Mental Health During COVID: For the ‘Not So Mental’ health patient

2020 has brought a year of many highs and lows. It seems to be heavy on the low side though. One thing I have noticed all around the world is the increase of mental health concerns. I’m seeing common day people all the way to leaders, celebrities and even children battling the confines bestowed on their mental health throughout 2020. 


I honestly feel blessed to have been actively working on my mental health for the past 10 years. I have complex PTSD, MDD and GAD. (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder.) I joke that I was made for a pandemic as my introvert self loves not having to go out and ‘people’ due to lockdowns haha. In reality though, I am a giver and a fixer and my heart has been bursting lately in both regards! So it seemed natural for me to post about it. 


Why is mental health such a big deal?


Here’s the thing, mental health doesn’t care how much money you make, how old you are, what ethnicity you may be nor what you identify as. Mental health is SERIOUS. There’s this ridiculous old school stigma around mental health that you shouldn’t see a therapist because you will be deemed crazy, etc. Listen, who the heck cares?! END THE DANG STIGMA! Seriously, it’s absurd that we even humor the idea of foregoing therapy due to a stupid judgmental stigma! Honestly, if me being labeled as crazy is all I needed to be able to be mentally ‘fit’ and strong enough to handle 2020 then go ahead and call me Crazy and I’ll gladly wear that label!!


How are YOU feeling? Alone? Quiet? Passive? Forgotten? Afraid? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? Anxious? Perplexed? Empty? I can keep going… my point is, THAT IS A NORMAL RESPONSE FOR WHAT WE ARE ENDURING!! I’ll say it again, from my gut as loud as I can… 


THAT IS A NORMAL RESPONSE FOR WHAT WE ARE ENDURING!! We means YOU and ME! Not just you, and not just me (the avid mental health patient who’s seen weekly.) So I’ll gladly let you call me crazy and will pray that what I disclose here will help even in the slightest of ways! 


Think about it, If you injure a body part, what do you do? You will go to a doctor who will advise you to seek physical therapy to strengthen it, so why don’t you do the same for your mind? If you go to a doctor and are HONEST with them about your feelings they may advise you to seek therapy to help learn coping skills! I beg you to introduce me to someone who has the world’s best coping skills and has never set foot in, nor talked to, a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist. Coping skills are not something that we automatically know… we have to learn them! So stop deeming it as ‘crazy’ and get your butt out there (or on tele-therapy — honestly one of the best things to come out of 2020) and find your nonjudgmental, objective third party that can’t tell anyone your secrets (minus a few as a mandated reporter!)


We have a CODE EXTROVERT, CODE EXTROVERT!!


I have noticed a lot of my extrovert friends are struggling quite significantly with 2020 when it comes to the mental health capacity. This is triggered by a number of things from physical health concerns, lack of socializing, overwhelming facts on current day situations, etc. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, I view it as an opportunity to help end the stigma surrounding mental health as more and more people begin to educate themselves on the matter. I immediately saw an opportunity to help others and I’ve jumped at it. 


The easiest way to help yourself is to take the leap! Use telehealth and tell your doctor how you are feeling (or in some cases, how you are NOT feeling.) You have patient confidentiality and when/if they recommend a therapist for you don’t roll your eyes and speak louder while you say you don’t need a therapist as if you’re trying to be the hot new young girl at the bar in front of an extremely available bachelor! Ok… I got side tracked, sorry bout that! But seriously, I challenge you to view your therapist/therapy in this way. Try it for just ONE session. Then reevaluate and tell me what you think, or don’t! Keep it to yourself and it can be your own little Ace in the hole for when life gets tough!

Your therapist should be someone you trust explicitly (legally they cannot discuss things outside of mandated reporters statutes.) Due to this, I always encourage you go in and be 100% honest. Best case, this nonjudgmental, objective third party is exactly who you need. Worst case, you never go back. Fun fact… you decide if you go back! Find a therapist that clicks with YOU!!! Remember, you MUST BE HONEST! Come on extroverts, I know you can do this!!! 


I need all hands on deck! 


The opposite side of this is to be there for others. Simply to check in on them. You never know what one simple text message can do for someone’s day and mental state. I make it a point every few days to send out text messages to some friends/family that I know may be struggling and just to remind them that they matter and they’re on my mind. Sometimes they text back, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they thank me because they enjoy knowing someone is thinking about them during these times. It’s just a simple text message, but it can be so much more pending the person’s mental state at the time.

You don’t have to spend copious amounts of money, order dinner, etc. to make a difference in someone’s life. A simple text message can mean so much more than any other action. Also, just a heads up from the ‘crazy’ side of things… I prefer a text over some lavish gift because then my guilt trip mode gets triggered and I fight my anxiety on how to manuever that one, haha. Nothing like needing help and adding more work to my own plate, eh? Just me? Okay… awkward. I tried!


What about the children?


Another big thing I want to address is mental health with children. They are undergoing a lot of stress as well. The beautiful thing is a lot of places offer teletherapy so you don’t have to actually go into the therapist. I have had my children in therapy since the oldest two were 6 and 7 years old. One of the coolest things I witnessed was my 6 year old identify passive, assertive and aggressive phrases, as well as give examples of each. My jaw dropped, I was learning how to manage that on my own and here’s my children teaching me! Can you do that? Can your kids?


