The last time I sat down to write was almost 2 months ago; just hours before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a resident of the Twin Cities and a lover of Minneapolis, the incidents of 7 weeks ago led to yet another massive cultural and way of life shift. Not only were we more than 2 months into the pandemic here in Minnesota, we were now dealing with extremely high racial and social tension. After countless nights watching a city that I love literally burn and dear friends went endless nights without sleep in Minneapolis, worrying about their homes, their businesses, their families, what is left? About halfway through the riots, I finally had to turn it all off. I stopped watching the news. I got off all social media. I ignored my phone and computer. I was angry. Really angry. I was angry at the people burning a city that so many of us love and hold dear. I was angry at Minneapolis Police for the murder of George Floyd and the unending racism within their organization. I was angry at our leaders for not taking action or writing new legislation to finally put an end to racism and white supremacy. I was angry at my own ignorance and privilege. And that anger did me in.
Not long after the riots, I finally slipped into the deep depression I had seen coming for months. Quarantine and isolation are not good for someone who has battled depression for over 20 years. Generally, a mental health care team would see isolation from someone with a history of mental health issues as a huge red flag. But this is different. This is isolation to stop the spread of this deadly pandemic. If we care about our loved ones and our communities, self isolation is one of the only ways through this new normal. Reducing our face-to-face social interaction is how we save lives in this new world. I knew it would come at a cost to my mental health and wellbeing.
This depression was different though. I was not dealing with urges of self-harm and darkness. I was not constantly on the verge of tears. I simply could not get out of bed. I could not brush my teeth and get dressed. For weeks, I would simply roll out of bed, make my morning coffee or cappuccino, then crawl back into my dark bedroom and either go back to sleep or binge watch something I'd seen a million times before on Netflix. My room stayed dark for weeks. My excuse was the early season heat wave; which seemed to be just as endless as my depression. I was fully aware how depressed I had become. And why not? What was there to be hopeful about? Really. Our leaders were letting us down by ignoring the science during the pandemic. Our leaders were letting us down by ignoring the deeply ingrained racism in our communities. Our leaders let our country fall apart so rapidly for what? So what was there to be hopeful about? The lives we knew 4 months ago are gone and they are not coming back. There is no reason to watch the news anymore, not even for the weather; there are apps for that. I don't need to be reminded of the ongoing spread of COVID-19. I don't need to hear more about people refusing to wear masks and avoid crowds. I don't need to hear about our politicians fighting and failing us. I don't need to hear about the latest murder in Minneapolis. I already have enough sleepless nights worrying about how I will be able to pay my own bills and if I will ever come out of this depression. I have enough of my own problems; I don't need to be reminded of how the outside world continues to be so messed up. So what is there to be hopeful about?
I take my medications. I've upped my exercise and am working on my 52 Hike Challenge. I am trying to drink more water. I'm honest with my mom about my depression as much as possible. I'm still eating, but definitely craving carbs and junk food. I still try to see my family when we're able to get together. I still text my friends and meet for our weekly video chats. I still see my therapist on tele-health. I go to the grocery store and do activities with my nieces and nephews. I am seriously doing everything my care team would want me to do to fight this depression. But the simple fact is that life has changed; drastically. And, according to my therapist, slipping into a depression as a result is a natural response to such a massive shift.
So, what does this mean? Now what? Well, now I remember to practice gentleness with myself. I remind myself that feeling this way is completely okay. Simply: I let myself off the hook. I keep doing what I'm doing because I know it works (this is a skill!). I know all of this hard work and diligence will add up and eventually I will rise up and out of this feeling. I continue to practice radical acceptance of this new, mask-wearing, physically distant way of life we're facing. I remind myself that I am absolutely not alone! There are many people facing difficult challenges right now and feeling depressed and hopeless, too.
This week I finally found a new part-time job. So if nothing else, I will have a place to go 20-30 hours per week where I will have other responsibilities and opportunities to grow and learn. I am finally excited again! I will call this a healthy distraction from the endless negativity in the world right now. Hopefully no more sleepless nights about how I'm going to pay for next months prescriptions and gas for my car.
And just like that, if I can't find hope for our society and our way of life, maybe I can find just a sliver of it for myself.
Now go over to my shop and buy stuff so I have a reason to smile!