Crying Alone in the Bathroom as a coping mechanism in the Pandemic

-“Doctor…Why didn’t we insist that he should get the vaccine—feel so guilty.”

Maria X. is a brave and tenacious middle-aged homemaker with a loving husband and two gorgeous teenagers, having worked tirelessly since they immigrated to the USA from Cuba in that infamous Mariel exodus. Since they arrived in South Florida, we have been good friends and they even visited our medical office several times.

Her husband, very confused by the false mantra of the social media liars and anti-vaccination wackos decided that they should all wait until the mRNA vaccines got the final expert approval to do the only know way to avoid disease: get vaccinated. They did observe the basic rules of Social Distancing and wore the needed mask. However, all those precautions were for naught as one of his store customers got infected with the dangerous Delta variant in early July and passed it on to him.

Yesterday I garnered enough courage to visit him in the Intensive Care Unit where he has been hospitalized for a week already, with plenty of machines whirring away. Heavily sedated, he could open his eyes to welcome me when the nurse told him. Deeply distraught, I went to the waiting area where his loving family had been keeping vigil day and night, praying to God Almighty and expecting a miracle. When his children saw me approaching, they raced to embrace me and cry in my arms.

After forty years of continuous and varied medical practice, I believed that there would be few things that could shake me to the very bone. I was wrong. That did. I tried to talk them out of their despair and re-assure them that there was still hope. Pushing away at an almost irrepressible desire to cry together, I did what most of us, physicians, have doing during this terrible ordeal. Stiffen my upper lip and carry on. After talking a few minutes with Maria in a discreet corner, I invented an excuse and promised them that I would return. I skedaddled down the hallway to the nearest bathroom.

I cloistered myself in the loo and slumped on a covered toiled seat. I welled up in earnest.

Note. This reproduction of Rembrandt’s Weeping Woman was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_A_Weeping_Woman.jpg

Ever since the sanitary facilities were invented in the nineteenth century, they have been used as a clandestine hiding place by women. But now men are catching up fast. The following text is an excerpt of my upcoming book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague.

—”Doctor…I hide in the bathroom—so my children can’t hear me cry.”

Susan X. is a nice, intelligent, and hard-working mother of a small child who must shoulder the entire burden of her household all alone, even though she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Her husband works as a salesman and has had a chronic back problem since he was injured in a previous stint as a truck driver.

Her family cannot help her economically but her mother pitches in occasionally. Oftentimes she puts her child to bed, finishes her household duties and, before her husband arrives for a late supper, locks herself in the bathroom to well up at ease. It is a simple ritual that gives her emotional relief. Crying alone in the bathroom.

The tried-and-true escape valve for women in angst. Like our mother Gladys did.

Modern women, who are employed full-time in demanding jobs, usually must return home to complete the house chores with little or no help from their live-in partners; to make matters worse they might not have the support offered by close family members or friends. In our hyper-connected age, where most of the rooms at home are taken over by the obnoxiously-pinging squatting devices, they must retrench to the bathroom—their “panic room” to do an exorcism of sorts.

Welling up, they slump on the floor and hug the cold toilet with passion.

Isn’t it sad that they had to anoint a disposal unit as a default confidante?”

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Anger Displacement as a coping mechanism in the Pandemic

The following text is an excerpt of our upcoming book Emotional Frustration- the hushed plague.

—”Doctor…when I get home, I can’t help lashing out at the kids—so bad.”

Verschiebung. This German term can be translated as “shift” or “move.” It was used by Sigmund Freud to describe a psychological defense mechanism; it entails the shifting or displacement of an aggressive emotion from an important person or object into other ones that are less relevant and often lame. [i] Our patient had many situations of Emotional Frustration in her blue-collar job with her despotic boss and his unreasonable demands but, being a single Mom, she hid her anger towards him and the system, fearful of losing her job in tough  times. Often, she scolded her children a little bit too much for just some obnoxious but inconsequential pranks.

This unconscious defense mechanism is an expression of what Freud dubbed as the mortido—our basic aggressive drive. There are three main mechanisms:

  1. Displacement of object
  2. Displacement of attribution
  3. Bodily displacements.

Unfortunately, as we slowly come out of our forced Social Distancing and we interact much more with other human beings, we are loaded up with stress and, as a natural consequence, we will have a shorter fuse, easily snapping away. We will have a hard time containing ourselves, even with an act of mea culpa [ii], if we allow our emotions to get the best of ourselves in the mad frenzy for survival.

