Pandemic

Ten days from now:

“What can I get for you?”

“Four Coronas with limes. We’re celebrating!”

“Oh, what’re you celebrating?

“The first human to human transmission of the coronavirus in the United States. We’re celebrating the beginning of the end.”

This hasn’t happened. Yet. Probably. Maybe. It will though. Any excuse to party, right?

I’m clicking on my news feed more than usual today. Initially, it was the Washington Post. I got a subscription for Christmas this year. I was consuming my news in soundbites and blurbs, and one day in late November, I realized I didn’t know anything at all.

tore-f-9OEDisIbOUM-unsplashThe Post was unsatisfying today. Because it takes more than fifteen minutes to write one of their articles, they don’t update their website frequently. I needed CNN. After scrolling through twenty articles about the impeachment—a story I can no longer follow because it makes me want to vomit—I found the coronavirus section. Stocks dive as fears over coronavirus spread. McDonald’s closes restaurants in five Chinese cities. Snakes could be the source of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Let’s start with that last one. Snakes! Why are we calling this ‘the coronavirus?’ Pandemics require distinctive names. Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, Ebola (the name of that virus is scary enough), all the way back to the 1918 Spanish Flu. In Stephen King’s epic good-versus-evil thriller The Stand, the pandemic was called Captain Trips. I think the media has squandered a rare opportunity. Snake Virus! It’s too late. Coronavirus, it is.

Pandemics and I have a history. Through the eighties and nineties, I read book after book about disasters decimating society. Earthquakes, asteroid strikes, I even read a series of books about the Rapture. But the pandemic books were always my favorite. Of course, there’s The Stand, but the best of all is Earth Abides by George Stewart—a new virus, sweeps the earth killing 99.9% of the population. The grand daddy of dystopian novels, written a half a century before ‘dystopian’ even became a reading genre. Earth Abides was published in 1949.

When the real pandemics of the third millennium arrived, I was terrified. I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When I was a kid, I had the stereotypical symptoms of needing to check the locks and lights a dozen times before bed. I wrote about that HERE. As an adult, my OCD is simply about obsession. Starting in the early 2000s, I worried about the coming pandemic. All. The. Time.

As the Bird Flu swept the globe in the mid-2000s, I stockpiled food in my basement. I purchased crates of surgical masks to protect my family and me. I insisted that we write a pandemic policy for my workplace (this demand was completely ignored by my boss). I even plotted moving because I knew the electricity would go off for good. Without running sump-pumps, our house will fill with water.

This was before medication.

In 2016, I started taking Risperidone to quell the unwanted movements and sounds that accompany Tourette Syndrome. It works, sort of. But it’s a freaking magic bullet for my OCD. Gone are the swirling thoughts that kept me up all night. Pandemics? Pish. Taking a walk with Susan last night, I talked about my recent interaction with the coronavirus. Sure, I’m curious, upset for its victims, maybe I’m a little wary, but I’m not worried at all.

I read the articles with the type of fascination I reserve for natural disasters—floods and fires in distant lands, disasters that don’t threaten me in any way. I told Susan I was worried that I must have lost my will to live. I can’t wrap my head around not panicking over the coronavirus. It took our entire walk for her to convince me that I’m finally viewing the unlikely scenario of global pandemic like everyone else. For the first time, I’m having a normal response to this news.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this coronavirus is a very big deal. I think the odds that it will explode into a global catastrophe are high. But I’m not losing sleep over it, and for me, that’s a happy change.

Photo by Tore F on Unsplash

26 thoughts on “Pandemic

  1. Fascinating perspective, not just on pandemics, but on your reaction to them, pre- and post-Risperidone. Also fascinating that a drug taken to treat condition A ends up also treating condition B, an unanticipated bonus.
    Reading about coronavirus (and I agree, they should have called it the Snake Virus) confirms my impulse to avoid going places where lots of people – many of them sick – congregate. Especially in winter. Thankfully dogs don’t transmit viruses to their people!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Risperidone isn’t made for Tourettes but somewhere along the way, they learned it helped. As soon as I started taking it, I felt relief from the OCD. It took me months to figure out what was different. At the same time, Risperidone was causing depression. My wife kept suggesting I get off of it, but I couldn’t see the depression because I felt so great without the OCD. Eventually, I understood the depression was present so I adjusted my dose. I’ve had a really nice couple of years as a result. Seriously life altering.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. That’s a really cool thing to celebrate, a natural response as you say. In this agitated era and with OCD, that’s a cool thing. Hear, hear.

