I’ve always been one to struggle with my mental health — even if, at times, I’ve been too prideful to admit it. Ever since I was little, I’ve had an anxiety disorder. Then I developed depression that would hit me in spurts like a ton of bricks as a teenager. But I guess when I really started to fight an inward battle with my mental health was when my daughter died from SIDS, causing PTSD to roll in and act as the cherry on top.
For the most part, I can manage these disorders quite well. But whenever I’m going through a rougher time than usual due to outside stressors in the world, I notice an exacerbation of my symptoms. And right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full-force, I’m going to break the ice and say that my mental health is not well.
I’m yelling at my kids for the smallest things, the things we all expect children to do, only to apologize three minutes later when I’ve settled down. I’m picking fights with my husband, family members, and even acquaintances online, because I am overly sensitive right now. I’m weeping in the night, being awoken by nightmares, and then stuck inside these four walls with little to no release during the day … just like everyone else.
We are living in an unprecedented time, a season that feels like we are all the stars in some sort of twisted, dystopian sci-fi thriller, and I know I’m not the only one who feels like my world is going to spontaneously combust. We’re navigating this “new normal,” with each one of us feeling like we are failing on one end of the spectrum or another. But when this entire world is filled with disease and death like it is right now, it’s so easy to tell yourself that these emotions don’t matter when you’ve seen the folks who clearly have it so much worse off.
We can’t forget that our own pain, though it might not be visible from the outside or measured in statistics that are updated daily, is still important. Because even if you and your family are fortunate enough to remain physically healthy, there is no denying that our entire world has been flipped upside down from the coronavirus pandemic, and we will all have heavy feelings about it.
Since the pandemic has begun, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment — the largest number in history. Just this past week, there were more deaths by suicide in Tennessee than those who died from the coronavirus. There are people on the front lines of this madness, being exposed to the coronavirus throughout their workday and anxious about bringing it home to their family. Family members are sick, immunocompromised, isolated, and living in fear of what is to come. For moms and dads with multiple kids and a village that would normally lend a helping hand, they are now learning how to juggle their many roles without an external support system.
Throughout it all, every unique and horrific path we may travel along during the COVID-19 pandemic (which feels closer to a living nightmare than anything), there is no denying that countless people are mentally suffering as a direct result of it… and we need to make a point of checking in with each other about this hurt.
Because if not now, then when?
Please understand, you could never be too well off, too “mentally stable,” or too high up in the world to succumb to this kind of a struggle. You. Are. Not. Immune. Even if you’ve never fought a battle much like this, it doesn’t matter. Mental illnesses do not discriminate, especially in moments like the ones we are living out right now.
Our world has borne witness to sickness and death on a catastrophic level, one which we’ve only ever heard about from the history books and movies. So how can we expect people to bounce back from this as if the life we’ve been living is normal?
We can’t, and that has to be all right. Actually, lives depend on it to be okay.
It’s time that we build a bridge between the gap of mental illness and mental wellness. We have to find a way to make that connection and talk to the people we care for the most about the hard things like mental health. Because chances are, there is someone you love who has fallen into that bottomless hole, hoping that there is someone out there who cares enough to send down a rope.
Call them, send them a text, put a card in the mail. Give them some hope that there are better days yet to come, and that this life we are currently living in isn’t permanent.
Don’t let your people go through this alone.
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