Note. This reproduction of Un episodio de la Fiebre amarilla en Buenos Aires, the great painting from our fellow Uruguayan artist Juan Manuel Blanes, was taken from Wikimedia Commons. Even though it is shockingly gory to watch, it does convey the message that there are many dangerous things that we can bring home and affect our families’ well-being – the virus is just the most lethal.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juan_Manuel_Blanes_-_Un_episodio_de_la_fiebre_amarilla_en_Buenos_Aires.png

One of the most disregarded aspects of the Social Isolation that we have all been enduring for almost one year already is its serious emotional toll on us. Like the young women and men that went into isolation in a Florentine villa in the Decameron, those coming out of seclusion will not be the same ones that went in. There will be multiple changes in our societies, especially for labor opportunities. The economic analysts are already predicting that, besides the contraction of consumer spending due to loss of jobs, there will be a two-speed labor market.

On one hand there will be persons that can work at a distance, with little physical contact. But on the other hand, there will be those that will be dangerously exposed to contagion. This will bring a generalized angry mood in the street like we have never witnessed before. No longer will we be able to take for granted the barista’s familiarity when we arrive at our Starbucks; she might be too worried about being infected while mulling about her son’s day care. After her shift is over, she might be too stressed out to hang out with her girlfriends. A self-sustaining vicious circle.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

References

[i] Sigmund Freud, New Introductory letters on Psychoanalysis, George Allen and Unwin, London, January 1940,

[ii] This term in the Latin language refers to the ancient act of contrition of Christians in front of the Holy Cross when they beat up their chests while they publicly assumed responsibility for their sins or faults.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

Sexual Pleasure as a coping mechanism in the Pandemic

During the incredibly lengthy and tragic Pnndemic that we have been suffering from the worldwide Covid-19 infection, we have oftentimes discussed, in public and personal spheres, whether our sex life has improved or not due to the close proximity. The results are mixed, as many long-term happy couples have enjoyed it, while others with “less than friendly attitudes” toward each other have definitely hated it.

The fact that both members of a couple had to spend more time together at home has certainly frayed the nerves of all genders, as it always good to have “a little respite.” Now that the economy is slowly picking up in the USA, after the quasi-massive vaccination of almost 50% of the population and the corresponding lifting of the restrictive measures in public, many employees and professionals are reluctant to go back to the offices with the 9 to 5 presence. But others are only too happy to do it.

Of course the natural reaction is to ascribe this “enthusiasm to go back to the office” to Men, who were always looking for any kind of excuses to play “two-timing.” Even though there are not yet any reliable social and psychological studies about the changing dynamics of our (true) sexual lifestyles, there are some good indicators. One of them is that Women seem to be almost as enthusiastic to “hit the road again” to re-connect with friends, work buddies, etc., and pourquoi pas, a hidden flame.

One of the most radical aspects of the Pandemic’s aftermath is that Women, who have been bearing the brunt of keeping their homes functional under extreme duress, may no longer accept the same sex they used to. We discussed this in our new book Emotional Frustration-the hushed plague. We hereby present two excerpts from different sections of that upcoming book.

—”Doctor…Never had so many fab orgasms—not going back to same old.”

Wanda X. is a lovely middle-aged entrepreneur that had the misfortune of being surprised by the “staying at home” order in a business trip to a distant state. Fortunately, she had an old friend from college that gladly welcomed her to bunk. Unlike her, she was single and childless, which gave her a lot more sexual leeway.

One of the little perks of her friend’s lifestyle is to unabashedly recur to the use of a vibrator when she felt the irrepressible urge to satisfy her sexual desire. Reluctant at first, Wanda X. eventually relented, after a month of seclusion. Slowly she learnt how to handle it and at the same time learn more about her sexuality. When she would be finally able to return to her home, she is planning to sit down for a serious discussion with her partner. She will tell him that she is tired  of her culturally assigned role of a passive giver of love and that she wants the urgent addition of the role of active demander of love. Clear as a spring brook can be.

