A Facebook post says, “Check on your friends who suffer from depression. Being forced to stay at home and not having scheduled reasons to get dressed and leave the house can exacerbate symptoms.” This holds true for all who are suffering from this mental illness. This pandemic is putting everyone on edge. It’s enough to cause someone without mental health problems to feel down, develop germ phobias, and become emotional. Just imagine what it does to someone who is already struggling with these problems!
In Erie we have been issued a “Stay at Home Order” for over a week. The news preaches social distancing and businesses that are essential are taking measures to help enforce this. The grocery store where I work put up plexiglass around the registers and lines on the floors where customers are to stand until we call them. People are walking through the aisles trying to stay as far away from each other as they can. There is no human contact. Many are stuck in their homes only going out for things they need. It’s sad but necessary. Life as we know it has completely changed for us all.
For those suffering from mental illness, staying at home can give them a reason to stay in bed, to stop taking care of personal hygiene, to become crippled by fear, to be alone more and to self-injure. Their anxiety and panic attacks worsen. We need to look out and check up on our friends and family members who struggle with mental illness. We can’t physically checkup on them, but there are ways we can look out for them.
A fellow co-worker who has struggled with mental illness kept falling apart at work. She couldn’t handle the fear and stress of facing the public. She fell down that hole of depression, and couldn’t get out. She had to take a sick leave, so I text her as much as I can to check up on her. I want to make sure she is doing well and isn’t staying home and dipping further down that hole. Her husband is home with her but having friends who care helps.
Each day before work I struggle with anxiety attacks. A few times I went to work and got sick. I’m afraid to face the public and risk exposing myself to the Covid-19 virus. I have asthma. On television they list the people who are at high risk for this virus and people with asthma are on that list. This heightens my fears and anxiety. Before work my stomach gets upset and my hands shake. At work I wear gloves and I clean like I’m supposed to, but I worry that maybe the next customer may be infected.
When I’m off from work, I want to lie in bed all day. I don’t want to get up and hear the news tell how many more cases there are, I don’t want to wake up to my growing fears, and I just don’t want to face another day. If it weren’t for my husband urging me to get up, I would stay in bed. My husband and I go for rides and I video chat with my friends Jane and Cheryl. This helps me to keep going.
In high school I had developed a phobia of sick people. I couldn’t be around my siblings when they got a cold or the flu. I prayed every night that I wouldn’t get sick so I could get perfect attendance. It seemed like the only award I could get in school no matter how hard I worked. My fear of sick people followed me for many years. It took me a while to overcome it and with this virus the fear is back. It is terrorizing me. It makes my skin crawl. I want to hide in the house and never leave. I can’t. I have to force myself to go to work.
There are people with mental illnesses who are going through a really hard time. Some are stuck at home facing their symptoms and they are feeling helpless. Think about how you can help those people. You can look out for them from home. Video chat with them, call them, text them, or send them a gift.
There are ones on the front lines who are struggling with their illness to be there for you. Ask them how they are doing, thank them for what they are doing, and do small gestures of kindness. I have friends who brighten my day with air hugs (hug the air towards the person). Little things help. During these rough times let’s look out for each other.
I face my fears each day to serve the public. I have friends, family, and my husband checking up on me. With their help I continue to soak in the light.