I don’t usually like to get anywhere near remotely serious on the blog, but I have also found as this quarantine situation continues that I am slowly running out of joke-fuel for this situation and my mental health car is going to break down on the side of the road in Depression-ville (alright, less goofy analogies from here on out. Like I said, I’m not good at being serious).
When this all started it was something new at least. It was a big change but one we were all facing together. You could make easy jokes about being in quarantine, about meeting with coworkers on Zoom, about not being able to stop eating snacks, and so on, but I feel like that “new” energy has sort of faded away. I can’t even imagine going back into my office now. My mind isn’t even considering going out to a restaurant or a movie or a bar with friends. I haven’t been in more than like 4 different buildings in the past month. It feels like the new normal. And I hate it.
I feel bad talking about how miserable I am in quarantine because I think, what do I have to be complaining about? I’m healthy. I have a job that lets me work from home. I have a home filled with family. Why am I complaining when there are nurses and doctors working day in and day out to help people who have been affected by the virus? When there are people who got laid off because of the pandemic? When people are worried about if they’ll be able to afford protection, shelter, and healthcare in the midst of this deadly pandemic? When there are people who have lost loved ones to the virus? When people themselves have contracted the virus?
As grateful as I am for my situation and as much appreciation I have for everyone trying to help us through this time, I still just feel depressed and anxious. I feel guilty for feeling like that just because I’m “stuck in my house all day” when people are risking their lives, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to feel the way that I do, because it’s not just “being stuck inside my house all day” it’s much more than that.
It’s constantly thinking about how long this is going to last. It’s wondering if you’re going to be cooped up and deprived of social interaction for months on end, without it ever getting better. It’s being depressed that you’re gaining weight and don’t have the energy to do anything other than watch TV. It’s being anxious that you won’t be able to fulfill all the obligations at your job since you’re not in the office. It’s feeling like you’re losing your mind because you can’t keep keep track of days and times. It’s being sad about all the negative things you hear on the news. All of these things combined would make anyone struggle with mental health and just because you may not have it as “rough” as others doesn’t mean you don’t have it rough.
Ever since the pandemic started I’ve seen a lot of encouraging posts on social media. Stuff like “we will get through this!”, and “replace worry with hope!” and “find the good in today!” and so on. I love all these sayings, but that’s all that they are, sayings. I can say these things and share on social media but, in my situation personally, those very rarely do anything to make me feel better.
The other thing people have been doing is sharing tips to get through quarantine. Saying to do things like “stay active! Go for a walk or run each day!” or “Set aside time for creativity!” or “Meditate in quiet for a while!”, and again, these are all great tips to feel mentally and physically healthy, but if someone is depressed it’s not always easy to turn on the old positivity switch and decide to jog a quick 5k.
Again, I think these posts with saying or tips are only coming from a good place. And I’m sure people do see these posts and feel inspired and want to partake in some self-care practices, that’s awesome! I don’t want to discourage anyone from sharing positivity! But for me, especially when I’m in a depressed state, I look at a post like that and think “they have no idea what it’s like to actually be mentally ill”, and it makes me even more upset and feel more alone.
To really emphasize this point, I KNOW THAT’S NOT THE INTENTION. PEOPLE SHARING THOSE MESSAGES ARE PROBABLY GREAT PEOPLE AND I DON’T KNOW THEIR MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES. It just doesn’t work for me. That’s a me thing, not a them thing. But, in the past year or so of going to therapy, I’ve realized one method that works great for me and it’s not one I normally see shared on social media so I thought I’d share it here. It’s called, the Best Friend Method.
The “Best Friend Method” is just a way of “self-talk”. I have the problem where whenever I get anxious or depressed I beat myself up about feeling that way until it gets worse and worse and worse and eventually I bully myself into feeling like pure garbage. The Best Friend Method is simply trying to remember to talk to yourself and think about things as if you were talking about it with your best friend. Not a life coach who’s telling you that in order to reach peak mental enlightenment you need to go for a run, do yoga, eat healthy, and write a screenplay, just a friend who’s trying to make you feel better.