My oldest daughter has PTSD and MDD. She has actively been in therapy since she was 6 years old, September of 2017. Being a military child, she deals with a lot of separation anxiety and she also has some added stresses outside of the typical 2020 COVID Chaos. It’s important to listen to our children and recognize that they have feelings regarding everything going on in the world. They have opinions on the current situation(s) and furthermore, they tend to feed off YOUR vibes… so how are you managing with everything? 


The tried and true way to check in on your kids is actually quite simple. Shut up. Literally. Yes, I just told you to shut up and if my mother was alive she would likely remind me to use my manners and tell you the same thing in a different phrase but screw it, it’s 2020 and I’m done with pleasantries so JUST. SHUT. UP. Seriously, it’s amazing what kids will say when they truly feel safe, not judged and free to speak what’s on their mind. I don’t expect you to agree with everything they say nor for them to say profound things all the time, however, I do expect you to provide a nurturing and safe environment for the children in your life to feel comfortable to disclose their feelings and frustrations. 


When I check in on my kids I always remind myself that this is a ‘knowledge session‘ not a ‘disciplinary session’ or ‘follow up session’ etc. I am here simply to gain knowledge on my child. I want to know what they’re thinking. What are they feeling? Why do they think that way? Why do they feel that way? Am I doing something that could be a catalyst for their thoughts or feelings? 


Look, I have had many things come up in these conversations that I wanted to blow up at, however, that does NOTHING but tighten them up even more. Completely defeats the purpose of the entire conversation. There is no yelling, fighting, etc. during these sessions. Remember the goal. If my children bring up something in the conversation that does require discipline or further conversation I make certain to address that calmly and assertively. “Tommy, you mentioned XXXX while we were having our  knowledge session. You know the rules regarding XXXX. I appreciate you trusting me and telling me what’s going on, however, we do still need to address the repercussions of our actions. Since you were up front and honest with me I would like to choose something not so intense so maybe we get rid of our electronics for XX days instead of the whole week? Does that sound okay to you or do you have any other ideas on your repercussions?”

 
I’m not a perfect mom. I screw up…. A LOT! In fact, I think I say “I’m sorry” more than any other phrase in my house because just like my kids are learning, I am too. The above conversation set up has helped me to truly sit down and LISTEN to my kids and include them in the repercussion process so they continue to grasp cause and effect. Most of the time, the conversation ends very well. The kid feels safer and trusts me more and I feel calmer knowing they were able to trust me and address things that they may not have wanted to in front of others. 


Try it! Trust me! Just remember, stay calm! You don’t have to agree with them but the simplicity of merely validating their feelings is HUGE for a child, especially our preteens! Have you checked in with your kiddos lately to see how they’re doing? You may be surprised by how simple, yet effective, this can be. 


Overall, I want you to know that YOU matter, YOU are important, YOU are strong, YOU are worthy and YOU are needed. Do not let the stresses overtake you. Do not let the stigmas prevent you from protecting your mind. Do not forget to straighten your crown and recognize you deserve to strengthen your mental health. YOU are allowed to mess up. YOU are allowed to be ‘crazy.’ Please reach out if you need anything, even just a simple accountability partner to remind you that you matter! 

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24 thoughts on “Mental Health During COVID: For the ‘Not So Mental’ health patient

  1. I love the advice on communicating with your kids. It’s so spot on. I will keep in mind that it is a knowledge session and not something disciplinary. Brilliant :))

  2. You are so right. We have to end the stigma around mental health. I also struggle with anxiety and always try to tell my story to others who will listen in hopes of helping.

    • Yes, 2020 was the year to really bring it to the forefront. I’m hopeful that it will become part of the ‘norm’ and allow us to truly focus on personal growth and healing.

  3. There’s definitely nothing wrong with seeing a therapist. For some people, they have no one to talk to, or nobody that would try to understand. Having an outlet, someone to hear you, is very important.

  4. Especially with 2020 being one of the craziest years ever, taking care of mental health is a need. Love the “knowledge session.”

  5. Amen! Mental health is important! End the stigma! Sometimes you need someone else (without judgement- i.e. a therapist) to help you get yourself out of your own mind! And that’s okay! It’s okay to have feelings! It’s okay to be vulnerable! It’s okay to want/need help!

  6. I am glad someone is talking about Mental health during Covid. I’m just trying hard to stay positive and go with the flow. I just can’t imagine what is going through my 6-year-old daughter’s head. One minute, she’s in school with her friends and the next she’s back in Lockdown. The school’s closing, teachers got Covid. I worry about her so much. That’s why I talk to her and ask her questions about how she’s coping – she says she doesn’t like it because its the school is different. It just breaks my heart that there’s isn’t much I can do.

    • You’re doing a great job by simply talking to her. It’s always good to try and prevent yourself from going into “fix it” mode and instead validate her feelings and let her know you understand why she feels that way and are hopeful things will get better soon. 🙂

  7. Being an extrovert during the pandemic is such a hard thing. Mental health issues are tougher this year. It is good to focus on mental health issues as part of our entire well being.

  8. Thank you for this much needed post… while I am not one for parties, I do love spending time with close friends and extended family; COVID has certainly put a crimp on that… and so we are figuring out how we can socialize and stay emotionally healthy during this time
    And love the emphasis on staying silent and listening during conversations with our kids.. that helps

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