The Perniciousness of Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Is it over yet? Will it ever be over? How to handle today's uncertainty and its impact on mental health
Suddenly we are all that kid asking ‘are we there yet?’ over and over (AND OVER) again. Last year, as women kicked into survival mode and focused on getting to the pandemic finish line, we left a long trail of ourselves, our careers, our dignity, in the wake. Ever mission-focused beings, we masked up, stayed apart, kept everyone around us healthy, tried to create a sense of normalcy, while repeating to ourselves and others: ‘just… a… little… bit… longer…’
Well? Are we okay? Is it over? Do vaccinations mean we can unmask? Are kids ever going back to school? Can we revive our careers? Go back to the office? Who is right? How long will variants be around? Will anything ever be the same again?
All of these questions amplified and confused by a million other voices on social media, on television, everywhere, claiming to know the answer. Within this maelstrom of opinion we are forced to mentally negotiate every dissenting detail, from geographical differences and small peccadilloes made large, to sense, nonsense and, in some cases, flat out falsehoods and intentional lies. All swirling around like a tornado in our minds. While each morning actually trying to slog through our real and present lives.
And then it appears. That sudden creep of painful, confusing anxiety. Especially for women forced to give up careers, autonomy, free time, happiness for ourselves, happiness for our families, for our kids; and so on. The actual possibility of no possibility as our new and present reality brings with it waves of vicious angst threatening to drown us with its enormous weight.
It’s something I talked to my friend, executive & leadership coach, Tracy Irvine about at one of her recent Clubhouse events. She graciously allowed me to re-post a piece she wrote on the subject. If Tracy’s words resonate and you want to talk, Tracy can be reached here. And with that…
Today's message is a little personal, and I think it's important to share because I know that I'm not alone.
I've always been upfront about my history of depression and suicidal ideations, so I want today to be no different.
To be clear, I am not depressed, and I am definitely not suicidal, but I have been experiencing extreme anxiety these last few months.
The anxiety has been so severe at times that I have had panic attacks and hot flashes. Other times, I've been unable to eat and sleep, and more often than not, I've lost interest in many things I love, like running and reading.
When I decided to share my anxiety with certain people in my life, the first question they ask is, "Why?"
I'm sure you're asking yourself that question right now.
I know the question comes from caring and concern, but I humbly request that you think before you speak when faced with someone suffering from anxiety and depression.
Asking someone to articulate the reason behind something they don't fully understand is like asking them to explain the creation of the Universe. And when that person is in the midst of a mental health issue, it can make them feel judged, minor and incompetent.
So if you are lucky enough to have never experienced anxiety or depression, know that the reason is never due to one thing. It is all the things, and everything is overwhelming, hurtful, and hopeless.
When I was depressed and suicidal back in 2010, I didn't know why. All I knew is that I could not stand to be on this earth for one more minute because the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and I could see no way out.
Thankfully, I got the help and clarity I needed through therapy.
This time around, my anxiety could be due to a million things. It could be financial or health-related. It could be because I've been quarantined alone for the better part of a year or that I have some unresolved personal issues. It could be because my car needs to get worked on, and one of my cats throws up every other day. More than likely, it is all of the above and some other things I haven't even identified yet.
So when you with someone who admits they are anxious and depressed, here are a few good questions to ask:
What can I do to help right now?
Would it help if I sit here and listen?
No matter what is going on, I love you, and I am always here for you.
Do you want me to come over?
Are you looking for advice, or would you instead I listen? (This one is my favorite!)
If you have someone in your life who is anxious or depressed and you have questions, please feel free to contact me.
And if you are the one who is anxious or depressed, I highly suggest that you seek out therapy. It saved my life in 2010, and I know it will help me this time too. In the meantime, I am always here to listen.