• Robison Wells

The Best Way Out is Always Through

So, I got the vaccine, and my wife got the vaccine, and my daughter has a vaccine appointment, and I should be elated, but I'm just...not.

In fact, despite the promises of politicians and the loosening of restrictions, my anxiety and depression are heavier than they've been this entire quarantine. I talked to my doctor, and he says I'm not alone.

Getting back to "normal" (whatever "normal" is going to be) is stressful. How much do you trust going without a mask? How much do you trust going to a restaurant? To a movie theater? To a barber shop?

But it's more than that. There was a study done a few years ago about 14 men and women who worked in Antarctica. While they were doing scientific research in one of the world's most remote corners, other scientists were studying them. When they left Antarctica, one of the test subjects said he was elated--he hugged a green tree--but it only lasted for a few days. There were too many people, too much noise, too many colors. He couldn't handle it and retreated to his home. When the research came in, there were some major results: the 14 men and women all had brain scans which revealed their hippocampus had measurably shrunk while in isolation; the hippocampus is what is responsible for spatial navigation, learning and emotional processing. It's the part of the brain that diminishes in Alzheimer's patients. And the change was so noticeable that the researchers thought they must have made an error.

But what they found, through this study and others (including studies of people in quarantine for SARS, people in solitary confinement, and astronauts on the space station) was that they all suffered from a form of depressed post-traumatic stress disorder.

That's what I'm feeling as this COVID crisis is (hopefully) coming to an end. Post-traumatic stress. I'm fine in the morning, fine throughout the day, but when work ends and I'm left with no purpose, nothing I have to do, I just kind of stay at my desk and stare into space. I can't get excited about hobbies or video games or Netflix. I'm just semi-catatonic for a couple of hours until dinner time.

I don't know if any of you are feeling this. According to my doctor, he's seeing it everywhere. He compared it to a hike you're taking up a mountain and it looks like the end is in sight only to hit a crest and see there's still more to go, and then it happens again, and again. It's demoralizing. It's difficult.

But that doesn't mean we stop taking hikes up mountains. Maybe this isn't a mountain that we wanted to climb, but we're on this path and there's an end point that we're going to get to--that we must get to--and plant our conquering flag.

Robert Frost wrote a poem, "Servant of Servants", which has the stanza:Len says one steady pull more ought to do it.

He says the best way out is always through.

And I agree to that, or in so far

As that I can see no way out but through —

Leastways for me — and then they’ll be convinced.

We're in this situation. It sucks. It's hard every day. But the best way out is always through. One more steady pull ought to do it.

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