Nobody expects the covid pandemic, to paraphrase Monty Python. In the last few months, life has changed in many terrifying ways, overt and subtle, and it's packed one hell of a punch in terms of mental health.
We may see some conference papers out soon but it's likely we'll need a few years perspective before we really understand how it's affected us.
When we do, my bet is that one issue will stand out most: pandemic rage.
Since the start of 2020 we've been frightened by a invisible killer disease, inundated daily by horror stories from all over the planet, and reminded that we're helpless. With a rider threat that if covid doesn't get us, a crashing economy will.
Anger is a notification that something is wrong. Adding hopelessness and fear supercharges it, creating either revolutionary rage or spiraling horror.
I suspect that what we feel, depends on how we're triggered.
I know that when I saw the first film of George Floyd circulating on Twitter, I understood why some people support the death penalty. It's a stance that goes against my code of ethics, but for minutes, I was possessed by rage. It was quite frightening.
On another day, I read some hateful comments on FB and they really bothered me. That's unusual; I've a strong streak of arrogance mixed with optimism that functions to protect me. But at that instant, I felt chilled. For a moment, the hate out there hit me.
Why am I wittering on? Because I think too many of us act as if we're okay. Like kids who hope to fool the monster under the bed by feigning ignorance, we tell ourselves that it could be worse, that we mustn't complain, and that we'll see it through.
However, by pushing away our feelings, we're falling into classic error. As Freud pointed out, repressed feelings don't die. They are buried alive and will emerge later in uglier ways.
Today, repressed fear is fuelling "righteous zeal", the kind of anger that we tell ourselves is cool because we're only enforcing rules for everyone's good.
That kind of thinking is dangerous as it destroys respect for diversity of opinions and values, and seeks to normalise and justify violence.
Righteous zeal powered the witch trials in medieval Europe, the French and Russian Revolutions, and McCarthyism in the USA. It also created atmospheres of paralyzing fear and scapegoat populations that allowed holocausts to take place in Europe, Cambodia, and Yugoslavia.
I don't know what triggers you, but I'm monitoring my anger and taking active steps to recognise it, accept it for what it is (reaction) and deal with it carefully.
In the process, I found it useful to take a long break from social media and to unfollow and snooze all those who posted triggering content. It's not personal, it's me caring for myself.
My news stream is now limited to novels (escapist stories, not anything deep or meaningful) and cats.
In addition, me and the cats are practising our selfie taking and writing our next book.
It's not perfect, but as a short term band aid, I'm finding it excellent.
What are you doing?
And in case you haven't seen the Monty Python, here's the video