Caring for Our Mental Health in the Pandemic
After self-isolating for more than five weeks, I had my routine down. My wife and I still got up before 8 a.m. I'd make coffee and she'd walk the dog (wearing a mask, of course). We'd both work in our respective offices for most of the day. In the afternoons, sometimes, we'd do yoga in the living room. At night we'd make dinner together, then watch something, then go to bed. Repeat.
I was on top of it, and was prepared to do this as long as necessary. However, last week, I started to notice my thoughts had become obsessive. I was focusing almost exclusively on worst-case scenarios and self-blame, and I was losing hope. I lay awake most of the night either scrolling Twitter or imagining horrible futures.
As someone who has been diagnosed multiple times over the years with depression, anxiety, and OCD, this was a familiar place to be. And it's not surprising I found myself back there this week. Isolation can be a playground for depression and other mental health conditions. I don't currently have access to most of the activities that bring me joy or soothe me, such as seeing friends, group yoga classes, going to shows, or soaking in a community hot tub. Add to that, my life path has been interrupted in countless cascading ways.
It's hard to notice your mental state when you're in it. Fortunately, I'm in regular therapy (through telehealth), and my therapist and my wife both mentioned that they saw some concerning habits returning. At the recommendation of my therapist, I spoke with my Primary Care Physician over secure message. We decided I should go back on the antidepressants I had stopped last year, at least for now. Then my therapist and I discussed strategies for shifting my behavior so I don't fall too deep into despair. We are also increasing our sessions to twice a week for the time being. It's early still, but I'm starting to feel the hope return. I consider myself lucky that I was able to recognize these patterns so early and start to turn them around, and extremely grateful for the network of people who have helped to make this possible.
LGBTQ folk are at higher risk for depression and many other mental health conditions, and oftentimes our community faces additional barriers in seeking mental health help. Now, with the added complications of the pandemic, many may be feeling how I was: hopeless. This is a time to act with extreme compassion toward one another, and also toward ourselves. If you know people with a history of mental illness, or anyone who you think might be having an especially hard time, I urge you to reach out to them. If you are feeling hopeless, please know that you are not alone. If you have a support network of friends, family, therapists, or doctors, please do not wait to contact them and tell them what you're going through.
If you don't currently have a support network, here is a list of organizations that can help:
- TransLifeline: A 24/7 lifeline at: (877) 565-8860
- The Trevor Project: A 24/7 lifeline for trans youth at: (866) 488-7386
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
It's important for us to take care of ourselves and each other emotionally and spiritually just as we take care to guard against the virus. Please be gentle with yourself, and take the actions required to weather this storm with your whole body, mind, and spirit.