Two results of this pandemic: Post-plague fatigue and learned helplessness.  

After the Influenza pandemic of 1918, writers hardly mentioned the Spanish Flu. Hemingway didn’t mention the illness in The Sun Also Rises, which takes place in Spain. Fitzgerald skipped it. Kafka fell sick and woke up in a different country, surely an inspiration for The Metamorphosis. Hallucinating from a fever while looking in the mirror, young Franz saw himself as a filthy cockroach, an ungeziefer in German, literally “monstrous vermin”.  

Virginia Woolf, in her work On Being Ill, commented on her generation’s avoidance of writing about the Spanish Flu. “It becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.”

Maybe people just wanted to forget about the 50 million dead. To forget is to negate a tragedy’s impact. Until that monstrous vermin returns.      

Woolf thought post-plague fatigue would include depression, delusions, hallucinations, dementia and schizophrenia. She was right, within 20 years we contracted another cataclysmic disease: World War II.

The pandemic had weakened an entire generation, perhaps making them more susceptible to tyranny and nationalism. The illness created an anxiety and uncertainty that lasted for the remainder of their lives. Surviving the pandemic left everyone exhausted. Panfatigo, a world-wide fatigue.

After Covid-19 sweeps through every small town and big city, every state, province and country, we will experience panfatigo. Our efforts to reduce infection is part of learned helplessness. There are repercussions to constantly talking about Covid and Ramona Corona, washing our hands every ten minutes, wearing an N-95 mask every time we leave the house, ingesting vitamin C at every meal and gargling with salt water afterwards, and lastly suffering the inevitable depression of self-quarantine. Our attempts to "Flatten the Curve" and prolong the duration of the pandemic, in an attempt to save more lives, will inevitably take a toll on our collective psyche.  

Eventually, we will emerge from our homes as the virus dissipates.  And what parts of our old life will be gone forever? Sadly, we may learn that who became ill, who lived and who died was ultimately out of our control. And from that realization, we may incorporate a learned helplessness to our daily lives as we move forward.

However, learned helplessness is not giving up. It’s a way to survive. An acceptance of struggle.