“Should we get the vaccine or not get the vaccine? Should we wear a mask or is it okay not to wear a mask? Should I plan this trip? Should I see this friend? Should we social distance? Should we push off our birthday parties, weddings, dinner plans, and our lives?”
Hi, my name is Dianna Yphantides. I am a licensed clinical therapist, and these are only a few of the many questions, fears and complications that I have been hearing from many of my clients over the past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a virus which, like it or not, has changed the way every single person on this planet has lived the past year and a half. This virus has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people, caused strains on relationships due to different belief systems, and caused extreme deficits on the mental health and wellness of people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and age.
There is not a single person who hasn’t been affected by the roars and decimation of this virus today. There are countless memes, jokes and jabs at COVID-19 to help keep our world laughing instead of crying. What I have witnessed in my line of work comes down to 2 things: the fear of the unknown and the difficulty people have been dealing with of not having control of what is happening in our lives. People have lost the capability to socialize, hug, connect and simply be with people that they love due to fear of this virus. People have lost the right to feel safe going to places like the grocery store, a restaurant, and the gym, which previously we had taken for granted.
The isolation of quarantine alone for people has had insurmountable mental health consequences on people. As human-beings, we are social creatures who crave affection, attention and unity, and the divide this virus has implicated on us all is not something that can be cured overnight. I have patients who are fully vaccinated who come for in-person sessions with five masks on and I have patients who still have yet to leave their homes since March 2020. This is not the quality of life that we are used to living. Children are missing out on extremely imperative socialization and quality learning years and elders are missing opportunities to see their grandchildren grow up, and there is no timeline to tell us when we are going to feel “normal” again– or what normal will even look like after this.
As a therapist, my takeaway from this past year and a half is that it is okay not to be okay. It is alright to feel lost, fearful, angry, confused and sad sometimes. This virus is not something that any one of us could have predicted. Give yourself the privilege and the right to feel your feelings–scream, yell, throw something– do whatever it takes to express yourself, and most important of all, be kind to yourself. Take a long bath, read a good book, watch a comedy on Netflix, take a walk, meditate. Do things for yourself which help fill up your cup since the overwhelming nature of this pandemic has most definitely left it depleted. Remember that it is okay to feel overwhelmed right now. Do things for yourself; big or small which help you to remember that you are human, you are fallible, and it is acceptable to not be okay in such an uncertain time.