#CoVOID

It is certainly a weird time to be alive right now. As the world and myself slowly move out of our COVID-19 quarantines, I’m still lost on how I should handle “normal life”- is it safe to go out to my favorite places? Can I make plans to visit my sick mom a few states away? Am I able to hug my friends again? With all the information out there, am I being informed or misinformed? I feel stuck. I’ve felt stuck most of my life but this time, I’m a hard time shaking this off. 

When I first started quarantining back in March, my introverted heart was ecstatic. I get to spend all this alone time doing hobbies and not seeing anyone in the flesh. I quarantined with my boyfriend, which proved to be disastrous (we broke up but got back together a month later. We don’t quarantine together anymore). Even though I love hanging out with him, I realized how much I miss my friends and what a vital part of my good mental health they attributed to. I’m lonely for them. 

I’ve been fortunate to work during this time. While I have issues with my job (ie. my hours have been slashed to very part-time), I’m grateful for my position. I can still pay my rent and buy groceries. I’m still job hunting for something better, something in marketing or editorial with full-time hours and health insurance. I send out applications every day and average an interview a week. I should feel lucky with getting interviews but I know that so many people are not working right now and are applying for the same positions I am. My Imposter Syndrome kicks in, mixing with my depression- I honestly feel like I’m not going to find that job until sometime next year. I’m worry about my finances. 

I stopped reading the news. I usually know what’s going on in the world and now, I don’t (I didn’t know about the explosion in Beirut until two days after the accident). I’m off all social media platforms except Twitter (hey, I need one vice). I don’t make much of an effort with my appearance anymore. I stopped wearing makeup since my mask covers must of it. A good day for me is one where I can make it through work and then still have the energy to put in applications and maybe clean my bathroom or have sex in the evening. 

Needless to say, I’m in this black void. My depression before all this was high. The coronavirus has definitely elevated those feelings of sadness and despair. It’s a fight every day to stay positive and remind myself of the good in my life and in the world right now. Most days, I just want to sleep and not take care of myself and my responsibilities. But somehow (God only know), I manage to wake up, stumble out of bed, brush my teeth, call my mom, get to work, do chores and cuddle with my cat and my boyfriend. I remind myself that I’m not alone- the rest of the world is hurting; some more deeply than me. I’ve been listening to Michelle Obama’s new podcast right now- she is going through it, too. I tell myself that this mess of a year will be over with- a vaccine will come and politics will be soon shifting in a more progressive direction. I will get that job and be able to introduce Amit to my family in person. While it’s difficult to see, the future will be better.

How are you doing, dear reader?

#Prologue

I haven’t been writing.

I want to blame a busy schedule. Or lack of a busy schedule. No matter what, there is always my to-do list and I chose to let it rule me or release me. I can blame it on laziness; how autumn finally crept in, body slamming the Texas heat to the side and letting the frozen air wake up me every morning through the unsealed cracks of my bedroom window. I’ll blame the cold if I can also blame my bed and its warmth and the inviting Christmas lights that I wrapped around the bed frame. My bedroom finally feels cozy after I lived in this space for over a year. Blame it on my intense depression and anxiety. They are the real culprits. Today, I see them as the bad guys, villains in microscopic bodies that wear cartoonish black masks of if they were thieves stealing away my happiness and dreams.

I’m going to blame them.

The last couple weeks have been hard, dear reader. I’ll spare you most of the details because frankly, I don’t want to remember them. There are a lot of things that I don’t want to remember from this year {and yes, I cannot believe that this year is almost over with). There are a few things that I have to remember, though. I need to remember my triggers- isolation. Shame. Not drinking enough water. Being overwhelmed. When someone doesn’t truly listen. Loneliness. Rejection. Those villains have been my “dearest friends,” whispering things to me. Horrible things. Things that will forever tease and taunt me, even on days like today when I feel good.

Tuesday night, I went on a date. He wasn’t the best kisser but I could deal with that. He asked me about my cancer with concern and I was honest with him. It was caused by HPV. I don’t know when I caught it. I want to, again, blame someone else for it. How about my ex who swore he never cheated but I knew that he did. I knew that I should have made him wear condoms for the duration of our relationship even if we both hated them. Another stupid mistake I made in the name of love. Could this week’s date face the same fate? No. I should have been relieved when he said that he was “freaked out” by my diagnosis. I should have just put on my clothes and blocked him on my phone as I walked home. I should have told myself that there is someone out there who doesn’t  care that you caught a disease and will still think you’re an incredible woman.

Of course, I should have. But I didn’t.

I went home and cried and cried and cried. I holed myself up in my bathroom, texting my best friend about my evening. I needed support and sympathy; When I didn’t get it quick enough, thoughts of a forever sleep entered my head. I took a handful of pills, mostly melatonin as it was the only non-vitamins I have in my medicine cabinet and swallowed each pill down, one by one. I then forced myself to sleep only to wake up an hour later with the worst dry mouth of my life and the inability to use my legs. I felt like human Jell-O as I propped myself against the walls, steadying myself as I made my way to the bathroom to pee. I fell into a deep sleep after that and didn’t wake up until the next day.

