As someone who has suffered from crippling social anxiety for the majority of my time here on earth, I have socially distanced and isolated myself on purpose for most of my life. Still, I never thought I would become as acquainted with terms like lockdown, pandemic, quarantine, social distance, and isolation as I have in the past year.
I am currently writing this during a period in which the government here in Hungary has just put us back on restrictions, or a “partial lockdown,” meaning shops are closed, the restaurants (which haven’t been open in months anyways) continue to stay closed up, schools are all shut down, and the curfew is still in place. I have this unique perspective during this time period because, while many have hated the past year spent isolated away from their friends, unable to visit clubs or bars, or even have a small get together, I have actually relished it. I no longer had to come up with excuses as to why I could not go out with my co-workers on Friday night or grab a coffee with them after work. In fact, since lockdown began, I haven’t even had to go into work every day, which prior to the coronavirus, had been a trigger for constant panic attacks and meant days or weeks off when my depression took hold and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving my bed much less my house.
Everyone I knew referred to this period as some type of prison from which they couldn’t escape. Their homes, originally filled with comforting objects, endless supplies of entertainment, and usually roommates or family members, suddenly became an inescapable horror house. It may sound awful to say, but their endless complaining about their situations actually made me laugh, because finally some of them understood what the outside world was like normally for me! Except unlike them, I don’t have the luxury of escaping my nightmare by picking up a book or a new hobby, or logging on to Netflix. I don’t get to shut my brain off and pretend that, for a moment, nothing is wrong. When I am outside, interacting with people or even just surrounded by strangers, I feel a panic inside akin to my whole body being set on fire. I am anxious and fidgety, and soon the panic will start to grow until my heart echoes in my ears and my breath becomes too rapid for me to control. The room will begin to spin and, without my knowledge or permission, tears will stream rapidly from my eyes.
What I am trying to get at is, it is funny that my paradise is what terrifies them. Well maybe “funny” isn’t the word, but it is definitely ironic. Do not get me wrong here or think I am unsympathetic to the people who have experienced a taste of mental illness during the pandemic. I feel awful for these people because I do get it! I understand how horrendous it is to be trapped. They have a physical entrapment, whereas mine has always been my own mind. I would advise them to get help by contacting friends and family, and maybe even reaching out to a counselor who they can speak to about where these issues stem from. I am sure for those that are alone during the pandemic and have no one to talk to, it can feel devastating. It is a very scary thought—to be completely. Thankfully, I have always had my parents around, whether I was at home, in my dorm, or on the other side of the world. I always knew they were just a phone call away. However, I know when you are struggling with your mental health sometimes a phone call is not enough. In my mind, the reassurance from others that things will get better or go back to normal was always just a falsehood people said to placate me. So, if that is how you feel I relate.
I have loved the peace and quiet that has come with this pandemic, and honestly, my mental health is the best it has been in years. I am med-compliant, I have had far fewer panic attacks, and even my mood changes have been less erratic. I know this is not the case for every person out there though, and I do feel bad that this pandemic has caused so much pain—not only physically but mentally as well. I would ask, though, that when this is all over and we do get back to “normal” (or some semblance of it) you don’t forget how you felt during this time. If you did feel isolated or you felt depressed, remember that for some of us, it is an everyday occurrence, and stepping back outside into the world again won’t suddenly fix it.
Mental illness is often a lifelong struggle, and it is not something we should just forget about once we are no longer suffering from it ourselves. I will always have a mental illness, and while I don’t look at it as an awful thing or even as something devastating for me, I do know that it affects me and the way I live my life. That does not mean anyone has to bend over backwards to accommodate me; however, it would be nice if people offered a little more empathy to those of us experiencing mental illness, especially because it was not long ago they also felt its effects. Please reach out if you want to speak with someone who has been dealing with depression and anxiety for a long time, or leave a comment. I am sure there are many others who can reassure you, you’re not alone. Also, subscribe to my page if you want to hear more about mental health or if you feel a kinship to my own struggles and feel the need to read more about them.
Signing off until next time,
The Mental Millennial Mom