Updated: Sep 13, 2020
By Haylee Thorson
These last few months have been tough. Grief, hopelessness and anxiety are three emotions that I experience almost every day. As someone who has struggled with depression in the past, the idea of having to isolate from friends brought back a lot of bad memories. Self-isolation was my go-to coping mechanism for depression last year and I didn’t like the idea of having to subject myself to that again. Leaving my friends behind after escaping that dark place made me uneasy, but I knew it had to be done.
When COVID-19 blew up in early March, I decided that I needed to go home. The timing was terrible (but then again, how could the timing of a pandemic ever not be terrible?) because I was finally starting to get my life together in sunny Southern California. Because the airports were practically overflowing with people making a mad dash home, I decided driving 18 hours from San Diego to Denver was my safest option. Once I was home, I was immediately overwhelmed. With all of my classes online, I found myself locked away in my room for hours on end, day after day. And on the rare occasions when I did have a bit of free time, I would mindlessly scroll through social media—only to be greeted with the latest COVID-19 updates that made my stomach churn.
My roommates and I had planned a spring break trip to the Amalfi Coast back in December. Visions of sparkling wine, fresh seafood and sapphire seas propelled us through the beginning of the spring semester. Whenever school stressed us out to the point of a near breakdown, we’d look at each other and say, “Only a few more months and we’ll be in Italy.” About a month before our trip, things weren’t looking good. After weeks of excitement and meticulous planning, Italy completely shut down. No one could come in and no one could go out. Gone were my hopes of twirling around in a flowy sundress in the streets of Positano. Gone were my visions of eating pasta all' amatriciana in a family-owned trattoria. Gone were my dreams of riding on the back of a Vespa with a gorgeous Italian man (okay, that one probably wasn’t going to happen). Our trip was canceled and there was nothing we could do about it.
After a few weeks of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I was overwhelmed by the sudden urge to get my life together. I woke up early, threw on a sports bra and frantically searched for a workout video on YouTube. After a bit of digging, I came across the legendary Chloe Ting. Now, I had heard a lot of good things about Chloe Ting through social media and had come to the conclusion that she was exactly what I needed to get through quarantine. So, I decided to embark on her “5 Weeks Booty Challenge” and I even ordered an entire pack of resistance bands to make it even harder. It was difficult, but I persevered—for about 20 days. After nearly three weeks of intense motivation to get absolutely snatched during quarantine, seeds of doubt and hopelessness crept back into my mind. I quit the challenge and went back to moping.
Once I quit the Chloe Ting challenge, I sank into a hole of shame and self-loathing. My skin was breaking out, I was binge-eating at night and I was laying in bed for excessive amounts of time. I wanted to continue challenging myself and making good choices during quarantine, but I simply could not find the motivation. I didn’t feel like myself and I was physically and mentally drained. Some days I would just lay on my back and stare at my ceiling, completely void of any sort of emotion. Other days I would become irrationally angry at everything my family did, completely unable to control my annoyance. As an introvert, the idea of being alone for extended periods of time sounded quite nice. But being stuck in a house with five other people and never getting to be truly alone was seriously affecting my mental health.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, quarantine created the perfect storm for absolute chaos in my brain. Being alone with my own thoughts for extended periods of time has always led me to believe two things: 1) Everyone hates me and 2) I am not going to succeed in life. To any normal person, these thoughts sound completely irrational—but to my anxiety-ridden mind, they are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For anyone who is an overthinker like me, here are a few of the things I do to prevent these thoughts from creeping into my head.
First, writing. You don’t need to be a master of the written word to whip out a pen and a piece of paper. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try doing a good ole fashioned brain dump and simply write out everything that you’re feeling. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to flow and it doesn’t have to make sense—the whole point is to purge the jumbled mess of thoughts from your brain! Another thing that helps me tremendously is cleaning. It’s no secret that your living space has a huge impact on your mental health and when everything around you is cluttered, so is your mind. Throwing yourself into mindless tasks like dusting, folding and sweeping is so calming because it makes you feel like you’re actually accomplishing something. Sure you’re not solving world hunger or dismantling the patriarchy, but you are taking small steps to make your own life just a little bit better. Blissful living space = blissful mental state.
With COVID-19 restrictions starting to ease up a bit, I feel hopeful. While I am far too anxious to leave my house any time soon, I am excited for the day that I experience just a semblance of normalcy. While my struggles with anxiety and depression are minute compared to others, it’s important that we bring attention to the issues surrounding mental health—especially during this time. So check up on your friends and family! Make sure you are offering kind words of love and support because you never know who needs to hear it. I hope you found this article remotely entertaining, helpful and/or relatable. Just remember that you’re not alone in this and if you need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to. We’ve got this!
Haylee Thorson is an editorial writer who specializes in beauty, culture, and travel. Follow her on Instagram.