Oddly Enough, the Anxiety is Lifting, and I Think it May be Because of COVID-19

With the exception of a snarky photo I posted, I’ve written how I’ve been feeling anxious over the last few weeks, but how I knew it had very little, if anything to do with COVID-19, which I’m now using in writing, because I found out it stood for Coronavirus Disease 2019, which sounds way more official.

My last bit of anxiety was last Thursday night, when my wife came home from work and said that she heard we might want to buy a bit of extra toilet paper. She wasn’t really phased with the hype because she works at a doctor’s office and the doctor she trusts the most told her not to worry about it too much last week. Most people who visit that office have a doomsday story to tell even in the best of times, and she doesn’t follow a lot of news, so she didn’t understand the shift in a lot of people’s demeanor from “this is nothing” to “this is a very big deal” when, within minutes, the President made his first nationwide address and the NBA cancelled its season.

So she went out and purchased the toilet paper and came back telling me that she couldn’t believe how crazy things were in public. I tried to explain to her that the tone of America changed hugely in the last 24 hours, but she didn’t understand it and I actually said, “You don’t get how serious this is to everybody now.” I don’t know why, but it’s like my anxiety lifted after that.

On Friday, around lunch, she called and was audibly shaken. That same doctor who said it wouldn’t be a big deal a week earlier had changed his tune. He started talking worst case scenarios, both in Maine and the United States and the kind of lives we could potentially need to live in the next month or two, and it was bleak. It really scared the hell out of my wife. She said she’d handle grocery shopping after work but I should go buy enough pet food for a few weeks.

By that point, the grocery store was pretty empty of the large sized bags that when you have three dogs and three cats, you need to buy. So I went to the fancier pet store and paid way too much ($130) for a month’s supply of dog food, cat food, kitty litter and a few dog treats. At least if we have to resort to cannibalism, we can start with our well-fed pets.

She got home from the grocery store that night $300 lighter. What’s actually kind of funny is that we already had a month’s worth of food in the house. Her dad didn’t have a lot when he was little, so when he had a family and could finally afford it, he kept their house well-stocked and she’s always done that. But now, we have even more, and I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry although I can tell I’m going to lose my taste for Kraft Mac and Cheese if this thing goes on too long.

Since she works in a respiratory doctor’s office next door to a hospital, she’s not going to have to worry about being put off work. Even if normal patients with things like asthma and COPD stop coming in, they expect to be very busy as COVID-19 testing kits become available.

She’ll spend her days at work, my daughter’s college has gone online for the rest of the semester and today, my son’s school district called things off for at least two weeks. I have a feeling life is going to seem very, very different come Monday and its only going to get weirder as the days go on.

Ironically, I feel like I’m going to be the least-effected person I know next to my retired parents. I’ve been working from home for the last five years and my workflow doesn’t show signs that it’s going to be altered very much. Maybe that’s why my anxiety doesn’t feel as strong. For most of my readership, we’re introverted, anxiety-ridden, mentally ill, self-imposed shut-ins anyway…now the other half gets to see how we live. We’re more prepared for this than anybody! While the numbers of those who may get infected is certainly scary, I think a lot of anxiety out there is about people’s lives being disrupted. Most of the people I talk to on here? I think our lives are among the least shaken. Funny how things work out.

I can’t really say anything about COVID-19 that hasn’t already been said by that kindly gray-haired doctor who seems to be on every TV channel simultaneously. These are times when people usually step up to the challenge. Take care of each other and don’t forget the joy in life like those Italian people signing on their balconies with each other who are in quarantine. That’s true community.

And yes, I will admit that a week ago, I wasn’t taking this as seriously, like many weren’t.

I have a coping mechanism through getting through hard times aside from just detaching. It’s reframing. Try to look at these times not as scary, but interesting.

We’ve heard about these kinds of things in other places, in other times, but never thought they would happen to us, like we were too evolved with our technology and could put one over on Mother Nature. We don’t know what happens next, but we do know we’re living through history.

