Don’t Tell Me How To Cope With A Global Pandemic

Don’t Tell Me How To Cope With A Global Pandemic April 3, 2020

As with any crisis, the spread of COVID-19 across our globe has brought out the holier-than-thou en masse. All you have to do is take a quick scroll through your Facebook feed, and you’ll have no trouble finding someone telling you that your method of coping is unacceptable. Whether they are attacking the use of humour to get through this time of uncertainty or they’re suggesting that we must only share the good news and save the bad, they’re there, forcing their coping methods down your throat.

The thing that so many people seem not to want to see is that we all have our ways of coping. Even in my own home, we all deal differently. While my husband prefers to take his mind off what’s going on, I’m the complete opposite: I feel like absorbing as much information as possible makes me feel better equipped to handle what’s coming. I have my news running live on my second monitor as I work every day, and I’m constantly refreshing the numbers of COVID-19 cases around the world. I never miss my afternoon date with Dr. Bonnie Henry and her rockstar sign language interpreter, Nigel Howard.

My husband and I are dealing with this crisis differently, and neither of us feels that the other is doing it wrong. We are different people.

Some of the messages I’ve seen shared around social media are just straight up shaming.

For those of you who are suggesting we can’t make jokes about this epidemic, that dark humour is not a valid or moral way to cope: you’re wrong. Mental health professionals going back to Freud all recognize humour as an effective mechanism to cope with stress, and studies have repeatedly shown that those who deal with humour have found an effective way of reframing and normalizing their experiences. If you don’t have humour as a tool in your arsenal of coping mechanisms, that doesn’t mean that because I do, I am wrong.

And vice versa, just because I deal with humour, doesn’t mean you need to as well.

For the people who insist we only share the positive news, you’re saying this amongst many who prefer to approach the world with realism. You see, I get very anxious when I feel uninformed about important things. I feel as though, without all the information, good or bad, I cannot effectively tackle the problem. Facts and reality are my armour against catastrophe, and you’re telling me you think I shouldn’t have that armour because it makes you uncomfortable? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not me who’s created this situation. I am merely acknowledging it for what it is.

On the flip side, some people insist the only way to cope is to absorb facts. You information junkies have to recognize one thing: For some, information overload is a direct source of anxiety. They simply do not cope the way you do, and that is totally okay.

Some of us have found that we manage by helping and volunteering and donating, while others have found they feel safer focusing on their own family. Some need to talk it out to find emotional stability, and some prefer not to talk about the pandemic at all. Some people are filling their day with busy work, and some people fill their day just thinking and planning. Some of us miss socializing in person, and some of us don’t.

The bottom line here is that none of us have done this before. We’ve never been on global lockdown while our economy melts around us. We’ve never dealt with a pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetimes. So, none of us really know how to cope. We’re just figuring it out as we go along, and we are all different. Something that makes you feel better may not be useful in making your neighbour feel better and vice versa. So quit telling people how to cope. Quit telling us only to share the positives, quit telling us that this is no time for humour and stop telling us that the way we are coping is wrong. It’s not. It’s just wrong for you.

Cope how you need to cope, providing you’re not hurting or endangering anyone else. Curate your social media feeds to suit your personal needs and mind your own business when it comes to how your neighbours are dealing with this crisis. You do you, I’ll do me, and together, with our diverse coping methods, we will get through this thing.

Just stay safe, stay home and wash your goddamned hands.

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