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). I suppose that’s understandable, given the gravity of things. And what I’ve found through this narrative is that, overwhelmingly, the COVID ideology is: 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, and 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 point here 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 related fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and suffering.
And the isolation.

“We” are used to fear. And anxiety. Anger. Sadness. And suffering.
Do you know why? Because, even discounting the pandemic, we have lived with those things every damn day. Those things took up permanent residency within us LONG before this pandemic came along. And the isolation, too. We’ve 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. And the illness and symptoms do not just go away or resolve on their own. The best we can hope for is that our meds, 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 that cause us discomfort. 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. By our own hands

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.

Anyway...

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. Every day I desperately resist the urge to self-medicate with booze, my old crux. The go-to. Good ole reliable. Even now, at 10 am, I fight the urge to spice up  my morning coffee.
Yet I recognize how “fortunate” I am (if any kind of addiction can be considered more fortunate than another) that my crux isn’t cocaine or heroin, or something else. Either way, they're all destructive and they’ll still kill you. Booze might just take a little longer. I know. Because of my dad.

And there are many who don’t survive it. Some of us 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.

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.

And let me also acknowledge that I do not do things things because of my political stance; I’m actually a life-long Democrat! Surprising, right?!? Which begs the question- how the fuck did this ever become a bipartisan issue, with Dems typically supporting isolation and shut down, and the others supporting the opposite? How and why did that even happen?? Because it’s just NOT. It’s a fucking humanitarian issue.

And COVID is killing our kids. But again, not how you my 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. WHAT?? Are you fucking serious??
Are you a parent, a teacher, or some other school professional/paraprofessional who directly witnesses the effects? 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 kids in school right now?
Side note- 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 a graduation, not playing his final year of tennis… 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 fucking judgement and criticism.

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