The Mighty Logo

18 Signs 2020 Is Taking a Real Toll on Your Mental Health

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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.

Many of us can relate to the old clichés about life not being easy and have faced our share of bumps in the road. We’ve all had those times when we apologetically tell people, “sorry but it’s been a really rough day…” or even week or month. But 2020 has been on a whole other level. For many of us, it hasn’t been a rough day or week or month. It has been rough year. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through the world, infecting millions and killing over a million people worldwide. The virus has caused widespread and far-reaching financial problems as well, as businesses shut down all over the globe. People lost their lives, their jobs, their homes, in many cases everything. Above and beyond the impact of the virus on people’s physical health and fiscal well-being, it has taken a harsh toll on everyone’s mental health as well.

Add to that political and military unrest springing up around the globe.  Trump vs Biden. Brexit. Pockets of fighting springing up all over the world.  Civil unrest. Racism, police brutality, rampant homophobia and transphobia, science deniers and conspiracy theorists. Global disasters. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes. floods, droughts. You cannot turn on the television or go online without being bombarded by what feels like continuous doom and gloom, crisis after crisis on a grandiose scale. To say it is overwhelming is an understatement. 

Last but not least is the impact everything this year has had on many of our personal lives. COVID-19 lockdowns have put wedges in friendships and relationships. Quarantines and public health measures have made it hard, if not impossible, to see many of our loved ones. Friends and family members have been butting heads and in some cases even cutting ties altogether over differences in politics, opinions, and morality. Many of us have been struggling to socialize or simply do not feel safe doing so. Where many of us previously felt we once had a safety net of people who cared, we are now finding ourselves feeling disconnected, abandoned and alone. 

Everything happening this year is taking a drastic a toll on our mental health. Nothing feels safe anymore. It’s like standing outside in a downpour without an umbrella. Everything keeps happening in rapid succession, drop after drop, until you’re thoroughly soaked. There’s so much happening, so many drops falling at once, that it’s impossible to dodge any one drop. Your only choices at that point are to continue getting drenched or to come in out of the storm. And that is precisely what many people who are feeling overwhelmed by this year are doing.

We come in out of the storm, feeling cold and numb. We isolate. We know the downpour is happening outside but we just cannot handle a single drop more. We’re chilled to the bone. Exhausted. Avoidance is common when you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted. 

We’re also frustrated and angry. We demand to know when this storm will be over. We’re tired of it. We desperately want our lives back to normal. We have things to do! Those feelings are normal, too.

When feeling mentally overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated or angry, our first impulse may be to withdraw, shut down or to rage. However, when you are struggling, often the best course of action is to seek help. Being able to voice our concerns and frustrations, knowing we are not alone, embracing wellness practices and learning positive coping mechanisms can drastically improve our overall mental health during even the hardest of times. There is no shame in needing or seeking help, especially in a year like 2020 when many of us could use all the help we can get.

We asked our Mighty community how 2020 has personally affected their mental health and what made them realize they might need help. Here is what they had to say:

1. “I found myself letting everything go into a state of discourse. My house, my finances, my kids’ schedule. I knew that I had to regain control of my mental health so this year wouldn’t also affect them the way it had beaten me down. I needed to show my children that even when the storm hits and lingers, the sun will eventually shine again.” — Jen R.

2. “I grew apathetic towards things that I once took tremendous pride in doing. The frequency and intensity of the meltdowns I was having was also a sign that my mental health was fading.” — Lauren L.

3. “The first sign for me was being unable to talk to people at work. Normally I could listen to customers and respond as needed, but I completely shut down and gave one worded replies. I couldn’t even handle looking at people or being around them.” — Aryn K.

4. “Having an intervention for my eating disorder. When you’re in that dark place, you don’t realize how bad it’s gotten. But it started with an intervention and then two months in treatment was an awakening that’s for sure. I didn’t realize how tired and hurt I was until I got that therapy.” — Chels M.

5. “I noticed my sleep schedule (already something I had to work hard to maintain) has been getting more and more difficult to manage. My natural tendency is to sleep all day and be up at night but I usually make some effort to flip that. When I ran out of my medication and felt too anxious to call the doctor (withdrawal sucks but I just moved to a new city and medical offices give me panic attacks). When I started being super irritable with my family over things that I know shouldn’t bother me as much as they do.” — Caitlin S.

6. “When I started to cry frequently with no reason (as someone who seldom cry in the past), and when the most important things don’t seem to matter anymore.” — Grace K.

7. “How many days in a row I was suicidal and fatigued. Now whenever I begin to feel that way, I know I need to pause everything and address myself.” — Clarissa H.

8. “I would sit down and start playing games on my tablet or reading. Later realize six to eight or more have gone by and I had zero memory of it. I would be much further along in books. Progress would be made in game. But didn’t have any memory of it. Depression was real bad anyhow, with lots of suicidal ideology. Was afraid of what I might do during these episodes.” — William K

 9. “I couldn’t handle my anxiety attacks anymore, my depression was overwhelming. To numb the bad feelings I abused medication and alcohol. Than it became real dark and I realized eventually that if I would go on like this I end up dead and for some time I was looking forward to this end. Somehow with the help of my family I got myself help, real help for the very first time and it saved my life, I’m grateful for that to no end.” — Jan B.

10. “When I’ve had a full blown migraine every single day for a week, finally admitted I’m not dealing with everything anymore and called the doctor for help today.” — Desiree T.

 11. “I first took on more hours at work. Then a second job. I than decided to quit therapy as I felt I couldn’t be honest with my feelings as I had so much shame and guilt building up inside me as I started to succumb to a relapse. It took me losing my second job and almost my family to go back to therapy. I’m on day three.” — Danielle L. 

12. “My oldest daughter (7) wanted to know why she heard me crying in the shower all the time. I thought I was doing a better job hiding how bad I am… 7-year-olds hear everything.” — Laura T. 

13. “I’d been treading water for so long. Doing all the ‘right’ things and more. I was trying so hard to get better, to learn new skills, to function 100% as my ‘old’ self. Things weren’t shifting and the thoughts were still spinning around in my head.. unrelentingly! Something snapped and I was the target of my anger. Thank goodness for a timely message from a good friend.” — Carolyn B.

14. “When I started pacing and talking to myself. Trying to talk myself out of the spiraling anxiety attack. It didn’t work.” — Joan S.

15. “When I would have panic attacks vomiting when I got home relapsing in self harm.” — Grace F. 

16. “Not caring about anything any more. Every day is the same. Angry about everything and at everyone.” — Elayne M.

17. “When there was a drive-by shooting, a 19-year-old lost their life, and I was jealous above all else.” — Brie M.

18. “Not being able to even get out of the house.” — Jackson I.

If you are finding any of these feelings relatable, please know that you are not alone. Many of us are overwhelmed and struggling with 2020. But there is help out there. Please reach out to a therapist, doctor, pastor, friend, family member — anyone you feel is part of your support network. If you do not have one, build one. There is help out there. There is hope. This year may feel overwhelming in so many ways, but none of us has to face it alone.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: November 2, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home