Whether it was 9/11, the Challenger exploding, or JFK being shot, we remember where we were when pivotal moments in history happen. This is one of those moments. Write down your thoughts, record what is happening so those after you can feel what it’s like to experience whatever we’re about to go through. Most of us live our lives with our heads down, going day-to-day with little variation. We can’t stop things like this from happening, but we can observe with fascination. Things may not be so bad, or they may get very, very bad. But we’re all about to have a unique, yet shared experience.

I hate to say this because it makes me sound more mentally ill than I am, but I think my anxiety may have been jolted by the adrenaline that things are very spontaneous and unknown right now. It’s got to be a chemical reaction and I may be singing a different tune in a few days, but for now, I have supplies, I have my family, I have multiple means of getting information. I’m ready for what’s next. Try to keep it as positive as possible.

Let Facts and Perspective, Not Hype and Misinformation, Be Your Guide this Weekend

My wife is dealing with her yearly, almost-springtime sinus infection. You can set the time to set forward the clocks by it. She is a medical assistant in a doctor’s office and despite sinus infections not being one of the symptoms of the coronavirus (which, BTW, three weeks ago was not a word that was in Autocorrect, but now is – who makes these day-to-day calls?) she’s dealing with the hype and has actually had patients who did not want her to help them.

We had a discussion about this last night, because it reminded both of us when I was arrested, the incorrect news reports, and needless hype it caused.

I don’t want anyone to think that I believe coronavirus isn’t an important thing to keep a close eye on, but I think the most startling part about it is that it’s revealing just how many people don’t wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. There should not be empty store shelves where hand soap and sanitizer once sat. Shelves are empty because demand wasn’t there previously. Let’s hope that people’s hygiene continues to stay at improved levels once this hype is over.

There’s a universal truth in this world that the media and politicians understand. Scared people provide the best word-of-mouth. Once you’re scared, you don’t concern yourself, nor scrutinize the facts of a situation. In doomsday mode, you just prepare for and expect the worse.

In North Dakota, there hasn’t been one confirmed case of coronavirus this year. As of three days ago, there has been 9,979 cases of influenza, with 88 hospitalizations. Thankfully, nobody has died, but 9,979 is a bit more than 0. However, because it’s not been decided that it’s a good news story that will make money for media companies, and it’s not been prioritized by politicians seeking attention from those media companies, the flu is just something that happens.

Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of doing something about coronavirus. A lot of people got angry because he made some dumb comment about cigarette smoking not killing people years ago. Yeah, it was an ignorant thing to say, but dumber yet is that we don’t seem to care that the Center for Disease Control says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans every year (worldwide estimates are about 6 million people). Coronavirus, as of Thursday night, has killed 12 Americans.

Does anybody remember last year when 12 people died in the UK because of a rare outbreak of a bacterial infection that was a cousin of strep throat? No? The American media didn’t jump on that one, so nobody cared, yet the same number of people died.

Far more children will be accidentally killed this year in incidents involving their backyard pool than in accidental household gun deaths, yet the National Swimming Pool Association (if there even is a group like that) doesn’t have to battle public hype like the National Rifle Association because the public – following the lead of the media and politicians, haven’t decided accidental pool deaths are an important cause.

With 12 Americans dead of the coronavirus, the Senate passed an emergency $8.3 billion bill to fight the spread of the virus. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that the Senate only approved $5.9 billion in the 2020 budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, despite the fact that drugs and mental health conditions have killed far, far, far more people than the coronavirus. You don’t get your picture on CNN or FOX News when you’re funding mental health. You do when you fund what the media wants you to think is the next plague.

