Oppositional Feelings About Coronavirus: How Old is Elderly?

“Coordinating what has become a global fight…it means they’re ready for moments like this…” The music is dramatic and eerie and I’m thinking about how the news media can become one more thing to get us all crazy.

I know the corona virus is real. But at 74 (almost), I am warding off a sense of terror as I hear how the “elderly” are at risk. My husband is older than me, which must mean he is seriously old, and seriously elderly. But then again, I’m hearing the breathless melodrama of the voice of the announcer (I think it’s better for him that we not find out who he is and say his name out loud, unless he is auditioning for a horror film in the near future).

So there is the election or the Election, coming up in the same year as the coronavirus seems to be building either to be controlled or, what would make for more profitable terrorizing of the public, to spread and spread and engulf us and our lives, or you know, our no longer lives. I went to sleep just a few nights ago, without the stress of clocks changing yet, with worries about whether Bernie supporters would vote for Joe Biden and what I hope will be a woman Vice Presidential candidate (assuming Biden is the guy of the moment) and about the coronavirus. It was an interesting night, a long night that is, until I was able to get to sleep. You’re right, I’m feeling anxious.

One of my own relatives, a younger relative, looks at me with a serious gaze as he speaks to me about the danger to “older people” of the coronavirus. I shouldn’t get crazy, they say, meaning I shouldn’t over worry but then again, I shouldn’t ignore the threat. I should wash my hands while singing “Happy Birthday” which right now seems like I should be reminding myself just how old I really am.

Then there is the issue of older people with compromised immune systems. I had cancer and finished tamoxifen half a year ago, was told I was cancer free and didn’t need to return to the oncologist — ever. But I had cancer so does that fact mean my immune system has been compromised? I take allergy medication but haven’t had a cold in some time. What exactly does this mean about my respiratory system?

I also have the tendency to depression and am a deeply sensitive person. And truly this latter set of facts may threaten to compromise me the most as I begin to try to evaluate just how compromised I might be. My great nephew in Italy is a medical student and he says he feels everyone is overreacting. I don’t want to be one of the cavalier folks who think nothing is the matter to find out that an epidemic is suffocating larger and larger portions of the globe. I worry enough of the time about social and criminal and economic injustice, the children in Syria (and this part is not funny!) who are dying while we are eating our next meal and talking about the weather.

Or we are talking about politics. And now we, who usually are consumers of travel, good food, stocks and bonds, and self-reflection and attempts at emotional growth, are feeling how scary it is to risk the ongoing quality of life to which we have become accustomed. I wish this could humble us into empathizing more drastically with people generally less fortunate, hungrier and more terrified than we are. The tendency seems to be more that we distance ourselves from the people who are outside our immediate net. We get preoccupied with who caught the illness first, those who we suppose — or are tempted to blame for having caused all the damage of the epidemic. All this, as I sense and am getting scared that my fear is (and our fears are) being stoked by people who want our dollars and our attention to keep on giving us, not mere reports but outbursts of feverish nervousness.

I find myself wanting, and perhaps needing to become oppositional; it helps me at times. I got mad (finally) at how over empathic I was to my parents and how wrapped up I was in their dynamics even when it didn’t help them or me get better. I got mad after a few months of chemotherapy at how over friendly and chirpy some health care professionals were towards me during my chemo. Getting mad and disagreeable has helped me thrive on emotional levels, some of the time at least. It didn’t mean I stopped getting help or care or went against crucial and viable medical advice. It just meant I didn’t succumb to moods assigned to me by someone else’s agenda.

We — none of us — are immune to fear tactics. After 9/11 we were scared into a war in Iraq for which there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And I realize how fear is often used to terrorize people and convince them into the actions that are made to seem the only alternative. Or it is used to make us choose to vote for someone for President who promises he/she (let’s face it, he) is the only one to restore sanity. And it all winds up being insane, and we become insane or more insane with it.

I realize this is a rant. But I have always felt that taking some time out to rant and to rave, as long as it is not in front of children and doesn’t consist of lasting and damning actions and threats, can do some good. So, let me spew if you would: I don’t want to be labeled elderly quite yet. And I want the chance to evaluate, with help yes, my level of physical compromise. And I want to make guarded and careful and life affirming decisions about travel and about not yet stockpiling food, as one example of going into hiding.

I want to read carefully and listen to the reports about the coronavirus. But I also want to watch and listen for (and guard against) the music of horror in the so-called reports I am hearing. I don’t want my pre-bedtime moments or even my daytime moments to be filled with the manipulation of fear mongering by people who get more sponsors by keeping us hooked on terror instead of giving us a sincere mixture of concern and steadiness. (I do know, by the way, that there are choices here too and that some of the media has and will remain stellar).

Who knows but that I may be elderly; I have to google it. But I’m not yet helpless. And having a rant every so often may be a sign of feistiness and of life and of spice as much as anything else. I want to be part of the key decisions about my life even as I get to be that word — elderly. Another thing to obsess about.

Or I can just say that age is just a state of mind — as if that was ever true.

Nite for now.

A psychotherapist, a New Yorker living between Colorado and Italy (in good times) I am passionate about the role of emotions and awareness for evolving,sanity

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