There have been countless editorials and op-eds about the damage the Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted on the American psyche, the intense psychological toll of knowing over a quarter of a million of your countrymen and women lost their lives and there’s virtually nothing you can do about it (besides wearing a mask, socially distancing, and staying at home, of course).
There have also been more than a few missives written about the peripheral destruction of the pandemic: the almost incomprehensible economic damage that has bankrupted entire industries, shuttered thousands of small businesses, and pushed families to their breaking point due to unemployment, eviction, and isolation. We don’t know what the final price tag of Covid-19 will be yet but it will almost certainly be hundreds of billions, possibly trillions by the time it’s completely over. And for those who lost loved ones, the price is incalculable, the debt eternal.
Any attempt to find a silver lining in this mess is pretty futile. Having said that, there is a practical utility in searching for positivity during a time like this. That doesn’t mean you need to be doing jumping jacks and cheering about how great life is, but it’s times like these that define us. In our darkest moments, we find out who we really are. When the chips are down, true character is displayed.
I’ve spoken with many friends, acquaintances, and even strangers during this time who have discussed suffering major depression and mental health problems this year. I’ve spoken with married friends who have openly admitted to being sick of their partners and families. The claustrophobia of quarantining with kids permanently home from school – especially during the winter – has pushed some marriages to the breaking point.
One friend discussed the toll the pandemic has taken on his sexual health, which he worried was jeopardizing his relationship. Shockingly, in yet another revelation of Covid-19’s widely varied symptoms and side effects, doctors now say some infected people experience erectile dysfunction (ED). There is concern the virus could cause long-term ED, though more data will be needed to confirm this.
Approximately 40 million American men already deal with this condition, which can require medical treatment or the use of an ED device to stimulate blood flow. Needless to say, for people already worried about the health of their marriages, relationships, and sex life during this time, news of this new side effect was unwelcome. The friend I mentioned above does not have Covid-19, but just hearing the ED news made him anxious and exacerbated his problems.
Another friend I spoke with, however, has had a totally different experience. No depression, no Covid-19, fortunately, but a renewed sense of purpose and passion. This person has taken up new hobbies, read books they’ve always had on their bookshelf, caught up with old friends and family members over Zoom, etc. Sometimes when everything around you feels like it’s falling apart, you can suddenly find a core of tranquility and meaning that guides you.
This person admitted the feeling caused them some guilt, though. Why should they feel good right now? Why should they be living their best life when so many other people are suffering?
Others are experiencing this guilt too. One Floridian businessman, Michael Esmond, who owns a pool and spa business, had one of his best financial years ever, in part because of the pandemic isolation boosting the demand for home pools and spas. As a result, Michael paid off utility bills for 114 people who are struggling financially.
This is another example of finding some level of purpose and passion during this dark time. You don’t need to be a superhero to step up to the plate and help other people who are struggling. Even if you’re experiencing depression and profound anxiety, you can still learn lessons about yourself that will enrich your life and improve you as a person. Who knows, you might discover a new career or ignite your true passion during this time.
Just because there is darkness all around us right now doesn’t mean you can’t find a beacon of light to guide you to brighter land.