mental health

Social Distancing and the Effects of COVID-19 on Someone With Mental Health Struggles

It’s been so long since I logged into WordPress that I almost forgot how. November 4, 2019 was the last time I posted. It was a post about my amazing trip to Scotland with my family. I haven’t had much time for posting since then. I was taking care of a neighbor after school and working at a church providing childcare on Sundays, then in December I got hired at the preschool of my dreams. I officially started in January. Trauma informed. A boss who encourages you to bring your whole self into the room and whatever situation you’re in. Wellness coaching. Permission to make mistakes and see them as “oopses.” A growth mindset. Colleagues who are amazing and creative and kind and generous. Children that give love freely and are amazing, wonderful, people. A place that feels, finally, like home.

Now, I’m grieving and scared and listless and feel like I’ve lost my purpose. We closed the doors of the preschool because of COVID-19 last Monday. I had missed the prior Thursday and Friday because I had an upper respiratory infection. Yesterday, we were officially laid off, not knowing when it will be safe or ethical to reopen the school. We are providing online programming for the kids. Things like recorded story times, videos about how to make homemade playdough, etc.

My situation is a little different. I’ve worked for over 90 days at the school, but the unemployment office views your employment for the past several quarters. I haven’t made enough money to qualify. The Department of Labor is paying me some, which is helpful, but won’t truly be enough because of interest payments on credit card debt accumulated during manic episodes. I know I’ll find a way to make it work, but for the first time in almost two years, I’m feeling depressed.

I’m sad and listless and scared and feel like everything is futile. I don’t feel like I have a purpose. I can’t read for pleasure because I can’t focus for long enough. Watching an entire movie is a tremendous task. Watching a tv show is difficult. The only way I can read is in front of a camera, knowing it will help someone else. I struggled a lot with whether or not to read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for people. J.K. Rowling isn’t my favorite person anymore. Not since she proved how transphobic she is. But her books have brought me hope in times of darkness. In times when I felt like nothing would ever get better. I wanted to share that hope with others. You can see that video here. By using the password TheBoyWhoLived .

I’m trying to put on a brave face. I know I don’t seem depressed to people I’ve video chatted with in the past week. I’ve tried to put on a smile and act like everything is normal, but it isn’t. Nothing is “normal” about this time and nothing will ever be “normal” again because COVID-19 has changed everything. We will find a new normal, but it will take time.

I’m not telling you I’m feeling depressed because I want your sympathy, but because I know in my bones that I’m not alone. Which is somewhat of a miracle since my depression usually tricks me into feeling I’m the only person in the whole world who is currently feeling this way. There are 327.2 million people living in America according to Google. According to the Washington Post, “U.S. workers are getting laid off at an unprecedented pace as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down much of the economy, and the government safety net to help the newly jobless appears ill-equipped to handle the surge in the unemployed.” More than one MILLION workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of March. I know I am not the only one who will fall through the cracks and not be covered.

I’ve experienced a similar financial panic before, when I found out that my Worker’s Compensation payments didn’t count as income towards the health insurance marketplace (because they aren’t taxable) and found out I would have to pay $600 a month for health insurance PLUS copayments on doctor’s visits and medications. Medicaid, ironically, DOES count the payments as income. So I made too much for Medicaid, but not enough to be eligible for a subsidy. I made that work, but that was when I was receiving a full payment from Worker’s Compensation. I put a call into them on Friday to see what my options are now that I’ve been laid off, but I have a feeling that returning to full payments would mean a doctor determining that I’m incapable of work because of one of my accepted conditions: Recurrence of Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

I’m panicking now, but it’s a slow burn kind of panic. I don’t feel that anxious, just terribly sad and uncertain. I’m so grateful that I live with my parents and don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage. I’m grateful that I know I’ll have a roof over my head and support during this time. I’m terrified about what’s going to happen when it comes time to pay 2020 taxes because I receive a tax credit for my health insurance on the basis of my employment, which has been terminated. I’ve just applied for Medicaid and SNAP benefits online. We will see how that goes. It makes me feel a little calmer to have done that.

I feel better now that I’ve written this. Now that I’ve gotten it out and it isn’t just swimming around in my head. If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’re feeling like I am, I’m sorry. If you’re scared, try to remember that we are all in this together.