By Kathleen D. Tresemer
I have been following the story about the miners in Chile, trapped below ground since early August with months to go before they can hope to be rescued. Reports of “cabin fever” were met with—at least in my house—a resounding, “DUH.”
Interviews of specialists in the miners and their culture described people so dedicated to life underground that they would experience far less trauma than folks like us.
“I don’t know about their culture or training,” I said to Hubby, “but I go crazy when the weather keeps me inside and the days are lots shorter. I’d be in rough shape if I had to live in a room, in the dark, with nothing to do for four months!”
“That’s why solitary confinement is considered punishment,” Hubby responded wisely. “Unless you are a parent of teen-agers.”
Second Half pal Gary told us: “One of those miners is in big trouble—his wife and mistress found out about each other during family vigils outside the mine. He’s probably happy to be hiding underground!”
The price we pay…
Next, the all-powerful authorities in this mine incident decided to keep these guys from the few vices they requested: cigarettes, booze and letters from home. OK, so smoking is bad for us, and booze could make ’em crazy, and letters might cause jealousy and depression in some—I get it. But I look at the military guys fighting in deserts, and rainforests, and other ungodly environments just as depressing and even more dangerous: don’t they give them those things to boost their morale and offer an emotional Band-Aid?
Another Second Half pal who shall remain nameless wondered: “Why don’t they just make ’em up a bunch of magic brownies? Pot will make them relax, or even sleepy, and it might even give ’em a better sense of humor! Besides, the stuff grows all over the place down there, like corn in the Midwest!”
The biggest problem I could see with magic brownies is the inevitable munchies. Aren’t some of these guys trying to lose weight? They need to, I understand, so the rescuers can pull them up through a shaft the size of a paper towel roll.
“Think of the calories in the brownies alone!” I exclaimed. “What with the resultant begging for Starbursts, Dr. Pepper and Lays Potato Chips, these guys could be fatter than a Christmas goose by the holidays!”
Another unnamed Second Half gal suggested: “How about Valium, then? It worked for a whole generation of empty-nesting housewives. Why not depressed miners?”
Well, yeah, but the subsequent cost of drug rehab could bankrupt the Chilean government. Unless a reality TV show decided to bankroll the whole thing for exclusive rights to royalties. Let’s have some creative thinking, people, please…lives are at stake!
This led me to think about how many ways we can be trapped in a box of our own making: lousy job, nasty relationship, unhealthy lifestyle. Typically, and in great numbers, victims of such crappy circumstances reach for temporary solutions like booze, or cigarettes, or drugs to take the sting out of their dreary situation.
“Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to teach ’em how to handle these challenges in the first place?” a friend asks.
Depression in our Second Half is really a problem. Check out the National Institutes of Health statistics: of the 35 million Americans age 65 or older, about 2 million suffer from full-blown depression and another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness…that’s one in five. Find out more at the NIH site: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/depression/aboutdepression/01.html.
So, what do we do if we feel trapped and depressed? The AARP Health and Wellness site (aarphealthandwellness.com) recommends exercise:
Why? Exercise can help enhance your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercise activates neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that nerves in your brain use to communicate with one another. An imbalance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine causes depression, and exercise may help synchronize those brain chemicals.
Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins—those feel-good chemicals in your brain. Plus, physical activity can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol, release muscle tension, and allow you to sleep better.
I know, I’m back to my exercise kick, but I want all of us to live healthy and happy to age 120! What good would it do to become a centenarian, only to feel trapped and helpless by life or an unhealthy body? Of course by then, magic brownies might be legal, in which case we’ll be laughing our way to the senior fitness center.
After coverage of the Chilean miners’ plight, the next big TV news story was the positive drug test of the newly-rehabbed Lindsey Lohan. Some Hollywood addiction specialist is comparing Li-Lo to Janis Joplin, the super-sonic-mega-rock-blues-star who died from a heroin overdose in her 20s. Hardly. That’s sort of like comparing a Beanie Baby pony with Trigger the Wonder Horse because they are both stuffed.
Li-Lo has created her own little cave-in of the mental health kind, and she’s trapped in her coke addiction just like the miners… only their rocks are more valuable and they will be rescued soon. Whether she ends up in prison or extensive rehab—or dead, like a rock star—we can all agree in Dr. Seuss-like fashion, Li-Lo is: “stuck in a box, with her rocks,” and, I would add, “no longer a fox.”
Here’s the plan: if you feel trapped, do something! If you don’t, help someone who does.
In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2010 issue