Dear Amy: Can you stand yet another letter about COVID-19?
My age and health status puts me in a higher risk group than others.
Because of the pandemic, I have avoided contact with people. I quit my part-time job because of concerns about COVID in the workplace. I no longer travel or have in-person visits with friends.
I no longer attend church services. I no longer eat out at restaurants. I no longer attend concerts or go to the movies.
I only shop for essentials and get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.
I am fully vaccinated, so why am I acting like this? Because we're told that the fully vaccinated can still get very sick and die from this virus.
We're told that anyone can be an asymptomatic carrier of this virus and transmit it to someone and possibly kill them. We're told that variants of this virus could break through a vaccine.
I used to have a life, but now I live in fear.
Apparently, I'm not the only one, because mental health practitioners are all booked up for weeks.
In my opinion, the psychological damage inflicted by this pandemic (or perhaps by the media coverage of it) is being overlooked.
— Sick of it All
Dear Sick: I think you should make a deliberate effort to take more control of your life and do your very best to tiptoe back out into the world — step by step.
Sign up with an online therapist if you can, and try an anti-anxiety meditation app.
Cognitive behavioral therapy involves techniques designed to rewire your mental and behavioral patterns. Basically, this is a form of exposure therapy where you very gradually, gently, and deliberately expose yourself to the experiences that trigger your anxiety. And anyone can try it.
You can safely meet with people (certainly masked and outside), and you should do your very best to get plenty of fresh air and gentle exercise, preferably with a partner.
Take note of your body's reaction to stress and do your best to deliberately turn off the negative tape playing in your head. Replace it with, "I can do this. I'm safe."
Celebrate your small victories: "I took a little more time in the store today, and that felt good!"
Turn off the constant stream of COVID information and misinformation, and only check CDC.gov and your local health department for updates. Work on expanding your range, very gradually.
Life is full of risks. Some of these risks (driving a car, for instance) also involve risks to others. But you drive a car because you understand that the rewards of driving are far greater than the risks.
Staying trapped by your fears is not good for you. The stress of living in this heightened and frightened state is definitely not good for your health.
Dear Readers: I recently ran a letter from "Got to Go in L.A.," asking what I believe is a good question regarding toilet etiquette in public non-gender specific bathrooms.
Got to Go's question is: After you have used a public toilet, should you leave the seat up — or down?
I promised to conduct an informal poll and to tally the results.
Unfortunately, I didn't really think this through.
I've received several hundred responses — some containing lengthy narratives — which means that I have spent much of the last week reading about toilets.
My favorite response is below, because it comes from someone with a wealth of knowledge, who I assume has seen way too much, toilet-wise.
Dear Amy: With 35 years of experience as a flight attendant, I know something about gender nonspecific bathrooms. Although my airline had no policy on this subject, I have thoughts about this, which follow:
1) If there is a lid and a seat, always lower both before you leave.
2) If there is just a seat, raise it, simply because there are enough men out there who do not think to raise it if it is down; and a missed approach is highly likely.
3) If you are a dude, consider sitting so as not to splatter, and always wipe the rim with paper before washing your hands and leaving.
4) And women should never use it as a squat toilet. Ever!
For everybody, please just tidy up as a sign of respect for your fellow humans.
— Cleaned Up Enough
Dear Cleaned Up: I can only imagine the stories you and your colleagues have stored in your (neatly packed) roller bags.
Thank you for your service.