We all know, even just using our common sense, that the pandemic is taking a really hard mental toll on people. The majority of my close friends suffer from mental illness, which shouldn’t be all that surprising. Great minds think alike and all. What is also not surprising, but is concerning, is how many of them are suicidal. A much higher percentage than normal.
I’ve had more than my fair share of suicidal friends. Right now, in the dead of winter, when we haven’t had the sun bless our skin in five months and haven’t been able to hang out for more than an hour in the bone-chilling cold, it’s been especially difficult. This past month we’ve been hit by COVID fatigue. Hard.
I can’t think of a single happy person I know right now. Pre-pandemic, I often thought only the blissfully ignorant could be happy in our dying, mean, production-based world. Now the world looks a little more like the hellscape I’ve imagined it to be.
Governor Mills has done a pretty decent job, but here’s my bad take of the month: I am so goddamn pissed at this new age-based vaccination program. I get it. It makes much more sense logistically, and I’m sure it’ll save a lot of money and confusion and be more efficient, and we’re told the science supports it, so I guess I’ll take that to be true. But, man, am I sad about it. Disappointed. And that’s selfish, but here we are.
I just took a couple new jobs, partly in the hope of being eligible for the vaccine earlier. Just two days ago I was talking to my friend who works in the food industry about the fact that, if luck went our way, we’d be vaccinated and able to hang out again in the next month or two. I personally was banking on that.
The worst thing about depression is it convinces you that you’re right. This can be dangerous for me, because my default is to assume I’m right anyways. Depression twists your mind and tells you, Yes, you should want to die. It tells you the impermanent is permanent, the present pain will stretch on forever. And anything before the pain? That wasn’t real. This is what always was and will always be. When you’re in it, you’re sure it’ll never end. You’re sure that this is reality and everything else is false. So if you’re depressed as fuck and you look around and see a world like the one we’re living in right now, it’s not too far a leap to then think, I’m right for wanting to die. In fact, all these fools, the ones trying to help me, they should want to die, too.
Some days I can’t hang out with certain friends. I spend a lot of life not particularly wanting to be alive, but certainly not wanting to die, either. (That shit sounds scary.) This is a fact of me — not one I like, but one that’s simple and not any more scary than a spider on the ceiling. I wish others could get that about me; that when I state that plain fact, they didn’t jump to fear.
On days when I feel less of an attachment to living, I try to avoid my friends who aren’t doing so well. We’d just talk each other into a spiral. So I write to those of you not doing all that great. And I wish I could tell you that more than a decade into a depression diagnosis, I’m at peace with it. But, man, this shit sucks. I try my very hardest, dig my fingernails into the memory that I always come out of it, and once I’m out of it I can’t believe what Depressed Phoebe thought.
This too shall pass. Hang on a little longer, my friends.
And here’s my snotty teenager take on this: I just want to be with my friends again. I look at my parents’ lives and they don’t seem to have changed so much. My mother works from home now and they see their friends a little less (though they didn’t see them all that much before), and their stress levels are much higher than normal.
But then I compare that to the shifts people my age have gone through. We suddenly found ourselves cut off from what genuinely feels like everything. It often feels like we have nothing. This is stupid maybe, but, Jesus, you’re only young once and I’m fucking pissed I have to spend 18 months alone in my childhood bedroom.
I was on the phone with my friend talking about the new vaccine rollout plan. “I get it,” she told me. “It makes sense. But have they considered I’m gonna fucking kill myself?”
That was a gross exaggeration of her situation, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for all my friends. I get it too: our young immune systems do a better job fighting off the virus. But I don’t think our young minds are handling this as well.