Pandemic Mental Health; The Silent Crisis


BANGOR, ME — December 15, 2020
Crista Grace

It seems that everything I read/hear/watch lately, no matter where or who it comes from, has something to do with COVID (well, other than the election conspiracy theories, but that’s an entirely different article). That’s understandable, given the gravity of things. And I’ve learned a lot about the human condition, as I'm sure many have. But the predominant part of the narrative is what I like to call "The COVID ideology." And that ideology is, overwhelmingly: Stay home.

In addition to that, is the requirement to judge, criticize, and/or criminalize everyone, including your friends and/or family, who violate the pandemic ideology.

Scold and/or chastise violators, argue with violators, judge violators, unfriend/unfollow violators on all social media platforms, unfriend violators literally, tell them that they are the sole (or at least the biggest) reason for the pandemic spreading (even though it is a contagion, and that’s what contagions do, regardless). And most importantly tell them that they are murderers.

Which brings me to the meat of this article. And poses an honest question... And considering the obscure rationale above, it is a legitimate one.

If people who violate the COVID stay-home-creed are the sole propagators of the contagion and are murderers, do the others consider themselves murderers of the countless (and increased number of) people who are dying from suicide or overdose?

Seriously. Simply based on the logic of it, it is a Fair. Fucking. Question.  

Now, my responsibility is not to list statistics for the increased suicides and opioid-related deaths and their relationship to the pandemic. That you can discover on your own by putting in a little effort. And it won’t require much; because even though the mental health crisis is much quieter than the physical one, it still exists on a very large scale. And whether or not you agree with or believe it, is an equally dire emergency.

What I will tell you from personal experience, is, that everything about this pandemic has intensified, agitated, amplified my clinical depression and bi-polar emotions/tendencies. SO MUCH MORE than “normal” people trying to cope with the effects of COVID. The fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, the isolation, the suffering.

“We” are used to fear. And anxiety. Anger. Sadness. And suffering.
Do you know why? Because we have always lived with those things, every damn day. Those things took up permanent residency within us LONG before the pandemic came along. And the isolation... We’ve always lived with that. The physical and emotional isolation is always a part of us.

We cope with these things every day, our entire lives- because these things are parts of an illness, no matter what you may think or believe. An illness with symptoms that do not just go away or resolve on their own. The best we can hope for is that our medications, or counseling, or behavior modification will help to quiet our symptoms. It is a constant struggle, a raging battle. And most of us survive it at the end of every day, only to get up every morning, feeling the suffocating weight of that war all over again. And again, and again, and again.

I can’t expect you to understand, or even imagine how we must be feeling in the current climate. Without actually experiencing this state of mind, this capsule of dread that we live in, one cannot possibly relate. 

Additionally, many people don’t even have the desire to try and comprehend it. Either they don’t believe that mental illness is a thing, or they are just not willing to look it in the face. And I can almost understand that. Because it is difficult to acknowledge the things that we don’t understand, or the things that make us uncomfortable. So, just ignore it, instead. Make it invisible. As if it were the elephant in the room that they’d prefer to cover with a blanket. Or a brick fucking wall.

And during this unthinkable crisis, we are going to see our counselors, our psychiatrists, our doctors. We are still attending group therapy sessions. And unexpectedly, some of us, I presume many, have taken to social activities, outings, shopping, or gathering with our friends or family…
Just. To keep. From dying. But not with COVID.

But those violations of the COVID doctrine are unacceptable. Those actions are not understandable, or forgivable. And even though they might even be necessary for those of us suffering from mental illness, they are not considered necessary to “normal” people.

Speaking of "normal people..." Am I suggesting that every person going out and about are battling some kind of mental illness? Of course not. But, no matter their stance, how far across the aisle they are from you, or how much y'all want to fight about it, I'd be willing to bet my last dollar (and I'm just about there), that the real reason lies in the bottom of that barrel of discord. They are doing it to maintain a certain level of sanity, too. And who are we to tell them they cannot or should not mentally care for themselves??

Nobody. That’s who. So in that case, never you mind about it. Nonya business. You do you, let them do them.


I’m still here. I’m still going to sleep at night knowing that tomorrow will be just as hard, sometimes harder, than today was. My meds have increased in dosage, and every day I resist the urge to self-medicate. I come from a long line of alcoholics, and that temptation is always with me. 
I recognize how “fortunate” I am (if any kind of addiction can be considered better than another) that my crux isn’t cocaine or heroin, or anything worse. Either way, they're all destructive, and they’ll all kill you. Booze might just take a little longer. I know, because of my dad.
But like many others, I am getting by.

I am still meeting with my psychiatrist and doctors. And yes, oddly enough, I have taken to more socializing. It’s odd because most of us isolate when we are at our worst… I know, ironic. I don’t even understand that myself. I’ve been shopping (much more than I should, considering I’m unemployed). I visit my friends. I visit my extended family. I go out to eat. And if I were a believer, I’m sure I would go to my place of worship for reprieve.

There are many who don’t survive it. Some just cannot bear the thought of living with it for even one more day. It was already intolerable, but the pandemic has made it so painful, so torturous, that our only relief is to make it stop. The permanent solution that so many people cannot understand, is the only one that makes any sense to us.

Some of those desperate situations include our youth. COVID is killing our children. But again, not how you might be thinking. 

I’ve seen/heard/read opinions lately from people who are certain that remote learning has not affected children academically or emotionally. Going so far as to claim that they are thriving
I think that, perhaps, those are the same folks who cover the elephant with a blanket, or brick wall. To them, I ask...  Are you a child psychologist? Are you unbiased enough by your political affiliation to actually LOOK at the statistics surrounding that? Do you even have school-age children??
My son graduated last year. I personally watched him fail academically during remote learning at the end of the year. He was damn lucky to graduate. I also watched the emotional and mental effect it had on him; not being with his friends, not having graduation, not playing team sports… It was real. And it was frightening.

Consider, for example, the local 16-year-old boy who killed himself this month.

He couldn’t see his friends. He couldn’t play football. He left a note stating how horrible the pandemic was making him feel, how alone and isolated he felt, and how he just couldn’t take it anymore.

He died because of COVID.  

He is just one example of the quiet mental health crisis. An example of how the pandemic is not only killing those infected with it. It is killing people with mental illness at a rate faster and higher than ever before.

You could take his example, or my personal experience (which would resound with so many others like me), and open your eyes, show a little compassion, some empathy, some understanding, and certainly a lot less judgment and criticism.

Or you can just pretend it’s invisible. Get the blanket for the elephant. The brick and mortar.