Mental Illness in the Time of Covid-19
I know 2020 was just one turd twister after another for the entire world. From Covid-19 to murder hornets, the year was just a relentless string of WTF moments. And I am sure that many people already living with a mental illness BC (Before Corona) found themselves in the same downward toilet spiral I found myself in mid-summer or perhaps even earlier in this incredibly existential 365-day escapade.
I was back to having nightmares about my father's suicide; every time I turned on the news (otherwise known as the real Sci-Fi channel), I had massive anxiety. And let's not forget that my place of employment made it mandatory to come in a certain number of days, which could have been done from my clean home office via the good people at Google. Yes, they assured my safety through reinforced social distancing, yes, there were temperature checkpoints, and yes, there was evidence of the deep cleaning they swore to the high heavens there would be. However, try telling that to my anxiety/depression.
On the nights before I had to go to work, I had panic attacks, I cried, and I arm-wrestled with the depressing thought that nobody cared if some of my colleagues, a lot of them are older and more vulnerable than I am by the by, and myself got sick. Thinking of them having to choose between an earlier and unsteady retirement or getting sick led me to a new cycle of anxiety and depression on how I felt like such a coward. My lowest point came when I started looking into life insurance policies and wills since I am the only one currently employed in my household. I even wrote down the way my funeral should be handled. Emotionally scarred by seeing my father's exsanguinated corpse on display, I've opted for cremation. Half my ashes will be scattered into the ocean off Key West and the other half sent to the Miyagi Zao Fox Village in Japan. FYI it is a fox sanctuary that also contains a shrine to these almost mythical mischief-makers. I'm hoping this might help further vacillate me coming back as a fox in my next life because, quite frankly, I CANNOT do this human thing, AGAIN. The depressing thought that this might be the only way that I would ever go to such a magical place made me realize that this year was also a dream killer for many. Thus, bringing me back to my forced realization that death moved onto my daily, no, I'm sorry, hourly list of both health and spiritual concerns.
I am sure you are not surprised to hear that I had to start talking to a therapist again instead of just relying on my meds. Oh, and you know I had to adjust those as well. Also, to keep my hands from shaking and me driving off the road, I had to start listening to Audible books to distract myself from where I was going and what I was risking. Also, I don't think I was the only one with this problem. During the first few months, I saw more accidents on the road than I have ever seen on my commute to work.
So, this brings me to my point. More than ever, we need to remember that mental illness is a real thing that has to compete with the sardonic sucker punch, which is our current reality. There needs to be more time spent on improving everybody's access to our mental health system. We need more people and programs like the Suicide Hotline designed and fine-tuned for last year's psychological impact. Also, let's face it, this upcoming year, since now, wearing a mask has become a political issue. These programs need to be pumped into the social media machine and advertised everywhere. We need more properly trained ears because we have more fears. And nothing is scarier than silence. Wait, I take that back. Nothing is scarier than silence and isolation, even if it is for your safety.
I'll leave you with this statistic from Psychology Today, "Suicide rates had been on the rise already. In fact, in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide deaths among those ages 16 to 64 had increased to 35% in less than two decades. But there are new factors related to the pandemic and subsequent crises that could potentially contribute to a further increase in the rate." Considering we are entering into year two of this; I highly doubt the word "potentially" is even applicable anymore.