When I get anxious at work, normally, my brain tells me that it’s because I’m stupid and I don’t deserve to have a job. And guess what, that usually does nothing to help me through the challenge I’m facing! But, when using the Best Friend Method, I think to myself,
uhhh yeah you’re anxious dude! You’ve got like 10 things to do that you don’t really know how to do and then you have to present it to people? That’s a big deal! It’s kind of scary! There’s nothing weird about feeling that way that’s completely natural! Just do whatever you can, as best as you can, and give it a go. If it doesn’t work out, you gave it your best shot and it’s not the end of the world!
And when I get depressed about being at my house alone in the Winter and not talking to anyone my brain will normally tell myself that it’s because I’m a loser who doesn’t do anything and is destined to have an uneventful lonely life…and guess who feels worse when they go to bed…me! But with the Best Friend Method, I try to think to myself,
Yeah man, it’s lonely being in a house alone in the suburbs with nothing to do! You’re not getting enough social interaction, that’s what’s gonna happen! It’s not because you suck or no one cares, people are just living their lives! Lotta people love you and would hate that you feel this way. You should reach out to someone and make plans to hang out! Then you’ll have something to look forward to!
And as goofy as that sounds, after years and years of the voice inside my head being a dick to me, saying something like that to myself usually feels really really good. It can flip my whole perspective of a situation on its head sometimes, and at the very least it’s a nice change of pace to have the little angel on my shoulder chime in over the little red demon who’s been hogging my ear for a decade.
So when a global pandemic hits RIGHT when it was about to get nice out and everyone was about to start having fun but now people are losing their jobs, not seeing friends and are literally dying? Yeah! It’s ok to be depressed and anxious! Why would you not be? That’s not weird! That’s normal!
Most people are feeling bad right now but are trying to have the strength to not be negative or show weakness right now…I’m not gonna do that here. I feel like absolute garbage mentally and physically and to be honest, it does make me feel better when I hear from others that they’re feeling the same way too. I think a huge key to effectively using the Best Friend Method for me is just realizing how many people out there feel the same way I do. Convincing you that you’re not alone is what best friends are for.
I feel alone all the time and that’s even before the government mandated I don’t see people in person. So, yeah, if you feel depressed about this whole situation, that makes sense to me because I feel the same way. There’s no shame in admitting it. There’s no shame in not being able to put a smile on for social media or for your coworkers or for your family 24/7, these are shitty times and people are going to feel shitty. But just like all the other shitty times, we’ll get by. Some people get by by training for marathons, others will write that Oscar-winning screenplay, but I think for most people, like you and me, we just feel sort of feel shitty and try to be there for each other till it’s over.
I know this kind of sounds like I’m just reminding you how bad things are now but I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that through this, when you’re feeling physically and mentally alone, there are probably millions of others feeling the exact same way you do because it’s the normal way to feel given the circumstances. There’s no need to beat yourself up about it and feel worse, you have to be kind to yourself the way your friends would be if they weren’t ordered by the government to be more than 6 feet away from you. That kindness is going to be what gets you through all of this. And if you have that voice inside your head shaming you for feeling bad while it literally feels like world is ending outside, tell it to shut up! Give yourself that verbal hug because God knows it’s been long enough since you got a real one.
At most I hope this post inspires you to take it easy on yourself in these tough times, and at least, I hope this was somewhat of a different “mental health” related post than you’ve seen shared online the past few weeks. And of course, if you read this and are thinking you don’t know if you’re gonna make it through this, please please please reach out to friends, families, Mental Health resources (like the ones I’ve linked below) or even myself. You’ve got a lot of people here for you, most of which I think feel the same way and most of which, at the very least, don’t want you to feel any worse than you have to. Stay safe and be a good friend to others and yourself till this is over!
Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741
Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-TALK
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has some great resources and articles on how to deal with mental health issues during the Coronavirus.
I found my therapist on GoodTherapy.org and they even have a search bar that lets you look for professionals near you who can administer phone therapy. Even if you’re just feeling kind of down and want to explore more strategies for dealing with mental health issues, I highly suggest giving it a try.