I woke up to an Instagram message, one from my friend, Annie, about a radio reporting job she thought I would be good at. It’s funny, in the weirdest of ways, how something like that can pull you out of the depth of your negative neurosis. I thanked her for sending it to me, took a shower and grabbed a ride to enjoy breakfast. I talked with my waiter, which made me feel more alive as we talked about his friend that was recently in a car accident. I ate my eggs sunny side up and cinnamon pancakes trying not to the think about the accident that I had the night before.

I hate that phrase, rock bottom. I’ve never hit it- I was born on its stone surface and have been trying to crawl myself out of its hole since infancy. Yet my fingers remain bloody with every attempt I try to climb out, hoping that one day, I will walk away from this pit of nightmares. I have the things that I want to achieve, the list beyond my current to-do list. I know that I dream big but it’s those dreams that are keeping me here. I woke up from a mild attempt for a reason- for those big, ridiculous dreams. For breakfast food. For love. For more Instagram messages. For the Christmas lights wrapped around my bed frame. For hope. I wake up for everything. Yes, everything hurts but everything will be okay.

I wake up to write.

#LetsTalk

Let’s talk and help one another

Let’s talk about last week, about those two suicides: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But lets also talk about the rising rates of suicides across the United States. According to the CDC, the number of people dying by suicide  has risen by 30% in the past two decades. While more men died by suicide than women in 2016, the rate of suicide for women has doubled since 2000 to six per 100,000 deaths. Why is this happening? There has to be something more than blaming our screen time. How are we preventing these deaths?

Which leads me to…

Let’s talk about funding- or the lack of funding. Many still see suicide as a choice rather than a public health problem- this is the wrong way of thinking. The United States currently has no federally funded suicide prevention program for adults. Even our insurance coverage lack proper mental health care. When I shopped on the healthcare exchange last year, I didn’t look at primary care (as I’m pretty healthy and don’t need to see the doctor that often)- I looked for mental health care. The sad truth was that most plans didn’t cover formal therapy. Coverage for medications, sure, but seeing someone weekly (or biweekly like I do)? Either none and bare minimal coverage. States are ever so slowly building resources but mental health services NEEDS to be a required part of primary care doctor visits. No referrals. No waiting. You address the issue in the moment the person is presenting. And no massive out-of-pocket fees (because frankly, that just makes you even more depressed).

How do we fix the lack of funding? VOTE for people who make significant changes to our healthcare system IN A GOOD WAY (i.e. not this current presidential administration). And DONATE to those local, statewide and national organizations that focus on mental health needs and help.

Let’s talk to our loved ones- really talk to them. After major deaths like these, the internet floods itself with hotline numbers and website suggestions where you can talk to someone. Yes, that is great. But what happens with the buzz of the press dies down? There’s a difference between being there and actually BEING THERE- physically present for a friend going through a rough time. Perhaps I’m a cynic but I feel like for someone who is actively considering taking their life, numbers and websites don’t help. The only hope is actual personal connections. What will we be doing to check up on our loved ones? How are you showing people that you care, that you’re there for them? Reaching out for help is hard, especially when you’re in deep with a disease like depression. You don’t want to bother people. You don’t want to be a burden to them. The stigma surrounding suicide leaves people feeling too ashamed to speak up and ask for the help they need. So, are you reaching back? Are you noticing any warning signs?

Let’s start talking about mental health, in general. I have always tried to be transparent about my mental health care. I see a therapist (hi, Linda!). I believe that everyone should see one. We all have things going on and can benefit from seeing a professional to learn tips and tools on how to make every life easier and lighter. Professionals encourage us to talk more openly about suicide, reframing it as a treatable public health issue rather than a taboo secret or personal failure. Another thing is Facebook, Instagram. Twitter, etc. On social media, we knew that we’re only seeing our friends’ highlight reel. Let’s see more of the struggle. Let’s hear more of the pain. Bad times connect us as much as the good ones and I want to know yours. What is going on in your life?

Let’s talk about suicide, dear reader.

#WorldHealthDay

Today is World Health Day (WHD). Each year, healthcare professionals and communities around the world partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring awareness to a global health crisis. What’s WHD’s focus this year? Depression.

Depression- let’s talk.

More than 300 million people around the world are affected with depression every year. Common mental disorders (like depression and anxiety) are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people globally suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 20% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Lack of treatment for mental disorders has a high economic cost- new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.

In many countries, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression don’t get treatment. Depression can lead to self-inflicted injury and to suicide- it’s now the world’s second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds. In 2015, over 78% of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Untreated depression prevents people from life- most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost. Although there are known, effective treatments for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments. Barriers to effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders. Another barrier to effective care is inaccurate assessment. In countries of all income levels, people who are depressed are often not correctly diagnosed, and others who do not have the disorder are too often misdiagnosed and prescribed antidepressants.

Depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is and how it can be prevented and treated will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition and lead to more people seeking help. Those who are close to me know that I’m passionate about decreasing mental health’s stigma and am open with talking about my own depression. Sure, it’s a tough and often awkward thing to talk about in causal conversation but it needs to be addressed.

Why not make today the day that you, dear reader, learn more about this disease? Be the person who isn’t afraid to talk honestly about their feelings and experiences with depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. Share your story. Listen to a friend. The only way that the stigma is going to get away. This is the only way that people who desperately need help are going to get it. Your small step forward is the first of many in this fight. Let’s push forward and make some change.