It is a crisis within a crisis.
A few weeks after most regions in the world announced a full or partial lockdown, we’ve started to see more people cry out for help for their mental health. There complain about nightmares, or they’re starting to feel depressed because being inside all the time makes it hard for people to get out of bed. Even if they are allowed to go outside, they’ve become anxious to do so. Whatever you may think of that, it clearly shows that these people are not used to these feelings, and seeing that made me draw some conclusions.
Alongside this wave of complaints, something else is very noticeable: the community that deals with these kinds of feelings the most, is not necessarily speaking up any more than usual. If anything, they seem unusually quiet.
It’s as if they’re stuck dealing with the amplified version of the ailments they usually deal with.
I roll my eyes at the people who are now suddenly complaining, but not because I think they’re wrong for feeling what they feel. It’s because I worry they will end up considering themselves the front line of a war and claim a battle that they've only fought for a few weeks, and never credit the soldiers who have been dealing with these issues for years, if not their whole life. It makes me want to say: deal with it, the same way any silent sufferer has always endlessly dealt with it.
I think of the guy that has tried to end his life a few times but came to work the next day anyway, he’s in isolation too.
The woman that fights hard every day to get out of bed, be productive and fight that heavy stinging feeling that weighs her down, she’s stuck in bed too.
That person who has to take three deep breaths every step outside to not panic, he has to do his groceries during this crisis too.
That guy that blacks out in crowds.
The girl that has nightmares about shadows coming to choke her.
And these "regulars" in the fight for sanity are suffering just as much, if not more. Because these events stack on top of their battle, a battle that, in a lot of cases, was already a losing one. Especially now when the care they need is far from available. They are soldiering on and they're quiet because they know how to deal with what they’re feeling, and they are.
Perhaps those who are dealing with this situation for the first time can learn something from them.
I still believe that both rookie or veteran deserves help and treatment, but it’s noticeable how much more attention there suddenly is for mental health. It proves something that I’ve suspected for a while: people who constantly suffer from mental illnesses do not get sufficient help, and that is most likely because the world sees that they are handling themselves, and assume they’re fine.
“They’re handling it, surely they don’t need the help”.
Help doesn’t help until you’ve already fallen apart.
If mental healthcare "suddenly" improves when it becomes a mainstream issue, I think that would piss a lot of people off. I'd be pissed off.
At this point, I haven’t talked about the people who stay indoors with physical impairments yet. The people who spend their days between four walls and are confronted with the realisation that their daily life is considered unbearable by others.
“But they’re used to it, it’s different for them.”
No, it’s not. That is the mistake people make, in terms of believing that they are bravely handling themselves, and therefore they are fine.
Keep all of this in mind next time you talk to someone who deals with physical impairment or mental ailment. Remember that the way you feel now, because of the crisis, is how they feel most of the time.
Now to contribute something useful to the issue rather than ranting.
I in no way imply that your feelings are less valid because you were mentally healthy before the outbreak, and I and many others are always happy to help.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression caused by the crisis, there are a few things I would advise.
- Limit the amount of time you read about Corona news.
It is important to stay up to date on the situation, but spend half an hour in the evening or morning to catch up and stay away from news outlets for the rest of the day; if anything important happens, it'll reach you. I suggest doing it in the evening because if you do it at the start, it’ll set the tone and you could end up spending your day feeling sad, and having to counter your emotions is what makes depression exhausting.
- Find a form of therapy that works for you.
Set a new goal, work on a new skill, fill your day and give it rhythm again. If you can't go to work or school right now, then being at home is what is contributing to how you feel. Create the 9 to 5 feeling at home, give your day purpose. Upside: your "job" can be whatever you want. This is not about being productive in a time of low-productivity, this is about doing something that lights up your heart again.
- Watch out with money.
In times of boredom, we tend to shop, but in times of crisis, our resources are low. If there is something that can induce a state of anxiety, it is uncertainties about money. Save yourself the sleepless nights and create a money pot instead, saving can give you the feeling of satisfaction and safety, and offers a little more control.
Once things get better, you can use that money to go out and celebrate, that's something to look forward to.
A big known trap is compensating for the bad feelings with stimulants like food or alcohol. We are a species that eats when food is available, and find stress relief by feeding ourselves. Especially if you’ve been stacking up for the hard times, be careful with how much you eat or drink. If you snack to counter how you feel, then every time you feel upset, angry or sad, your brain will tell you that eating again is the solution. It’s a habit that can spiral into an addiction, while there are healthier ways to counter the boredom.
- Get some exercise.
Going out for a jog or going to the gym might not be an option, but put on a dance video and dance along, try learning that one choreography you have been thinking about. Do a fun home workout. You could aspire to come out of isolation with that body type you’ve wanted to pursue for a while.
Exercise is a common form of treatment against anxiety, stress, sleeplessness and even traumatic stress. I recommend getting a good sweat going, have a warm shower, eat your favourite meal with lots of complex carbohydrates and then wait. You will feel yourself becoming relaxed and fall asleep easier.
- A really important one: don't fight yourself.
What do I mean with that? It's okay to not feel okay. Acknowledge that you feel sad or anxious, it’ll make it easier to deal with it. Sit down and acknowledge how you're feeling, tell yourself it's okay, and talk to someone about it or document it. Writing it off you or saying it out loud makes the mental sickness monster seem a lot less scary. And then once you have recognised your feelings, it becomes easier to find the right way to deal with it.
- If the voice becomes too loud, definitely talk to someone, you are probably surrounded by experts on how to deal with it.
I hope this helps, in the meanwhile: stay safe, you’ll be okay.