When I was arrested six years ago, there were two photos of a topless teenage girl found by police on my computer. I’m not going to rationalize or defend that, but it was far less than the hundreds of photos of children under 12 that was reported in the media. It was months before that was ever corrected, and it wasn’t even called to attention that the previous reporting was wrong. Yet guess what I was convicted of? Two photos. It was reported I couldn’t be around my children, which was clearly wrong as I could not only be around them, I was still living with them through my legal ordeal. I don’t think the police, nor the media really cared if the information they shared was accurate.

What did that misinformation cause? Many, many people taking on social media locally, tearing me apart based on wrong information that was spun and hyped and spun and hyped. Reading those comments was like reading about somebody else it was that incorrect. There were people who I’m pretty sure thought I was snatching little kids directly off playgrounds. When public hype spins already incorrect information, there’s little anybody can do to bring things under control.

About four years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper giving very rational, science-based reasons why a proposed rules change on where former sex offenders could live didn’t make sense for the city next to the one I live in. It was obvious that it would made getting help and certain resources that the lowest socio-economic demographic of sex offenders needed even more difficult, and statistics prove that hands-on offenders know their victims more than 90% of the time. It actually has nothing to do with how close to a school or church they live. Ultimately, the needless, tighter restrictions were approved 7-0 by the City Council. Isn’t it nice when Democrats and Republicans can get together on something because it’s easier to wave a finger at and demonize sex offenders than understand anything actually true about them? It also looks better the next morning in the newspaper to the readers who aren’t going to be bothered to understand nuance.

My wife is off to work again this morning. She’s not contagious, yet I still have a feeling I may see her by lunch, being sent home not because of good science, but because politicians and the media have whipped people into a frenzy about a virus that has hit 19 states – and only 3 states have more than 6 cases. Maine is not one of those 19 states, BTW.

Wash your hands. Take care of yourself. Be careful with kids around the pool. Lock up your guns. Don’t smoke. Understand sex offenders are people, too. Make your health decisions and reactions based on fact, not hype and scare tactics. And don’t perpetuate anything that isn’t true. Memes do enough of that already.

 

Sorry Parents, You Can’t Porn-Proof Your Kids in 2020

My parents raised me to think that one sip of beer would lead me, minutes later, to the destitute life of a wino, laying in the gutter, hiccupping while holding a bottle like an alcoholic cat out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I was also told smoking cigarettes was gross and would give me almost immediate lung cancer. Marijuana would kill me. Pornography would turn me into a Peeping Tom pervert before the day was done and gambling was something only done by degenerate mobsters. Needless to say, I tried them all.

Once I recognized that one of their dire warnings was little more than hyperbole, I recognized all of their dire warnings were BS. It took me a while to become an alcoholic and I was always “functional.” Cigarettes and marijuana were used for years, and I quit both on my own. I still will occasionally visit a casino, but don’t think I’ve ever lost more than $50 in an evening. Losing more isn’t fun. And even with pornography, I never found myself hiding in anyone’s bushes or drilling holes in the wall of the girl’s locker room.

The message I got from my parents was ultimately, “None of this stuff is as bad as we said it was.” I know it’s not the message they want to send.

I appreciate all of the parents out there who want to stem the flow of pornography into their children’s lives. Whether it’s putting parental controls on the cable box, filtering programs on their computers or content blockers on their cell phones, their heart is in the right place – just like my parents’ hearts were.

My mother would lose it if HBO was on and a breast or a bare buttock came across the screen when I was a kid. We immediately had to change the channel, even if it was only something like the movie version of Romeo and Juliet from 1968 which they played all the time when I was a kid and had about two seconds of nudity. I could watch a show with all the swearing or violence I wanted, but the moment there was more skin than you could see at the beach, that show was over for me.

I don’t remember if she had any justification for it. I think it was mostly along the lines of, “Change the channel because I said so, I don’t want you seeing that kind of stuff.” For an inquisitive little kid like me, “Why don’t you want me to see that stuff?” is the question that swims in my head, but was smart enough not to ask. Her overreaction was curious. Clearly she didn’t want me to see any of that stuff.

