It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here; I simply haven’t had anything to say. There’s so much going on in the world, so many voices talking all at once, that to add my voice to the cacophony hasn’t felt right to me. I’m also a person that suffers from bouts of depression and anxiety and the last few weeks have left me feeling numb, raw and anxious. I’ve simultaneously wanted to be out in the world razing the systems of injustice in our country and to retreat under the covers until I can find some way to deny all of the pain and suffering that’s occurring in the world.
I know that my being a highly sensitive person affects my mental health. Oftentimes, I can be grateful for being a highly sensitive person because I can see that the traits I have that make me overly sensitive are also my greatest gifts. They allow me to cultivate a rich inner life, to feel intensely connected to the natural world and to humanity, and to experience joy for the beauty in life. These are the traits that served me well when the world shut down due to the virus and many of us went into isolation. I was able to retreat into my inner world and find comfort and even growth, but after several weeks of seclusion, I could feel the tide of my mental health shift and with that shift seclusion started to become rife with feelings of disconnection.
Lately, I feel that I need to make a choice between my physical and mental health. I’ve had a lot of anxiety about how much time and space I should take up in public due to the virus. I took a hard line at first, strictly limiting my time in public to the point that I rarely went anywhere that wasn’t my home or the park. When the parks became overrun with people, I retreated even further into my home. This felt like a respite at first and I reveled in the chance to be on a personal retreat from the world with time to myself for reflection. As the weeks passed, that feeling of being on retreat slid into something else entirely, a feeling that I was so disconnected from the world and the people in my life that I began to feel like everything was off, that nothing made sense anymore. Now I find myself needing to prioritize my mental health over my physical health. I’m going out in public more, I’m finding new ways to safely interact with people and slowly that feeling of disconnection is dissipating, yet at the same time, my anxiety remains high because I’d rather be limiting my interactions with others so that we can all remain safer.
I’ve come to realize that we all have to find our way through these times and make the choices that make the most sense to us in the moment. This time in human history is magnifying the ways in which we decide to live our personal lives and show up in the world. How I live my life affects the health of others and vice versa. For now my choices are swinging back in favor of prioritizing mental health and that feels like the right choice, but I don’t make it lightly. In venturing out into the world more, I also put myself and the people I come in contact with at risk of illness. I know from past experiences with my mental health, that this choice will help me to better navigate life and be part of it once again. I realize it’s a privilege I hold to be able to make a choice between prioritizing mental or physical health and I don’t take it lightly.
I do believe that we owe it to each other as members of a community and as human beings to be as safe as possible in how we interact with each other during a pandemic. I also know that I’m of limited use to my family and to my community if I’m not in good mental health. This weighing of the personal and the public, of physical and mental health, often feels like an impossible choice. In times like these there doesn’t seem to be a balance, just choices made with the best of intentions and the hope that the repercussions aren’t too damaging. I’m trying hard not to judge the choices that others are making during this time and I find I’m often being less than candid about what I do in public so as not to draw the judgment of others into my already anxious state of mind. It’s very hard when everyone’s health is so intricately connected, but I also want to acknowledge that perhaps people are making the same choice I am making, to prioritize mental health in a way that helps to stave off disconnection as we are faced with the prospect of limited human interaction for several more months. I hope we are all making the healthiest choices we can. We can’t ignore the mental health component of this pandemic. The repercussions of solely focusing on physical health are too great for us as a society and as individuals. My hope is that the pandemic will help us as a society to destigmatize mental health and finally come to understand its importance in our wellbeing. It’s with this hope in mind that I candidly share my experiences with mental health in this space.