Even the least empathic person out there can feel it.
The distress. That overwhelming sense of uncertainty, dis-ease, and inexplicable dread. It’s like someone placed a cloud over 2020 that lets in very little of the sun.
Whether you are still working, a critical worker, furloughed, schooling at home, or know people who have had their life situation impacted by the pandemic — the collective consciousness has been disrupted.
Life as we know it has shifted dramatically. And it is still shifting — which just fuels uncertainty, concern, and a genuine sense of “what the fuck?”
While the overall odds of people contracting COVID-19 are low, the reality of a psychological impact is high.
What you are feeling may be unique to you — but you are most certainly not alone in feeling it. The mental and emotional toll of the pandemic, combined with social-distancing, unexpected and largely unwelcome change, bizarre politics, and everything happening all at once is profound.
Feeling anxious and/or depressed? You are not alone — and this is not something we should sweep under the rug at this time.
Anxiety should come as no surprise
How is this all going to play out? For how long will we need to practice social distancing? When will they find a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus? How will the economy recover or be forever changed? What will the world look like on the other side of this?
Those are the big questions embedded in the collective consciousness. Individuals are asking their own questions.
Will I keep my job? Having lost my job, can I find a new job at equal or better pay and benefits? Will I get sick? Is it possible someone I know will get sick and die? What can I do to help?
On every level, these questions may not have answers. Or, more specifically, multiple answers completely outside of your control.
That’s a valid cause for anxiety. The uncertainty, the vast unknown, and all the mystery of it can be overwhelming. Even the strongest people are feeling it. With very few exceptions, nobody has encountered a situation like this before.
We like being in the know. So not knowing makes people anxious. The main answer to most of these questions right now is that we have no answer. That sits poorly with most people.
Thus, you feel anxiety.
Depression is a matter of course
Many people right now are particularly isolated. Home alone, unable to visit with friends or family for fear of the risk of infecting them or getting infected. It is in our best interest to limit interaction to lessen the possibility of spreading the virus.
Some people are not totally isolated, but still feeling cut off. The activities they love are not happening. No gathering together for parties, games, and general social interaction. All professional sports are on hold to maintain self-quarantine. With the exception of certain essential businesses, everything else is closed down.
That’s depressing. Plain and simple. It’s abnormal, disconcerting, and simply depressing. When you feel cut-off and alone and limited in your course of action it causes depression.
I go to medieval fencing practice at least once a week, up to 4 times a week. Or rather, I did. No practice now.
Sure, there are virtual gatherings and drills and such — it’s not the same. It lacks the joy of being with people and the combined mental and physical motion in the moment when practicing.
I really miss fencing. I’ve been fencing regularly 1–4 times a week for 20 years. And not knowing when I get to do it again is depressing.
I am well aware that I am not the only one feeling this way about our current situation.
It’s time to address the normalcy of mental health issues
First — it is utterly valid that you feel anxiety, depression, and other emotions unlike how you may have felt them before. This current situation is incomparable to anything most of us have experienced. Logic and reason cannot be applied because emotion is not about logic and reason.
We are social creatures. Even the most introverted people need SOME variance of social interaction. When social-distancing and self-quarantine are necessary it’s an upheaval that will have an emotional impact on most.
This is why it’s time to address the normalcy of mental health issues. Talking about what many of us are feeling in this situation helps to brings us together.
The fear and uncertainty in the world today are veritably tangible. Like that nagging sense in the back of your mind that someone is behind you or otherwise hidden and watching you.
We need to address this more as a society. Overall, mental health tends to be neglected and still carries a stigma for many people. But it’s something important to EVERYONE. Talking more openly about it is the key to removing the stigma and normalizing the importance of it.
Feeling overwhelmed by emotion — and falling into the clinical definitions of depression and anxiety — doesn’t make you unusual. Nor does it make you “crazy” or “defective.” Nope. It is a perfectly normal aspect of the human condition.
Creating unity to stave off division
When a great deal of our society’s so-called “leaders” care only to divide and conquer, it becomes the role of you and me to resist it and take action.
One way we can do this is by uniting in our fight against depression and anxiety caused by the pandemic. Seeing that you and I are not alone can go a long way towards creating bridges of wellbeing.
Some have said we are all in the same boat together. But that’s simply not true. What IS true is that we are all in this together in that we are weathering the same storm. However, each of us is in our own boat navigating the storm.
The storm will have a different impact on everyone. But it will have an impact. Being mindful of that, you and I can work together on our mental health. We can keep in touch, check-in on one another, and check-in with friends and family to help them through as well.
While it’s true the only person you can have any control over is yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for others to help them with being an ear, an eye, friend, lover, non-professional therapist, or an advocate.
Do what you need to in order to care for yourself. Your feelings of depression and anxiety are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and don’t think less of yourself because of how you are feeling. It is normal, and you are not alone.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter, and out mental health is not to be ignored.