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Why Waiting for the COVID-19 Vaccine Is Impacting My Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I have never waited for anything with such bated breath than I have for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to arrive. I know I’m not alone with wanting life to return to something that looks like “normal” — everyone wishes the pandemic was simply a thing of the past. I have to admit that I’m incredibly lucky; I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat, so I’m more fortunate than many Americans right now. However, I’ve noticed that since the vaccine became available, my symptoms of depression and anxiety have worsened. So, what caused this negative effect on my mental health?

I’m in my 30s, in good health, and I’m not an essential worker, so I’m extremely low on the priority list for getting the vaccine. Of course, I totally understand the need to prioritize other folks (like seniors and health care workers) first. I think it just feels disheartening to think about millions of people needing to be vaccinated before it becomes my turn. When I think about waiting for what could turn out to be many more months, I feel a pit in my stomach and like there’s a heavy weight on me. As someone who struggles with frequent suicidal thoughts, I often wonder if I have the strength to keep going under the current circumstances. My life isn’t likely to change until I’m vaccinated.

There are two main things that keep me feeling trapped and alone during the pandemic. First, I’m unable to see my family and friends except through Zoom or FaceTime. I live in California, which is still struggling greatly with high hospitalization and death rates. Only seeing my loved ones virtually leaves me feeling disconnected from the people I care about because it’s just not the same as seeing people in person. I have two young nephews who I adore. They’re growing up so fast and I feel like I’m missing out by not getting to play with and hug them. The second reason I wish the pandemic was over pronto is because I’m still not loving virtual therapy. I’ve written about this before – how doing therapy virtually just doesn’t feel quite right for me. I miss seeing my therapist in person and find it difficult when I’m dissociating or overly anxious to find the same connection that we have when we’re meeting in person. My therapist likely won’t even consider going back to in-person sessions until everyone is vaccinated, so the timeline for me to get back to traditional therapy is totally up in the air at this point.

When I read news reports that say it could take until summer or fall for all of the general population to be vaccinated, I feel utterly hopeless and discouraged. I’ve tried limiting my news intake on this topic so that I don’t get even more depressed or anxious. I’ve signed up for email notifications in my state so that I’ll be alerted when the vaccine is available for people in my age range (so I don’t have to keep checking if something has changed). And I’ve taken the advice of my therapist to work on staying in the present – it doesn’t help to worry about when the vaccine will come if it’s so much further down the line. Focusing on the here and now is difficult for me but I understand why it can be helpful. I can’t control what happens in the future, only how I’m responding to what’s happening in the present moment.

I’ll likely continue to struggle until it’s safe to go back to in-person visits with my loved ones and with my therapist. I’ll try to make the best of things and be grateful for what I do have. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the time when the vaccine is available to me. For now, I think the best I can do is just keep calm and mask on.

Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

Originally published: February 1, 2021
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