But, around 11, my cousin showed me my first hardcore pornography magazines. At 13, a friend I met in middle school would invite me over to his dad’s house on weekends where the Playboy Channel was part of the cable package. At 14, I found a video store that would rent me porn.

What did all of these things have in common? My mom wasn’t aware of any of it. She still hasn’t read my first book, so I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t know about any of it.

She couldn’t porn-proof me and nothing has changed in 35 years. You can’t porn-proof your kids. You can remove every device in your home where the image of genitals could ever appear and all you’ve done is take care of one home in your neighborhood. Unless you’re living in a Little House on the Prairie world, it’s not even a drop in the bucket. A drop is better than nothing? Are you trying to convince me or you? I believe porn blockers are more for parents to give themselves peace of mind they are protecting their children more than anything else.

The average age a boy sees hardcore pornography these days is between 8 and 10. The average age a child gets a cell phone is 11. Let’s say that you buck the trend and your son doesn’t see porn between 8 and 10 and at 11, you gift him with one of those specialty phones like Gabb Wireless that keeps things like the Internet and photo texts off their device. Do you think every child your son interacts with has parents doing the same thing with their child?

My friend’s dad had no idea we were watching the Playmate of the Year Video Calendar for 1989 late at night on the TV in the basement. I’ve got to imagine they’re still making the same kind of content. And that doesn’t even begin to address the world of desktop, laptop and tablet computers. I have a feeling that before “Brush Your Teeth” to the end the night, the three words a teenage boy remembers most are “Clear Browser History.”

You can’t porn-proof your child and I’m not sure you should even try. What you need to do is talk to them about pornography. In a very age-appropriate manner, you need to tell them when they’re young that, like cigarettes or alcohol, pornography is something for adults and they aren’t to touch it. If they find any, or stumble upon it on their phone or computer, you won’t be mad at them and if a friend shows them, you just want to know about it. As they get older, you can get into more nuances of “that’s not depicting love or what sex is really like” and even a little older, especially for boys, you can talk about things like Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.

I understand you love your kids and I understand you want to protect them, but shielding them instead of preparing them is not the best tactic, I am proof of that.

Healthy Sexuality is Very Different from Total Abstinence and Self Denial

I realize that one of the things I don’t talk enough about on this site is what healthy sexuality looks like. I try very hard not to be an anti-porn crusader because I think it’s a waste of time, flies in the face of my beliefs surrounding personal freedoms (for both producers and consumers) and it’s ultimately not the way that we get a handle on porn addiction in this world. If you want any proof that banning pornography would be a pointless waste of time and resources, read up a bit on how America tried to outlaw alcohol early in the 20th Century.

So, while a pornography-free life is the best choice for me, much like an alcohol-free life is the best choice for me, my battle is not with you looking at porn. My battle is with you not knowing that if there are certain factors already in place (childhood trauma, other addictions) you may be more susceptible to becoming a porn addict and the consequences that come with it.

Since sexuality is such a wide-ranging topic, I rarely delve into it beyond aspects of pornography addiction. I was not an intercourse addict, nor voyeurism or exhibitionism addict, so I can’t speak to those aspect of the umbrella “sex addiction.”

Outside the realm of addiction, I have learned a lot about sexuality, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure that there’s as strong a connection between being a sex addict and abnormal sexuality as experts think. Abnormal sexuality is a side effect of porn addiction, not a cause of it, much like I believe unhealthy eating habits are a side of effect of food addiction, not a cause of it. I think that there are people who can use pornography in unhealthy ways that don’t rise to the level of addiction, and I believe there are many people who see any use whatsoever as addiction.

