Battling the ‘can’t help its’

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

Yesterday evening I had a bad case of the “can’t help its.”  I thought my mom had invented this condition since she was the only one I had ever heard utter this phrase and attempt to describe the symptoms.  However, in doing some research — and by research, I mean Google — I actually found a reference about this condition.  And a vinyl record entitled “Can’t Help It Blues.”  

My “research” revealed that this condition is one of unknown origin.  It affects different people with different symptoms.  Some refer to it as the “blues.”  But as I said, there are a variety of symptoms.  With my “case” it felt like I had restless leg syndrome all over.  I couldn’t be still.  I didn’t feel sick, but just uneasy, uncomfortable.  I also had the feeling that I was forgetting to do something important.  Was the coffee pot set for tomorrow morning’s coffee?  Had I folded the last load of laundry?  Had I missed an appointment?  Overlooked someone’s birthday?  Interesting to see what my priorities are, right?  

With this condition, you are not motivated to do anything.  You aren’t very focused on much of anything.  You just lump along until — well, until you shake it off.  

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With the “can’t help its,” your focus is entirely on yourself.  You spend much time analyzing this apprehensive feeling.  I think the entire population has a serious case of the “can’t help its.”  I think the pandemic has made us all feel vulnerable and a little desolate.  I became so hopeful that once we had a proven vaccine, we could overcome this virus.  But that didn’t happen.  Why?  How could we allow politics, religion, and social media interfere with our health?    

I have no reason to be depressed if indeed that’s what it means to have the “can’t help its.”  I have a loving, supportive husband and family.  I have all I need — food, water, shelter.  I am very comfortable.  Yet, when I told my husband I had the “can’t help its,” he asked how I was feeling.  It’s hard to describe.  You know, back to the feeling of uneasiness.  A gnawing whatever in the pit of my stomach.  Frustration.  No actual pain or illness.  He was helpless in trying to make me feel better.  And puzzled.  Which is surprising because I’m pretty sure he’s had the “can’t help its” at some point.  Maybe he went undiagnosed.  But then, it’s a condition that requires a self-diagnosis.

There’s been more attention to mental health recently, brought to the fore by the pandemic. It’s understandable.  The threat of a virus that could make you or our loved ones sick or even kill you is certainly serious.  It does give one pause to think of their demise.  The pandemic has enhanced concerns about relationships, loneliness, substance abuse, domestic violence, economic problems, social distancing, and on and on.  These issues are serious — unlike having a case of the “can’t help its.”  Each of us has likely handled the pandemic differently.  Some have resorted to mid-morning cocktails, binge watching programs, baking bread, and other diversions. 

I don’t have the “can’t help its” often, thankfully.  It is a condition that is short-lived and certainly not serious.  And it’s not something that requires more research.  In fact, my husband came through for me in solving my recent case of the “can’t help its.”  He offered up a bowl of ice cream and some fun conversation.  If only we had such a simple cure for Covid!  


Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. Contact her at