The mental health pandemic

Remember when everyone thought that 2020 was going to be the year of chasing our dreams and working on ourselves? Especially since the past decade has seen some of the most difficult experiences that we have ever dealt with before?

Well, it somehow got even worse. 

A seemingly apocalyptic world only seen in storybooks became our reality, and no one was prepared for the chaos that lay ahead. The topic of mental health quickly became apparent, as our minds began to wire themselves with whatever news about the pandemic we could get our hands on. 

We quickly learned that COVID-19  was deadly and that quarantining, wearing masks and physical distancing was the only effort that could be made on our part. We had to rely on sanitation workers, doctors and nurses to help civilians fight a deadly disease without a cure. On higher powers of government, to distribute cash relief to small businesses and employees who lost their jobs. On police officers, to protect us from people who weren’t quite ready to handle a pandemic that would force them to stay in their homes.

Relying on others only became tougher. 

Hundreds of doctors and nurses have died trying to save lives. The government has only gotten hungrier for power. Black Lives Matter activists continue to fight the United States’ roots of systemic racism and slavery. 

The world became uglier with every police killing or every time a “Karen” decided it would be a good idea to protest public health measures. More disasters within our world continue to happen and our personal lives continue to be drastically impacted.

Our mental health has been wavering like the neon lights on an old diner sign. We are not getting the right resources to survive any of this. And I, for one, am exhausted at what the world has become in eight months of quarantine. 

My mental health has challenged me in more ways than one during quarantine, constantly demanding my attention and draining me of my happiness and the activities of my day-to-day life. The pandemic slowly took a toll on me through flashbacks to my past, and I constantly worried about the state of the world around me. I felt I was losing myself within the responsibilities of being a UC Berkeley student who’s going to graduate within the next year. I neglected to nurture my emotional state, questioning my purpose in life when life doesn’t seem completely accessible to minority groups. This list grows with each passing day.

One of my biggest struggles growing up was living in a closet-size room without the liberation a child needs to find themselves and play with other children. I was trapped and unable to develop properly, and it’s something that I completely rebelled against when my teenage years began. 

The pandemic is like the closet-size room of my childhood — a place where you feel trapped and unable to see your loved ones. A place where every time you hear a new piece of news about the increasing amount of daily cases and the thousands of lives lost, you want to collapse and you feel unable to properly breathe. 

It may feel like the last thing we want to do is talk about our mental health with anyone because we are all spiraling down a similar, yet different, rabbit hole of seemingly everlasting decay. But spending time with ourselves might be exactly what we need right now to properly find and begin a healing process that may work for us. 

Every opportunity to step away from our computer and reclaim our spaces and mental health, even if it’s during the essential activities that are needed to survive, is extremely important for our state of mind. Practicing self-care within your home can help ease the stress and frustration when resources may not be easily accessible to you. Activities such as phoning a friend while cleaning or journaling some thoughts and feelings that may have been weighing you down can give you a sense of comfort and control. 

We need to remember that the world has changed and we are changing with it. We need to step back and take our time to do whatever we need to be okay, even if others might not understand.

I think we all need reminders that we are strong, powerful humans who are dealing with the weight of the world on our shoulders. Despite it all, we are doing the best we can. 

I will continue to remind myself that my mental health is significant and deserves care, and that life goes on outside of a closet room.  

Contact Gisselle Reyes at [email protected].