Just 10 months ago, back in The Before Times, when we were all planning our New Year’s Eve outfits and sharing our glow-up goals for the new decade, none of us could have imagined what 2020 would have in store for us.
Despite the fact that lockdowns only started for most of the country in the spring, it’s now hard for many to remember life before the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Before all the strife surrounding the upcoming election. Altogether, it can feel like we’ve been stuck in this stress soup for a whole lot longer than a few seasons.
Given all this, it’s easy to overlook the fact that our world has actually undergone a pretty dramatic transformation—at a speed, none of us were prepared for. And if all that dizzying change has taken a toll on your mental health lately, know that you are not alone.
Welcome to the struggle
“We’re seeing a lot of people coming to our centers in crisis because recent events are exacerbating mental health issues that were just underneath the surface,” reports Heather Monroe, LCSW and senior clinician at Newport Academy, a mental health center for teens and families.
No doubt, the pandemic has been especially bad news for teens who already struggle with mental illness. Take Paige B., 19, who has OCD and grapples with feelings of anxiety and depression. Quarantine threw a wrench into her usual coping mechanisms. “I would use distractions or have things in my calendar to look forward to so I wouldn’t feel so down or lost,” she says of her pre-COVID routine. “Now, you can’t really have that, you can’t really plan ahead. There’s no way of knowing what’s going to happen next.”
That sense of uncertainty adds to the stress that many girls already are experiencing. “The pandemic heightened my feelings of loneliness,” says Diana S., 16. “I don’t know when I’m going to be able to do the things I used to do, no less be with my friends again.”
And perhaps the most crushing part? The roller-coaster aspect of the COVID crisis.
When lockdown restrictions began to ease, 17-year-old Sarah D.’s mood began to improve. “But then everything came crashing back down again,” she says. “I’m losing hope in my country...and in everybody.”
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