“Social Distancing,” Moral Injury, and the Building Stress of Quarantine

As the lockdowns continue, many people (I include myself here) feel the stress beginning to build. I find myself building more things to try and burn off excess energy… from two lamps, an airplane, a cat tree. Some of these are projects that I’ve wanted to have the time to work on more, some of them are just plain fun, but I never would have devoted as much time (except, perhaps, the airplane) as I have except for the lockdown. My VFW post, an important outlet for many vets to blow off steam, has been closed for a month now. The boredom and monotony regarding food is building…you can eat only so many ham sandwiches for lunch. The dog and two cats are seemingly becoming more needy.

So what does the above have to do with moral injury? I’ll let a vet from Ocean City, NJ describe:

“About seven years ago, I tried to take my own life,” Hamill said just this past February. “After dealing with immense mental anguish, moral injury, anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress from my childhood, previous deployments, and finally my injury, I had enough. I sat outside Atlantic City, on the side of the road, with my handgun. Dead set, I placed it in my mouth, and began saying my mental goodbyes. Then my kids popped in my head. I pulled it out, disassembled it completely, took every round out of the magazine and threw pieces all over the car, and proceeded to get slammed by the gravity of what I almost did.”

https://shorenewsnetwork.com/2020/05/03/veterans-mourn-outraged-after-death-of-another-decorated-local-marine-corps-combat-veteran/

Making the decision to live turned his life towards veterans advocacy. However, he did not sustain that choice…

“Today, I learned that my friend, Rory Patrick Hamill, took his life yesterday,” said his close friend Jase Wheeler. “Have no idea what triggered him, but can say, I totally understand what it’s like when you battle PTSD on a daily basis. Add to that, the fact we have to quarantine, change every part of our daily routine, can’t get out to see friends, unable to do all the things that allow us to de-stress. It’s brutal. He was a father of 3, a motivational speaker, a hero and a friend.”

The life and death decisions that veterans, doctors & nurses doing triage, and others must make on a daily basis come with devastating moral dilemmas. In these stressful times, these moral outrages concentrate and the amped up stress and concomitant cortisol levels of being quarantined don’t help. Be mindful of your fellow humans and non-humans out there…you never know when you might be the ear that saves their life.