. Watch: It won't be long before people are posting reports that their benzo withdrawal is way worse than anything Covid anxiety or even Covid itself delivered.
A haunting parallel to the sufferings of benzo withdrawal are stories from the so-called Covid "long-haulers" who can't seem to fully recover. Neurological damage seems to be involved. The chronic fatigue and brain fog they report sound eerily familiar to benzo survivors and so much like what I went through after stopping Xanax. These victims of Covid are appalled to still be sick after three or four months. I was sick like this for several years. Not interested in a repeat.
Damage to my precious brain is nothing I care to mess with, and as much as I miss restaurant lunches with friends, it's simply not worth the risk to me. The silver lining here is that my "long-haul" recovery from Xanax served as training for this pandemic lockdown. I was actually more isolated in those times, being sick on my own, than I am now when everybody's going through this together, if separately. My self-care plan of yoga first thing every single day without fail etc. was already firmly in place when all this hit, and "working my program" while I feel perfectly fine as opposed to doing it while sick is a great contrast and serving me well.
The first order of business for our poor country is to get rid of a President who has made this whole thing drag on so much longer and be worse for so many people by insisting we pretend Covid isn't out there. If ever the expression "blood on his hands" applied, it's here.
My heart breaks for the elderly who are locked in solitude and dying of isolation so that Donald Trump can keep up the fiction of his thriving economy.
Special place in Hell for him, I think.
In the meantime, let's hunker down, wear masks, and get this over with.