20200601 FoGO – The Fear of Going Out.

The reality is that the fear of going out because of the risk of becoming infected with CoVid-19 began, for many, long before any form of lockdown began. I was satisfied that the risks, at that time, were contained by avoiding Chinese tourists and they were becoming as rare as hen’s teeth.

But slowly, worldwide, the cases started to spiral and in Malaysia there were some specific events that increased the number of cases in a way that looked huge – but in fact it that was all a matter of statistics. Today the UK’s Daily Express has a headline that there were “only 126 deaths yesterday.” Malaysia’s total is 115. That’s since the crisis began, not in one day that the media clearly thinks is a good day. There was, and is, no rational reason for me being afraid of going out so long as I am cautious as to how close I come to other people and so long as I keep my hands and face clean.

I thought, maybe I’m going mad. So I looked it up. Apparently, it’s a thing. It’s even got buzzword names for it (so far none has reached global acceptance so I’m pitching FoGO because it’s as good as anything else and it’s not pretentious).

There are all the usual hints and tips from instant experts, next to “Five best bindings to lockdown your lovelife*” and “Ten best yoga poses in one square metre*” Pop-psychology is already rife across glossy magazines and vacuous media websites.

But we should not treat it lightly.

We should be aware that it really is a thing.

One article that, from the headline, I thought was going to be clickbait might have been. I don’t know. I didn’t read it. But the headline was interesting – it talked of post-lockdown PTSD.

We usually hear of that for soldiers, for emergency medical staff, police officers and the like. Surely it’s rubbish to say that people who have sat at home doing whatever they felt like within the confines of being in the same premises are suffering from PTSD?

Maybe not.

“King knew that solitary confinement was changing the way his brain worked. When he finally left his cell, he realised he had trouble recognising faces and had to retrain his eyes to learn what a face was like. His sense of direction was also messed up, and he was unable to follow a simple route in the city by himself. It is as if his brain had erased all those capabilities that were no longer necessary for survival in a cell no bigger than the back of a pick-up truck.”

That study is published in under the title “The Effects of Solitary Confinement on the Brain” ( https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/brain-chemistry/201902/the-eff… ) It goes on

“In addition to the effects that loneliness will cause in the brain, solitary confinement also has an important component of sensory deprivation. The small cells where inmates are isolated are windowless, and though inmates are entitled to have one hour of physical exercise every day, sometimes this would not happen due to the busy schedule of the prison, King reported. “The sensory deprivation contributes to important health impairments, such as alterations of circadian rhythms, the internal biological clock that regulates overall the proper functioning of our bodies.”

True, most of us have not lived without windows. And unlike King we have not spent 30 years in solitary confinement. But we have lived without a view of anything other than empty streets or, in my case, sky. Yes the sky changes in an infinite array of bright to dark (or at least as dark it gets in a city where the world and his dog thinks a building is incomplete if it’s not brightly illuminated and a bridge can’t work without a mega-millions lumens advertising hoarding) cloudy to cloudless, peaceful to violent lightning which, sometimes, happens so close to my windows I can hear the air sizzle before the thunderclap a fraction of a second later). So, it’s not the same as solitary confinement but certainly has elements of it.