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How the Pandemic Plays Mind Games With Those of Us Fighting Depression

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Let me start by saying I am blessed to be safe in my home space during this pandemic. However, I find myself scrolling through social media as a default coping mechanism looking for distraction. That may or may not be a good idea because we all know how social media can have a negative impact on our thoughts. You know the infamous “Fake-book”comparison. I did not coin that phrase, but I have been known to use it freely.

Anyway, these last few months have been different. We cannot be fake because the playing field has been mostly leveled. We are now on semi-common ground trying to cope with uncertainty and struggling to survive fear. We are working hard to remind ourselves of the joy that exists just by existing. And, that is what we are sharing.

That being said, I have been watching people live their best lives during this time of quarantine and I am so happy for them. Triumph over tragedy is an incredible testament of the human spirit. I am in awe. Maybe that is their coping mechanism or maybe strength is their default setting. I don’t know, but I know that it is not mine.

I wish I was able to make lemonade out of these sour, rotting lemons. But, you see even on my best days I battle a silent, invisible and oftentimes disregarded killer known as mental illness. The times we are currently living have brought to my attention that I have to actively work to find happiness.

To be honest, I am finding default joy in the time we are being given. I am a homebody through and through. My husband frequently accuses me of being antisocial, but I prefer to put a positive spin on that and describe myself as an introvert.

I don’t like having a busy schedule. I like slow mornings and even slower days. I thrive when I have endless time to just accomplish or not accomplish whatever I want. I always dreamed of a world where clocks were irrelevant.

These days, my mind does not have to worry about what I should be doing with my kids. You know, that they should be in sports because they will be better people or we should be having family outings because it will strengthen our bond. The truth is, I have never wanted that life.  I am and have always been an advocate for finding magic in the mundane and joy in the simple.

In that way, this has been an unexpected and welcomed blessing.

But no longer needing to have those thoughts because we are all having to do just that, frees up a lot of room in my mind to have new, unsettling thoughts.

I am sure that is a lot of us, so let me explain.

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I have to be an active participant in my thoughts so that they don’t drag me into the ever alluring darkness.

I have to put forth effort into strength. Like give-myself-a-big-ol’-pep-talk-so-I-can-function kind of strong.  After all, my mind so easily takes me down a road of terror and there are no dead ends.

Prior to our current situation, the terror was imaginary. I could talk myself out of seemingly improbable situations because “that only happens in the movies.” Now, it is as though we are living in said movie. On a daily basis the television news gets weirder and the statistics become more disheartening.

My thoughts are ones I have no formulated defense against. This pandemic is giving my mind free rein in new territory, and I am exhausted. I am sure that is a lot of us these days so let me share these thoughts with you.

They are themes of uncertainty, fear and doubt, like:

“Will this virus ever disappear?”

“Will we be able to leave our homes without masks and without fear of introducing this new-found plague into our homes?”

“Will our loved ones become infected with a potentially deadly illness?”

“Will our children be able to interact with their friends in a not-on-a-Zoom-call kind of way?”

“Will my essential worker husband dodge the bullet?”

“Will the healthcare workers like myself, but mostly the ones in the hospital, be able to keep the pace?”

“Will I finally adjust to this new normal only for the dust to settle and be thrown into yet another change that will require me to readapt yet again before I have been able to adequately recover from all the energy I have had to put forth in this re-adaptation?”

“What will be our new normal?”

“Will the grocery stores stay stocked? How necessary is it to ration the food we currently have? Not to mention the toilet paper.” It really is becoming hard to find and my stash is running low and never would I ever have thought that would happen and yet it is. That is not a comforting scenario for someone who has to use probability and likelihood statistics to calm her mind. You see when the unlikely and improbable begin to happen, it is like opening locked doors and revealing acres of uncertainty and my anxiety happily runs out into the fields to play.

I struggle to reel it in. Uncertainty is kryptonite to an anxiety-laden mind.

As we all sit in the darkness of the aforementioned uncertainty, know that you are not alone. If you are engaging in constant battles against your mind and struggling to live your best life while teetering on the slippery slope on an all encompassing mental illness in the time where the world was forced to slow down, know that I am too.

The thing about mental illness is that it’s not enough just to struggle. It is a disease that tells us we are incapable of surviving and that we lack the ability to fight our demons. That our efforts are futile and we are weak. These debilitating mantras are always bubbling at the surface, but we need to know that we do have the courage, strength and ability to quiet them.

I am finding solace in my go-to coping mechanisms, the ones I engaged in before the world changed.

They are my certains.

Yoga: it truly is a saving grace.  It quiets my mind and gives me gratitude that my body is capable.

Writing: it cleanses my mind and organizes my thoughts.

Fresh air: when it gets too much, step outside. Revel in the magnificence of open blue skies and swaying blades of green grass. There is nothing like nature to recenter your flailing spirit.

And Jesus. Finding solace in His word and using this time intentionally for prayer.

This is new ground for all of us, including those of us struggling with our mental wellness. We may need to find new ways to cope. We may need to formulate new counterarguments for our spiraling thoughts. It might be harder right now and take more work to recognize that we are sinking because, after all, the whole world is sinking.

But, even in a pandemic, our mental health still matters.

I am finding comfort in knowing that one way or another this will come to an end; the uncertainty will begin to feel more certain and we will adapt to whatever new normal we find ourselves facing.

It does not serve my mind to contemplate those what-ifs and imaging what our world and our lives will look like beyond today.

The only thing I know for certain is right now and right now I am here. As are you, warrior.

Let’s keep going.

Getty image by Grandfailure

Originally published: January 21, 2021
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