Note. This reproduction of Toulouse Lautrec’s Dans le lit- Le Baiser was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toulouse_Lautrec_In_bed_the_kiss.jpg

The same chronic anxieties pervading the workplaces may foster a creeping loss of libido and eroticism in many blue collars’ bedrooms. On the other hand, women with a “hot” privileged spot in the upcoming New World Order will be less amenable to passivity, demanding equal rights inside and outside the bedroom. Moreover, after months of this pandemic and its Social Isolation, our nerves are so frayed that we are seeing in our offices a rising number of patients sick with a depression associated with high anxiety—the Post Covid 19 Anxiety Syndrome.

Note. This reproduction of Gustave Courbet’s Les amants was taken form Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Courbet-Amants-Lyon.jpg

Has my world become dangerous? Will I keep my job? Will I find a partner? 

 Can I safely touch this person? Did I clean my groceries carefully enough?

We are just beginning to see (and experience) a radical re-engineering of erotic relationships.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Alcohol Abuse as a coping mechanism in the Pandemic

Did the Social Isolation during the Pandemic increase the use and abuse of Alcohol in the USA?

In a recent article of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Rita Rubin stated that the generalized decision to keep the liquor stores open in the USA during the worst period of the pandemic (wrongly considered as “essential businesses”) had the unintended but grave effect of increasing its use and abuse by many segments of our society. She said: “…the immediate effects of alcohol abuse patterns have been increases in alcohol-related emergencies such as alcohol withdrawal, withdrawal-related suicides, methanol toxicity, and alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.”

Moreover, the abuse of Alcohol might have worsened the clinical symptoms of the patients infected with Covid-19 because the virus impairs the normal immune defenses of the Respiratory System. an effect that the medical personnel treating the 1918 Influenza pandemic had already observed.

Note. This reproduction of Edouard Manet’s Un bar Aux Folies Bergères was taken from Wikimedia Commons.  

By Édouard Manet – Un bar aux Folies-Bergère d'E. Manet (Fondation Vuitton, Paris), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83676367

If women often have borne the greatest brunt of the social and economic consequences of the dire Social Isolation and changes in the work/study parameters of their homes, did they abuse it too? We do not have yet a much needed segmentation of the data in a published paper, but we guess they did. As the dynamics of Alcohol Abuse in Women is different, we would like to present an excerpt of our upcoming book Emotional frustration- the hushed plague, to start the discussion. Here it is:

—”Doctor…Got to have a shot before I go to bed…Can’t sleep if I don’t!”

Carol X. is a divorced middle-aged mother of three that looks much older than her chronological age due to her chronic abuse of alcohol and smoking. Paradoxically she kicked her husband out of their house due to heavy drinking but his bottle—a callous counsellor of sorts—stayed behind in a cupboard’s top shelf. Like for many women, it started as a self-medication for her resilient depression and insomnia, furtively used at home, without nosy witnesses; slowly she became hooked on that habit, even after having Detox and joining Alcoholic Anonymous.[i]

A study [ii] by the National Institute of Alcohol and Drug Abuse shows that 60% of US women have at least one drink a year; 13% of the latter group have more than seven drinks per week. This level is above the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” [iii], issued by the Health and Health Services Department.  Women’s bodies have less water than men’s ones, which makes it harder for them to disperse the toxic by-products in brain, liver, digestive tract, and kidneys. Even with small intakes, they are at a higher risk for car accidents and abuse.[iv]  Even though it is illegal in all states, underage women engage in it, especially in American colleges.[v] Alcohol temporarily blunts all the sensory input to the brain, which brings an illusory sense of relief; it enables the onset of the first superficial phase of the sleep process, but it decreases the duration of the REM phase. [vi]

References

[i] https://www.aa.org/

[ii] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

[iii] https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/

[iv] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Video presentation “Alcohol and the Female Brain”, presented by NIAAA Director Dr. George F. Koob, January 9, 2018.

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-and-female-brain-presented-by-NIAAA-director-george-koob

[v] “Are women more vulnerable to alcohol effects?” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, No. 46, December 1999. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa46.htm

[vi] Soon-Yeob Park, Mi-Kyyeong Oh, Bum-Soon Lee, “The effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep”, Korean Journal of Family Medicine 2015 Nov; 36(6): 294-299

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.