In doing the research for my latest book, and in doing some marketing since, I spent a lot of time on blogs and in online forums, like those you’ll find here on WordPress or on Reddit, learning from female partners of porn addicts. Simply reading their stories taught me so much, and at least here on WordPress, you know who you are. Places like Reddit are a bit different. There are a lot of women who confuse their disgust of pornography with usage that rises to the level of an addict. Removing any moral argument of whether they should or not, is it possible for a man to look at pornography once, or look somewhat regularly without becoming an addict? Statistics, history and facts lead me to say yes. I’m not endorsing it, I’m just saying as a scientific fact, it seems like it’s possible.

Despite one being morally opposed to it, their partner may use it and not fit the definition of an addict. However, if that partner’s use is harming the relationship, and is causing a disturbance to their sex life, I would argue that it is an instance of unhealthy sexuality. If he removes the porn immediately, but nothing changes when it comes to this couple’s communication, aren’t they still living in a world of unhealthy sexuality?


Healthy sexuality is a very individual thing, and it’s something that needs to be defined as a unit if you’re part of a couple. My wife and I would never participate in BDSM or be part of swingers’ groups, but if you’re part of a couple that wants to do this, likes to do it and it has no negative bearing on your life, is it unhealthy just because it’s out of the mainstream? I don’t think so.

I think if what you’re doing sexually is legal, you enjoy it, feel it is a natural extension of how you express yourself, it doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself, you’re not forced into it, it doesn’t have a negative effect on your day-to-day life and you’re not forcing anybody else into it, then it really can’t be unhealthy, even if it’s outside of societal norms.

We judge so much of this world on what we feel is normal and average. I believe most people want to fall within the 40th and 60th percentile of almost everything so they can feel like part of the larger flock. One of the ways of being part of a majority is to rail against a minority. I really try not to do this when it comes to pornography.

I’ve mentioned on here before that there are anti-pornography arguments that have been spewed since the 1950s that clearly don’t work. If it’s anti-woman, why are more women watching than ever before? If it degrades its participants, why is it becoming a huge work-at-home industry? If it’s only for those on the fringes of society, why do statistics suggest that the majority of men under 60 watch? If it’s a sin, why are usage numbers by the religious higher than that of secular society?

I can apply a moral filter to viewing pornography, and for me personally, I have one now that I didn’t have before entering recovery. I know it’s not as strong as many people’s, but I also don’t scream and yell about it the way some do, yet then don’t apply that filter to themselves. My moral issues with pornography have nothing to do with the arguments I listed above, and I don’t make them part of my presentations and rarely talk about them here because they cloud my overall theme that education about pornography addiction needs to be happening in this world.

That education should be part of overall healthy sexuality for everyone because I believe with knowledge usually comes health. Beyond that education though, it’s not up to me to tell you what to do with it and it’s not up to me to determine what is sexually healthy for you or not. Would I ever watch porn with my wife? No. Is porn healthy to watch with your spouse? Well, statistics show that married couples who watch porn get divorced at higher rates than those who don’t. That said, there is truly not enough data that you can extrapolate watching porn together equals doomed marriage. Are there couples who watch porn together and have happy marriages. Yes. Their healthy sexuality is not mine, but it’s also not mine to judge or infringe upon.

If you’re asexual, you’re asexual. If you want to change your gender, or dress up like a different gender or whatever, that’s fine with me as long as it’s safe, legal and consensual. Be gay, or straight, or celibate… just be genuine to who you are in the healthiest way possible. Most people who try to eliminate sexuality as part of their life as a function of recovery end up in the camp of “sexual anorexia” which is just the other side of the spectrum of unhealthy sexuality.

I don’t talk a lot about healthy sexuality on this site because it looks different for every person out there. What you may see as one person’s repression is totally their comfort zone and vice versa. I’m not here to dictate to you what is healthy sexually within your life or your life as part of a couple. I’m here to say if pornography is part of it, it may lead to other problems, or it could exacerbate problems that already exist, as it did in my personal case. What I am here to say is that both of us need to continually define healthy sexuality in our own lives and continue to strive for it, without judging others.