The pandemic has caused many people to struggle with mental health, primarily anxiety and depression. Everyone is scared, sad, touch-starved, struggling to make ends meet, all the things that go along with this dumpster fire of a year. Even my husband, who has never had mental health issues (and in fact has trouble relating to them), is definitely experiencing some depression. I've experienced a resurgence of my depression, and it's taking a different form than it ever has.
Typically, my depression comes out as anger and irritability. This year, I've encountered those as well as changes in appetite and sleep patterns, which have never been things I struggled with before. I've also attained a level of apathy and lack of motivation that I always thought was a myth. My children roller skate in the house. I don't care. My 10-year-old hoards candy in his bedroom. I don't care. I have no clean clothes. I don't care. There's no food in the house. I don't care. Christmas shopping has been a total nightmare, even though I did it all online. And now that all the gifts are here, I wonder how much I would have to pay someone to wrap them for me. I have completely lost touch with my wardrobe. I wear scrubs at work (one less decision to make), and when I come home I take a shower (at least I still do that!) and put on my pajamas. At 3:00 in the afternoon.
I'm retreating. I'm isolating. I'm hiding. All signs of bad brain action. Honestly, the hardest thing about this whole situation has been forcing myself to do the things I need to do. There are days when all I can do is go to work and go home. No laundry, no errands, dinner ordered in. I have a very autonomous job, and most days it's up to me to get things done on my own schedule. Most of the time I like that, but right now I kind of need someone to hang over my shoulder and remind me to do things. I mean, things other than sit at my desk and play Candy Crush.
Everything takes so much energy, so much strength, so much work.
People think depression is being sad or despondent. For some people it is. But it's also lack of motivation, lack of pleasure in things you used to love, the inability to prioritize or make decisions. I increased the dose of my antidepressant, and that helped some, but mostly I've just been putting one foot in front of the other, trudging forward, hoping it will pay off one day. And hoping that when this all ends, and we all go back out to the world, it won't linger.
Because the thing is, it's normal to be depressed right now. I'd be a little weirded out if I weren't. It's not normal to continue to be depressed when the circumstances change and we get back to living. I've realized how many of the things I did were coping mechanisms for this same depression. Now that they've been taken away, I see why I did them. They got me out of the house and out of my head. They allowed me to interact with people and be social. They allowed me to have something to ground myself.
Every now and then my husband will randomly ask if I'm okay. I always tell him I am, while simultaneously wondering why he's asking. Last night I realized that he asks that because he really doesn't know. I've retreated so far into myself, began listening to my own internal monologue so much, that I often don't talk. So the days blend together, one after the other, all the same, and I just keep plodding. Hoping something will change. Hoping something will break. Imagining... what? What will the world be like when we all surface again? I like to think we all learned something about how to relate to each other, how to be kind to each other, how to see things in a new way. But I know humanity. American humanity in particular. We're very resistant to change and learning. We don't learn from our past experiences, which is why history really does repeat itself.
One thing I know for sure: I'm not the only one. In fact, for perhaps the first time in history, mental health is affecting more people than not. I have a group of friends, we call ourselves the Crazy Moms Club. We all have issues with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, body image, you name it. All of our husbands are what we like to call neurotypical, meaning they don't have mental health issues at all. We are all abundantly thankful for our "normal" husbands because they give us perspective. They tell us when we're being crazy. They pick up extra slack around the house when we don't have the energy. They remind us to feed the children. And when we get together, our conversation almost always revolves around the difficulties we face being moms with mental health issues. Some people may say it's commiserating. Maybe it is. But it's also therapy. It reminds us we're not alone. We get ideas on how to cope. We remind each other of our worth. I love those Crazy Moms. But right now, we can't get together. We can (and do) FaceTime or Zoom, but anyone with kids knows how that goes. You spend half the time talking to your friends, and half the time dealing with the kids. It's less helpful that way. But what else are we supposed to do in these times? So we grit our teeth and move forward.
This will all be over someday.