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  3. I spend a lot of time in China, where I’ve endured the shocking reality of overpopulation, combined with abysmal general hygiene standards… and yet, I can fully relate to your rather relaxed stance on the nCoV epidemic. In your case, it’s with the help of medication. In my case, it’s from years of my senses getting relentlessly bludgeoned to the point of blissful numbness. Guess what? Your way is much better!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a dangerous thing, writing about something so terrible and suggesting I don’t care. The risk of alienating people is high. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a large Chinese city during healthy times let alone during a time of disease. I’m uncomfortable around a lot of people. From reading news reports, it’s clear that exponential growth is almost guaranteed, and at the end of my ten day window that I referenced at the start of story, this story, I’ll have a very different attitude about the coronavirus. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben was put on risperidone for a while. It seemed to help with his agitation, until he was unlucky enough to suffer the side effect of breast development.
    I’m glad its helping with your tics & keeping you from going to the bunker. I’ll bet it great to be able to joke about it instead of being freaked out.

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    • Yikes, breast growth? I didn’t see anything about that in my obsessive review of the side effects. I fell really fortunate to find a drug combo that works for me. I’m hoping it doesn’t change over time.

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  5. Nerd sidenote: it’s only called coronavirus because the virus itself under electron microscope has a crown-like appearance. Numerous upper respiratory tract infecting viruses are called coronavirus. This one just happens to be extra virulent and catching (haha, see what I did there?) media attention.
    Also, risperidone. Interesting. I always use tetrabenazine first line. Something to think about.
    It’s nice, not panicking. 🙂

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  6. That’s great, Jeff! Really cool to notice you are having a normal reaction to something you would have had a different reaction to in the past. I’m not paying any attention to the impeachment process either, but I am also not paying too much attention to the virus – I’m really just focused on where it’s at and how many cases (also thinking of those dystopian novels I enjoy as well). I guess I should be thinking of it more. When the swine flu was in full swing Bobby went down with the flu – hard. But the Dr.’s wouldn’t see any flu cases as they didn’t want you to bring the virus into their office. He was 6 or 7 and had it so bad I had to carry him from his bed to the couch or to the table he was so weak. I swore it was the swine flu – I had never seen a flu like that before. Anyway, these things are real and I don’t pay attention to them until it effects me, I guess, or has the potential to effect me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • God, that’s so scary. Eli got some crazy bacterial infection when he was a baby and spent several days in the hospital. Even though they told us he was in no danger of dying, we were so scared. I would have been freaking out if my kid got the swine flu. A kid in our day care died of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Living in New York City it is only a matter of time until the virus will arrive — if it hasn’t already by the time I post this. I tend to be fatalistic about things like this. I ride the subway, I touch equipment at the gym, I shop in crowded stores and walk on crowded streets. I go weekly with my husband to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he receives his immunotherapy cancer treatment. What is there to do but wash one’s hands and keep them away from the face? The only thing I allow myself — but try not to obsess over — is worry about my 16 month old grandson. But then I remember that he puts anything and everything in his mouth and its useless to worry. I guess I’m just a blasé New Yorker!

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    • I fully expect that in another 8 days, a map of the US is going to begin to light up just like the map of China. Nothing we can do about it obviously, so I think it’s better to just live our lives and deal with the illness when it arrives. Something somewhat ironic, all those surgical masks I bought during the swine flu epidemic… I threw them all away on December 31, just as the coronavirus was gaining traction. Ha.

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      • From what I’ve read the masks aren’t particularly effective, not tight enough, so no regrets! Better half and I will have news this week. Fingers crossed! Thank you for your best wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I am glad you are not losing sleep over the coronavirus and totally get the beginning of your story. Now. I was worrying that maybe you were drinking the beers.

    I am going to begin referring to it as the snake virus in your honor. Stay healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

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