The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of heartache since its arrival to the U.S. in March of 2020: death, financial hardship, panic and fear. But something I believe that everyone was ill-prepared for when the world went into shut-down mode was the toll that all of the chaos and seclusion would take on people’s mental health; I know that I was. In the United States, government officials were concerned with keeping people safe and preparing our hospitals with the proper supplies to deal with the rapidly spreading virus. However, as the majority of the country sat at home, a wave of mental illness washed over the American people.
As someone who has suffered with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder since childhood, my mind has always been a battleground. However, leading a busy life has always benefitted me. Before March, it had been 9 years since my mental health put me in a truly debilitating state. But as quarantine drug on my world was slowly turned upside down, so slowly that it was hard to recognize on my own. I was sleeping all day, eating terribly, and not exercising (all of which have been triggers in the past). I had no reason to be sad; I was newly engaged and planning my wedding, my family and friends were able to continue working, and those I cared most about were happy and healthy. But I was still feeling lifeless and purposeless. I crept into a terrible place; the strangest things would trigger a panic attack and the intrusive thoughts started beating me down. I had fears that had never existed before, and I could only shut my mind off by sleeping. I despised the feelings of anxiety and panic, but they just continued coming. I battled for several months before I felt like myself again. And even today, I do not feel that I have returned to my pre-Covid self.
The pandemic has been a very tough time for me mentally. Myself and many people that I know have struggled with fear, worry, and panic about all different aspects of life during this wild year. When someone’s life is turned upside down and a great deal of uncertainty exists, it is so easy to lose oneself. I am so grateful to have a family who was able to see the changes and encourage me to seek help, but I know that not everyone is so fortunate. For many people, home is not a safe space. Since March, we have seen a huge rise in domestic abuse and elevated mental health issues. I think this is something government officials did not consider when they decided to change our daily lives so much. It is so important that mental health be treated at the same level of importance as physical health. People do not just need food, water, shelter, and money to survive; they need affordable access mental health services. Many businesses and mental health professionals have stepped up to offer free counseling and therapy, which has allowed for so many people to seek help that they may have never previously considered. Ultimately, I hope that this huge wave of mental health elevation can impact post-Covid life in a positive manner. The physical and economic recovery that the United States needs to make is daunting, but a great deal of mental health recovery is also necessary and equally as important. I can only hope that when it is all said and done, the mental health crisis during the pandemic creates a greater normalization of mental illness moving forward.