Isolation is a word I’m all too familiar. Having lived most of my life with the symptoms of depression, my red light warning sign for an episode flashes like an emergency vehicle in a rush to save someone’s life. When I isolate it’s because I’m already down a slippery slope of the horrible doldrums of depression. COVID-19 isolation can trigger depression even for those who don’t normally find themselves depressed.
I feel like I’m living some kind of surreal dream or episode from a science fiction movie. I go to the grocery store just to wander down the isles and see how life is being impacted. If I can see the shelves bare with my own eyes it gives me a greater sense of reality. Most of my coping strategies to ward off a depressive episode are currently unavailable.
So in the middle of a pandemic I have to learn how to change my behaviors, focus on something positive, take one day at a time, put myself on a schedule, not allow my mind to run away with drastic predictions for the future, and fall back on some things I usually do that seems to help me.
The most important thing for my mental health is to pay attention to my thoughts. If I allow my thoughts to run wild, it’s worse than a run away freight train in rush hour traffic. I will crash. I won’t be able to sleep very well. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with my mind racing. I’ll change my mind a million times before I conclude something terribly negative.
When the stress gets turned up, my thoughts get faster. Until they slow to a turtle like pace eliminating my ability to concentrate. My head feels like a bubble.
But I can snap back these days. When people ask me what they can do to help their depression the first thing out of my mouth is monitor your thoughts. Don’t let them tell you lies. Don’t let your mind get so negative and pessimistic you just feel like giving up.
I will tell you 12 years ago when I hit a massive bump in my life path, I didn’t know if I could survive. I was mentally unwell, fired while sick and eventually lost most of my earthly possessions. It was as if I was standing in the ocean during high tide, getting knocked down and feeling like I couldn’t stand back up again quick enough. It was surreal to see years of hard work, dedication, discipline and sacrifice vanish because of factors out of my control.
For those who are going through tough times right now, I’d say to you the only way to get over the pain is go through the pain. Acknowledge it. It hurts. It’s depressing. And completely and utterly out of anyone’s control.
I find myself in a peculiar position. My path was going so well. I had everything planned out. My dreams were coming true. And then in a 24-hour news cycle life had changed dramatically. Of course I was disappointed personally. I’m sad for all the people who are hurting right now without resources, skills, coping strategies, medications or even a safe home.
Human beings are not meant to live in isolation. We are by nature group animals. If you’re feeling down, sad, irritable, angry, pessimistic, guilty, among other things, check your thoughts. Try writing them down in a journal. I like to pray it gives me comfort. Text someone. Do someone a kind favor. Don’t give in to depression.
And though it seems like the isolation, the depression, the out of control feeling is going to last forever…it won’t. The sun will shine. Things will be different, maybe even better.
Fight the depression. Don’t give in to it.