I woke up one morning, invigorated after a good night’s sleep. I anticipated going into my office/great room to have my first cup of Dunkin’ coffee.
I turned on MSNBC and was immediately confronted with breaking news — not just one story, but multiple stories, at least eight to 10.
They began with the pandemic, followed by the forest fires in California and a hurricane battering the Gulf Coast.
And there was more: President Donald Trump’s rallies in Nevada, where hundreds of supporters stuffed into a closed building with no social distancing or masks in sight — a perfect recipe for the spread of the virus.
And there was more: two policeman fighting for their lives after a stranger walked up to their patrol car and shot both at point-blank range. Overwhelming numbers followed these major stories: over 200,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus; over 30,000 unemployed Americans; thousands of small businesses closing, never to return; millions of students out of school; thousands of people waiting in lines for food pantries to open; and cyberattacks by Russia, China, Iran and other adversaries, hoping to influence our presidential election.
Suddenly, I was truly shaken by hearing all of these reports together. All I could think of was the victims of all this pain and suffering, especially the children. I wanted to do something to help, but I am helpless. Bound to my wheelchair, I am confined to my apartment.
It is ridiculous to think that I could help anyone. Helplessness often leads to hopelessness, and this was where I was headed. These feelings together often lead to desperation, and this was the last place I wanted to go. I knew I needed to change my internal space by marshaling my emotional energy to gain presence of mind toward finding the comfort I needed to move forward.
Many years ago I learned an important lesson as a Boy Scout, to try to be prepared for any eventually. That lesson has served me well in the past, and I needed it now. Over the years I have struggled with situational and neurological depression, and I have learned through trial and error what I needed to do to change my emotional space. I had read a book by Norman Cousins titled “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” As the story goes, he was diagnosed with cancer and given a limited time to live.
After being admitted to the hospital, he asked some friends in the entertainment business to bring him a long list of comedy films he had collected, and install the necessary equipment for him to view them. Cousins laughed himself silly for the next few months of treatment, and, to the amazement of his doctors, was pronounced cancer free.
As a measure to deal with my periodic depression, I also have purchased some favorite comedies.
The answer I discovered for myself, which would free me from the devastation of feeling helpless, hopeless and depressed, was to blend a mixture of laughter, deep breathing, classical piano music and sleep. Supplementing these elements with practices from my spiritual life, like prayer and favorite scripture readings, has also been invaluable.
That morning, when I experienced those terrible feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, I lay back in my wheelchair and immediately went to sleep. When I woke up, I felt 100% better; apparently this was all I needed to escape the terrible feelings of that morning.
I am constantly amazed how often our body, mind and spirit, if listened to, can heal themselves. I find this is especially true when it comes to the normal challenges of life.
Never hesitate to consult a health professional. Consider a partnership with your doctor, a nurse practitioner or other health professional, so together you can promote the healing that you need. My guess is that whoever you consult as your health provider will consider it a win-win for both of you in sustaining and maintaining your wellness.
God bless you and all the health professionals who go the extra mile to care for us.
Robert Olson is a pastoral counselor and family therapist who specializes in geriatric issues. He invites comments and speaking invitations at email@example.com.